Glossary

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3G & 4G: A general term that refers to new wireless technologies that offer increased data speeds and capabilities using digital wireless networks. Talk with you wireless provider about the service plan that is right for your family.

Adware: On its own, adware is harmless software that automatically displays advertisements. Unfortunately, some bad actors may choose to integrate spyware and other privacy-invasive software in adware.

Analog: The traditional method of adapting radio signals so they can carry information. AM (Amplitude Modulation) and FM (Frequency Modulation) are the two most common analog systems.  Analog has largely been replaced by digital technologies, which are more secure, more efficient and provide better quality.

Antenna: A device for transmitting and receiving radiofrequency (RF) signals. Often camouflaged on existing buildings, trees, water towers or other tall structures, the size and shape of antennas are generally determined by the frequency of the signal they manage.

App (Application): Downloadable tools, resources, games, social networks or almost anything that adds a function or feature to a wireless device that are available for free or a fee. Some applications may also offer users the ability to purchase content or enhanced features within the application. Parents may limit their child's ability to download or make these in-app purchases by password protecting those features on a wireless device. CTIA created an application rating system to help inform parents about an application so they can determine if it's appropriate for their kids.

Base Station: The central radio transmitter/receiver that communicates with mobile telephones within a given range (typically a cell site).

Bluetooth: The name for a technological standard (a communications protocol) that enables mobile devices equipped with a special chip to send and receive information wirelessly.  Using Bluetooth, electronic devices such as desktop computers, wireless phones, electronic organizers and printers can communicate over short-ranges using the 2.4 GHz spectrum band.

Broadband: A transmission facility having a bandwidth (capacity) sufficient to carry multiple voice, video or data channels simultaneously. Broadband is generally equated with the delivery of increased speeds and advanced capabilities, including access to the Internet and related services and facilities.

Carrier: Also known as a service provider or network operator, a carrier is the communications company that provides service to end user customers or other carriers. Wireless carriers provide their customers with service (including air time) for their wireless phones.

Cache (or Cookie): Many websites store the initial visit so that when the mobile device user visits again, the data from the same website can appear faster.

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access): A technology used to transmit wireless calls by assigning them codes. Calls are spread out over the widest range of available channels. Then codes allow many calls to travel on the same frequency and also guide those calls to the correct receiving phone. In the U.S., CDMA carriers include: Alaska Communications System, Carolina West, CellCom/nSight, Bluegrass Cellular, Leap Wireless, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.

Cell: The basic geographic unit of wireless coverage. Also, shorthand for generic industry term "cellular." A region is divided into smaller "cells," each equipped with a low-powered radio transmitter/receiver. The radio frequencies assigned to one cell can be limited to the boundaries of that cell. As a wireless call moves from one cell to another, a computer at the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO) monitors the call and at the proper time, transfers the phone call to the new cell and new radio frequency. The handoff is performed so quickly that it's not noticeable to the callers.

Cell Site: The location where a wireless antenna and network communications equipment is placed in order to provide wireless service in a geographic area.

Common Short Codes (CSC): Five– or six–digit numbers which allow wireless devices to send text messages for value-added services such as tele-voting campaigns, mobile coupons, charitable donations and other programs. Remember to check your wireless statements to confirm your CSC purchases or donations.

Contract Plan (Post-Paid): A wireless service plan that bills for services preselected and used by the subscriber on a monthly basis, such as voice, text or data. Consumers subscribe to the plan for a specific term, such as two-years, and a fee may be charged for terminating before the end of the contract. Most family plans are offered as post-paid plans. CTIA developed a voluntary Consumer Code for Wireless Service to help consumers make informed choices when selecting wireless products and services.

Cyberbullying: Spreading hurtful rumors, harassing or directing harmful words or images toward another person through the Internet. On a mobile device, cyberbullying may occur in a number of ways, including phone calls, text messages, videos and photos.

Cybersafety (for consumers): Proactively installing, using or visiting available applications, software or trustworthy content to protect or prevent unauthorized use of personal information that is stored on a mobile device.

Cybersafety (for wireless industry): Throughout the wireless industry ecosystem (networks, devices, software, apps or content creators and other platform providers), the ability to share information and tips on how to protect the industry's networks, infrastructure and customers from unauthorized access; prevent tampering with mobile devices, software, apps or content; or malicious attempts to steal or use unauthorized information. When appropriate, this may include sharing information with the government, academia and industry experts.

Cybersecurity: Protection from unauthorized access or malicious use of information in the mobile or telecom ecosystem, which may include networks, devices, software, applications or content.

Cyberthreats: Potential vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit to compromise data, extract information or interrupt services.

Digital: Technological approach that converts signals (including voice) into the binary digits '0' and '1'. This data is compressed, and then transformed into electronic pulses for a wired network, optical light waves for fiber optic networks or radio waves for wireless networks. Digital wireless technology has largely superseded analog technology, because digital delivers more capacity and supports more applications, as well as offers better sound quality, and more secure signals.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): A digital line connecting the subscriber's terminal to the serving company's central office, providing multiple communications channels able to carry both voice and data communications simultaneously.