Cell Phone Glossary
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A Glossary of Cell Phone Terms and Definitions – No Strings Attached

Analog, digital, broadband, GSM – these terms and many more like it are verbally thrown at you by salespeople trying to get you to buy their cell phone products.  How can you make an intelligent decision when your head’s been filled with gobbledygook?  Have no fear – help is on its way!  Below, you’ll find a glossary of cell phone terms and definitions – all you’ll need to know to help you make an informative buying decision. 

  • Access Fee
    An access fee is charged by the local telephone companies to all telephone customers for the right to connect with a local phone network.  Cellular phone users pay this fee along with a 3% federal telephone excise tax.

  • Activation Fee
    The activation fee is the initial set up fee to turn on a cell phone so that it can operate within the selected carrier network.

  • Airtime
    Airtime, or the time spent talking on a cellular telephone, consists of the total airtime used making  both incoming and outgoing calls.

  • Analog
    Built in the 1980's, analog technology allows a cell phone to transmit by sending voice, video, and data signals.  Analog is a method of modulating radio signals so that they can transmit voice or data information.

  • Antenna
    An antenna is a device used for transmitting, sending and receiving radio signals.

  • Automatic Call Delivery
    Automatic call deliver permits a cellular phone to receive incoming calls, even when roaming.

  • Band
    The band is a Range of radio frequencies between two defined limits which are used in wireless communications.

  • Bluetooth
    Bluetooth is the name given to a radio technology making transmission of signals over short distances between telephones, computers and other devices, like household appliances, without the use of wires.

  • Broadband
    Broadband refers to communications medium that uses wide-bandwidth channels for sending and receiving large amounts of data, video or voice information.

  • Carrier
    The carrier is the company that provides wireless telecommunications services, using equipment, to transmit the frequencies upon which the cell phone calls, signals and data are carried. 

  • CDMA
    CDMA is an acronym for Code Division Multiple Access.  CDMA technology is a multiple access technique, using sequenced code to divide traffic channels within the same radio channels. 

  • Cell
    A cell is the basic geographic unit of a cellular system and the basis for the generic industry term "cellular.”  A city or county is divided into small "cells," each of which is equipped with a low-powered radio transmitter/receiver.  By controlling the transmission power and the radio frequencies assigned from one cell to another, a computer at the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) monitors the movement and transfers the phone call to another cell and another radio frequency as needed.

  • Coverage Area
    The coverage area is the area which a wireless network company offers service for their cell phone subscribers.

  • Digital
    Information represented by non-continuous values or signals sent between cell phones is referred to as digital.

  • Dual Band
    A wireless phone which is capable of operating on two different frequencies is known as dual band.

  • Dual Mode
    A wireless device that can be operated on analog or digital transmission networks is said to be in dual mode.

  • Encryption
    Encryption is a method of encoding data for security. 

  • FCC
    The FCC is the Federal Communications Commission, the Government agency responsible for regulating telecommunications in the United States, located in Washington, D.C.

  • Follow-Me-Roaming
    Though not available in all cities, this system allows you to roam in other calling areas, cells, or area codes, and have your calls automatically forwarded to you. 

  • Frequency
    The frequency of a signal is determined by the number of times a wave-like radio signal changes from the very positive to the very negative charge per second. 

  • GHZ
    GHZ is a commonly-used acronym for GigaHertz.  One GigaHertz is equal to a billion hertz. 

  • GSM or Global Standard For Mobile
    GSM is a digital communications standard for cell phones, used in over 60 countries. 

  • Hertz
    Hertz expresses cycle frequency. 

  • Home Coverage Area
    One may make cellular calls without incurring long distance charges or roaming charges if they’re situated within their home coverage area
  • Interconnection Fee
    An interconnection fee is charged if a wireless call is routed through a landline.
  • Off-Peak Hours
    Off-peak hours are the hours cheaper hours, such as after the business day and during weekends when the wireless networks have less transmission. 

  • Peak Hours
    Peak hours are the most expensive hours, such as during the business day when wireless networks have the most transmission.

  • Personal Identification Number, or PIN
    Your PIN number is used together with SIM card technology to place calls using prepaid cell phones.

  • Prepaid Cell Phone
    A prepaid cell phone offers a payment method often used by people with a specified budget, allowing them to pay for cellular service minutes in advance.

  • Protocol
    Protocol refers to the special set of rules for communicating that the transmitting receivers use in a telecommunication connection when they send signals back and forth. 

  • Roaming
    When you use a cellular phone outside of your cellular or PCS company's service area, your said to be roaming. 

  • Satellite
    Satellites orbit above the earth and send and receive signals sent by the antennas. 

  • Standby Time
    Standby time is the length of time that a cell phone is completely ready to send or receive calls, but is not being used in a call.

  • Subscriber
    A subscriber is a user of wireless service bought from a service provider. 

  • Talk Time
    Talk time is the length of time a person can talk on the cell phone without recharging the cell phone batteries, usually expressed in minutes. 

  • TDMA
    TDMA is the acronym for Time Division Multiple Accesses, referring to a digital transmission format used for D-AMPS and GSM format. 

  • Termination Charges
    Termination charges are made when a cell phone call is completed by a different carrier network. 

  • UMTS
    UMTS is the acronym for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. 

    Voice-Activated Dialling
    Voice-activated dialling allows the user to dial a telephone number by speaking. 

  • Voice Recognition
    Voice recognition allows cell phones to be operated by spoken words. 

  • Vibrating Alert
    A vibrating alert is a cell phone feature whereby a vibration mechanism alerts a user of an incoming call, as opposed to an audible ring. 

  • WAP
    WAP stands for Wireless Application Protocol.  WAP is an open, global specification that empowers mobile users with wireless devices to easily access and interact with information and services instantly. 

  • Watt
    A watt is a basic unit of power.  The formula is: voltage multiplied by the current. 

    WCDMA is Wideband CDMA.  This is the technology for wideband wireless access supporting 3G cell phone services, and allows very high-speed multimedia services like wireless Internet access and videoconferencing. 

  • Wireless Data
    Wireless data allows you to send digital information on a cellular phone. 

  • Wireless Internet
    Wireless Internet grants access to the World Wide Web or Internet e-mail via wireless networks.

  • Wireless Provider
    A wireless provider provides communication services to cell phones, PDA's or wireless web modems via a wireless network.

  • WMF
    WFM, or Wireless Message Format, sends data through wireless means to mobile computers.

So there you have it.  Now you’re informed.  Now you’re educated.  Now you’re qualified to make the best decision for you in choosing a cell phone.  This glossary of cell phone terms and definitions has provided you with all the information you need to make a qualified choice in cell phones.  Now you can face that salesperson with the ammunition you need to fire a fully-loaded gun and get exactly what you need!  Go for it!

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a successful freelancer writer providing valuable tips and advice to consumers looking to purchase the best cell phones and cell phone accessories for their individual and specific needs. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This "Glossary of Cell Phone Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

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