Glossary of Telecom & Tech Terms
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Generation. Term used to refer to the
third generation of wireless services, which extends beyond personal
communications services. 3G networks
will be able to transmit much more data (2 Mbps) than earlier generations. Demand is growing for high-speed Internet
access and streaming video, which third generation networks will support.
Semiconductor and networking components that require external power in
order to function and respond to input, as opposed to a passive component,
which needs no external power.
Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line.
High transmission method that sends data at speeds up to 1.5 Mbps
downstream -- from the carrier to the subscriber's premises -- and 16 Kbps
upstream. Like DSL, it can
simultaneously carry voice and data streams and is able to utilize traditional
copper phone wires to make the connection.
See also DSL.
Asynchronous Transfer Mode. A
specific technique for switching and transmitting data over a high-speed
network. ATM is a high-speed,
connection-oriented, packet-like switching and multiplexing technique.
part of the communications network responsible for shouldering the most
traffic. Essentially the highway that
connects smaller networks or nodes to one another. Often used to describe the connections between LANs.
The width of a communications channel.
The greater the bandwidth, the more data that can flow at one time.
New term reflecting the speculation that a future overabundance of
high-speed networks will result in too much bandwidth, thus dropping the value
of bandwidth and service providers. In
our opinion, the bandwidth glut is a complete fallacy.
smallest unit of data recognizable by a computer. A bit is in binary form, meaning it can represent only a one or a
zero. Bit is a contraction for binary
proposed standard protocol, designed to allow for dissimilar computers or
handheld PCs to communicate. Bluetooth
was conceived as a way for increasingly diverse handheld products -- such as
PDAs, mobile smart phones and notebooks -- to exchange data easily and
backup of data occurring at a specific point on a network. Oftentimes, a bottleneck occurs at points
where high traffic moves from a high-speed medium (such as fiber) to a lower
speed medium (such as copper wire).
Bottlenecks slow down data transmission.
term that defines the ability of a facility to offer bandwidth in excess of 45
Mbps. These systems are generally
Division Multiple Access. A new form of
digital cellular service that allows for 10 times the capacity of analog
service, as well as a more efficient use of bandwidth. Other advantages of CDMA are: reduced
probability of a dropped call, better battery power conservation for a
subscriber's unit, and increased signal integrity. See also TDMA.
cellular system, a cell is the individual geographical unit of coverage. Each cell is equipped with a low-powered
receiver/transmitter, which services the immediate area.
Commonly used to refer to integrated circuits used as components in
computers, telephone systems, etc. In
actuality, it is the physical structure upon which the integrated circuits are
Competitive Local Exchange Carrier.
(Pronounced SEE-leck) The
original competitors to the deregulated national phone giants. These smaller companies offer their own
alternative phone services over leased wires or their own networks. See also ILEC.
A cable consisting of a single conducting wire, surrounded by insulation
and another single conducting wire.
This is often the kind of cable that supplies your home with cable
TV. Coaxial cable can carry very large
amounts of information.
The idea of different markets or industries (in telecommunications,
generally) growing and eventually overlapping in offered goods or services. For example, cable television providers have
long hoped for the technology that would allow them to offer phone service and
Internet access. Phone companies hope
to one day use their existing lines to offer 400+ video channels. Thus, the two markets would converge.
This is the medium that the phone company has traditionally used
to transmit voice signals. Now, copper
wire is being used to carry data transmissions for Internet connections. Copper wire can't provide as much bandwidth
as the newer fiber, but because copper is already deployed and in place in
infrastructure worldwide, and installing fiber is expensive, copper wire
remains the biggest carrier of "last mile" transmissions.
fiber-optic cable that is not being used, and therefore has not been turned on,
or ‘lit.' Dark fiber carries no signal,
and is referred to as ‘dark' because it lacks the light transmission by which
fiber carries data. See also Lit Fiber.
Subscriber Line. A generic name for the
digital services offered by local telephone companies. Such a connection allows for transfer rates
up to 8 million bits per second. Also
called an ISDN, the line utilizes traditional copper telephone lines and can
simultaneously transmit both voice and data.
See also ADSL.
System Processor. A specialized
computer chip capable of performing quick and complicated operations on digital
signals that were once analog. DSPs
offer tremendous advantages in video and audio compression. They are rapidly becoming common in
everything from hearing aids to fetal monitors.
Wavelength Division Multiplexing. An
even more powerful and efficient type of WDM capable of increasing the capacity
of a fiber strand even further. It is currently
the preferred method for fiber transmission as it greatly reduces the amount of
fiber required by a network. See also
local area network used for connecting computers, printers, workstations,
etc. The Ethernet uses twisted wire or
coaxial cable. Ethernet connections can
send data at speeds up to 10 Mbps. See
also Gigabit Ethernet.
used to describe a factory that makes or fabricates -- hence the name --
semiconductor products like IC chips or components.
Communications Commission. The
government's regulatory agency responsible for the regulation of communications
by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
pure glass strands no thicker than a human hair, capable of transmitting data
digitally in the form of light. Fiber
can transmit much more data, much faster than traditional copper wire. Though very expensive, fiber is currently
being deployed in network construction around the world.
Facility that produces metal castings.
Gigabits per second. A term
attached to a specific number, indicating the amount of data (in gigabits) that
can be transmitted through a given medium in one second.
amount of data equal to one billion bits.
See also bit.
(Gig-E) The latest improvement on
the Ethernet, able to support data transmissions at speeds up to 1 Gbps. The Gigabit Ethernet is used primarily as a
Packet Radio Service. The data service
for European GSM. It is considered to
be the next big development in GSM service.
It would provide high-speed mobile datacom usage -- such as mobile
Internet browsing, e-mail and push technologies -- at rates up to 115
Kbps. See also GSM and UMTS.
Positioning System. A system that
allows a person to find his/her exact location anywhere on earth. Based on a system of tracking satellites in
orbit, the GPS is able to keep track of individuals, vessels and other objects
and pinpoint them in relation to the rest of the planet. Used already in military, agriculture and
fleet management applications, to name a few, GPS is already widely available,
and is expected to become increasingly deployed in cars, planes and by individuals.
System for Mobile communications (previously Groupe Speciale Mobile). This is the standard digital cellular phone
service found in Europe, Japan and elsewhere -- 85 countries total. See also GPRS.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The world's largest technical and
professional society. The IEEE tries to
"focus on advancing the theory and practice of electrical, electronics and
computer engineering and computer science."
Most significantly, the IEEE works to create standards in the fields of
computers and telecom.
Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier.
One of the older, traditional local exchange carriers not associated
with the Bell System. See also CLEC.
Protocol. The standard on which the
Internet functions. This protocol
describes the function of software that keeps track of networks and nodes,
routes data packets, and recognizes incoming messages. It also allows exchanges between dissimilar
computers to take place.
The field of communications involved with developing voice transmissions
that can take place over an Internet connection. As such, traditional long distance charges can be avoided
entirely. While long distance companies
have lobbied against IP telephony, the FCC has stated that it has no intentions
of regulating the new technology.
Currently, only about 1% of (U.S.) long distance calls utilizes the
still developing IP telephony.
Integrated Services Digital Network.
A digital network designed to handle telephone switches, computer telephony,
and voice processing systems. ISDN is becoming the favored Internet access
upgrade among desktop users, since it can transmit at 144,000 bits per second,
and can simultaneously handle full-speed voice and data exchanges.
Service Provider. A company offering
access to -- and related services of -- the Internet and Web to its
customers. Most ISPs offer their
services through phone lines via modem.
Area Network. A small, geographically
convenient network, usually contained within a single building or campus. It links computers, printers, workstations,
etc., usually for the purpose of resource sharing.
Laser or LASER:
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A device that produces light of a single frequency. A laser's beam can be turned on and off
rapidly to send data in digital form.
Lasers are used in telecommunications to send data, as light signals,
The stage of data transmission between an end-user, usually at home or
work, and the telephone company. Not
literally one mile, the term refers to the problems associated with sending a
signal at the poorly wired local level, usually only a couple miles or less. Generally, transmissions at this stage are
carried through traditional copper wires, which represent a significant problem
for high-speed operators trying to widely offer their products to the
fiber-optic cable that has been turned on, as opposed to dark fiber, which is
off. Lit fiber actively transmits data
in the form of light.
This refers to a network that spans distances larger than a local area
network. Because electrical and optical
transmissions fade over distance, long haul networks are difficult and
expensive to implement. It is a
variable term, as there is no official distance that defines a "long haul"
network, but they are generally over 100 miles in length. Even longer distances are often referred to
as ultra long haul.
Metropolitan Area Network. A data
network, which covers an area greater than a LAN, but less than a WAN. Oftentimes, a MAN is several LANs connected
to one another for the purposes of creating a larger network. See also LAN and WAN.
Tiny, computer controlled machines that are custom built for specific
purposes. MEMS appear in a variety of
products from medical devices to airbags.
A network structure using mesh architecture is one in which each node is
directly connected to every other node.
In this way, if any -- or even several -- links go down, data can still
be routed through alternate routes to successfully reach its destination.
In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that computer chip complexity would
double every year for the next 10 years.
He was proven correct 10 years later.
A subsequent forecast by Moore has come to be known as Moore's Law, and
currently it predicts chip complexity will double every one-two years,
depending on whose interpretation you read.
Refers to an older, slower network connection, though there is no single
speed associated with the term. See
point of entrance to a network. The
furthest removed, independent device responding on a network, often a single
Equipment Manufacturer. An imprecise
term used to indicate the manufacturer of original equipment from start to
finish. Companies that buy and incorporate other manufacturers' components
(like Dell or Compaq) are not OEMs, but using another company's components in
your own product is often referred to as "OEMing" the component. Yes, this does seem contradictory and
confusing -- sorry.
A data network built on fiber-optics technology, which sends data
digitally, as light, through connected fiber strands. Optical networks offer an enormous increase in both transmission
capacity and speed from traditional copper wire-based networks.
The variety of components and materials used in fiber-optic
transmissions systems. Because all data
transmissions rely on an original electrical signal, opto-electronics is based
on transferring that signal to an optical signal, sending it through a network
or medium and converting it back to an electrical signal.
Systems Interconnection. The only
internationally recognized industry model for communications between systems
built by different vendors. OSI
utilizes seven layers of protocol to structure the exchanges between
systems. Not a standard, but OSI's
structure is by far the most heavily favored one used today.
bundle of data, packed for transmission through a network. Packets are arranged in a specific format
for transmission, so the network can determine what kind it is and where it
A method of data transmission that sends small blocks of data through a
network to a remote location. Larger
files are first segmented into smaller packets and given identifying
information. While the packets may then
be routed separately or even arrive out of order, they are reassembled
correctly on the other side. This packetization of data and information is the
future of telecom as far as we're concerned.
In the semiconductor or network industry, a component that does not
require any external power to function other than the signal that is being
transmitted through it, as opposed to an active component, which does. See also Active component.
Digital Assistant. Small, consumer
electronics device that is basically a handheld computer. Usually, it's used for specific purposes
like a diary, appointment book, memo taker, or multimedia player. Often, PDAs have communications
capabilities, which take place through a phone line or through wireless.
Presence. The point at which ISPs
exchange traffic and essentially connect users to a network or the Web.
Old Telephone System. Pronounced
pots. The basic telephone system that
allows for calls to be placed and received by routing them through the public
switched network. No frills, no added
features like call waiting or caller ID.
set of rules that govern the exchanges between computers. Protocols are designed to facilitate data
transfer by dictating quick, standardized procedures for computers to
connect. Two data devices must have the
same connection protocol in order to successfully connect.
Switched Telephone Network. The entire,
interconnected telephone system we use on an everyday basis. Includes local, international, and long
distance phone companies.
The group of electromagnetic wavelengths between 500 KHz and 300
GHz. These wavelengths are used to
transmit data or voice signals through the air, to avoid dependence on
terrestrial wire transmissions.
Frequency. See Radio Frequency.
central switching point for the Internet and most area networks. Routers work as an interface between
networks, directing data packets to their intended destinations. They are highly intelligent and able to
consider the network as a whole and respond accordingly -- which often greatly
increases network speed, and reduces traffic.
Material that discriminately transmits electricity. Semiconductors will only allow voltages
within a certain range to be carried, thus the ‘semi.' Because a high voltage is necessary to turn
on a semiconductor, most are mixed with an impurity -- in process called doping
-- that allows their conductivity to be increased. The most common types of semiconductor material are silicon and
Semiconductor Industry Association.
Synchronous Optical NETwork. An
optical interface standard that allows network transmission products from
different vendors to communicate. SONET
was designed with flexibility in mind, and is generally considered to offer
significant advantages over the asynchronous transport mode (ATM).
mechanical or electrical device that opens or closes electronic connections, or
completes or breaks a network connection.
Switches are used to route and direct data transmissions through a
Division Multiple Access. A technology
that is able to split a finite amount of over-the-air bandwidth into multiple
conversation transmissions. Wireless
phone providers use TDMA to permit many simultaneous conversations to take
place over a limited broadcasting spectrum.
See also CDMA.
Telecommunications Act of 1996:
A deregulating act to "promote competition
and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality
services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage rapid
deployment of new telecommunication technologies." Mainly served to allow long-distance services from local
providers. Seen as a watershed in telecom history, as it opened up the field
for competition, gave some wiggling room to the underdogs and smaller start-ups
and deregulated the playing field.
of measurement used in data transmission.
A terabit is basically a million million bits. See also Gigabit and Bit.
Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. A technology considered to be the next generation of GSM. It allows for wireless data transmissions to
mobile units -- usually for Internet applications. Faster than GPRS, it supports transfer rates up to 2 Mbps. See also GSM and GPRS.
Voice-over Internet Protocol.
See IP Telephony.
disk of crystal semiconductor, usually silicon-based, upon which chips are
fabricated. Extremely thin (1/50th
of an inch) and usually only four or five inches in diameter.
Area Network. Covers a wider
geographical area than a LAN, but usually has less individual sites. See also LAN.
Application Protocol. A set of
applications and protocols designed to allow wireless devices to communicate
with the Internet and provide access to other special services.
Wavelength Division Multiplexing.
A method of dramatically increasing the signal capacity of a strand of
fiber by dividing a light beam into component wavelengths. Each wavelength is capable of carrying its
own independent signal at full speed.
The current maximum number of wavelengths able to be divided in a single
fiber is 150. Another version is
DWDM. See also DWDM.
Literally, without wires. Most
often it is a phone system that operates without wires. Wireless phones instead use radio waves or
satellites to transmit their signals.
Cellular phones are the most common wireless devices.
The ability of the latest cellular and handheld products to access the
Internet remotely, without the physical connection of copper or fiber lines.