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Telecom Terms and Acronyms 

Terms and Acronyms



ASDL: (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) - Transmission technology that uses electronic equipment to send high speed data transmissions over standard UTP copper wiring. The transmission rates are usually lopsided and therefore asymmetrical.

Access Charge: A few charged subscribers or other telephone companies by a local exchange carrier for the use of its local exchange network facilities.

Active Satellite: A functioning satellite that receives and transmits or retransmits radio-communication signals to or from a base station.

Advanced Television (ATV): New television technology that provides better audio and video quality than the current standard television broadcast system. High Definition TV (HDTV) is a form of ATV.

Analog: Analog is "shorthand" for the word analogous, which means similar to. The signal being sent, voice or video, is sent as a stream of changing radio waves and is similar to what is received. This produces a nearly square video picture with generally a 480 line resolution picture.

Audio Text: The term used to describe a system that provides automated interactive telephone information, such as stock prices, sports scores, and personals.


Bandwidth: A range of frequencies in the broadcast spectrum that is occupied by a signal. For example, a television channel may have a bandwidth of 6 MHz. The "necessary bandwidth" is the amount of spectrum required to transmit the signal without distortion or loss of information. Commission rules require suppression of the signal outside the band to prevent interference.

Base Station: A land station in the land mobile service. For example, in cellular and personal communications uses, each cell has its own base station; each base station is interconnected with other base stations and with the public switched network.

Baud: A measure of the speed at which data is transmitted, computed in number of elements changed per second. The "Baud Rate" is the speed in which computers ca transfer data through a modem using communications software.

Baudot: A seven bit code, only five of which are information bits. Baudot is used by some text telephones to communicate with each other.

Binary Information Unit or Binary Digit (BIT): The smallest unit of a digital information. A single digit number in "base-2", either a 0 or a 1. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second (bps).

Bird: A colloquial expression used to refer to a communications satellite.

Booster: A television or FM broadcast station, operating at relatively low power that receives a distant input signal, amplifies it, and retransmits it on the same channel.

Broadband: Broadband is a descriptive term for evolving digital technologies offering consumers a single switched facility offering integrated access to voice, high-speed data services, video-demand services, and interactive information delivery services. Broadband also is used to define an analog transmission technique for data or video that provides multiple channels. A cable TV system, for example, employs analog broadband transmission.

Broadcast: To transmit a signal over the spectrum to be received by two or more receiving devices.

Browser: A software program used to query, search and view information on computer sites connected to the Internet.

Byte: A set of "bits" that represents a single character. Usually there are eight bits in a Byte.


Cable Converter Box: Equipment often provided by a cable company in a subscriber's home that allows access or controls interference to cable services.

Cellular Mobile Radio Telephone System: Also called "Cellular". A high capacity land mobile telephone system wherein channels assigned to the system are divided among several geographical "cells" covering a defined service area. A cellular system is capable of re-using the same channels in different cells within the service area. The use of many small cells in an area, with low transmitter powers, permits the intensive re-use of channels, thereby increasing system capacity.

Coaxial Cable (COAX): A type of cable commonly used in cable television systems which is composed of two concentric conductors: an inner wire, and an outer braided sleeve.

Common Carrier: The term used to describe a telephone company. It is a telecommunications company that is available for hire on a non-discriminatory basis to provide communication transmission services, such as telephone and telegraph, to the public.

Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT): A corporation, chartered by Congress, as an exclusive provider of international telecommunications satellite channels to the United State. COMSAT also represents the United States in INTELSAT. (See INTELSAT)

Community Antenna Television (CATV): A service through which subscribers pay to have local television stations and additional programs brought into their homes from the antenna via coaxial cable.

Compact Disc (CD): A five-inch disc on which a digital audio signal is inscribed so that it can be read optically by a laser beam device in a computer or CD player.

Convergence: In this context, convergence means that providers of communications systems can deliver products and services that compete with the products and services now delivered by other networks. One example would be a cable company providing video service.

Cyberspace: A term introduced by science fiction author William Gibson in 1984. "Cyberspace" is where human interaction occurs over computer networks, through E-mail, games or simulations.


Dedicated Line: A communications circuit or channel provided for the exclusive use of a particular subscriber. Dedicated lines are used for computers when large amounts of data need to be moved between points.

Dial-Up: A temporary connection established over a phone line using modems.

Digital/Digitized: Any type of information that can be output, transmitted and interpreted as individual bits of binary information (the use of the number 0 and 1), using electrical or electromagnetic signals that cen be modulated to convey their specific content. A TV picture will be more like a rectangle and have up to 1,080 lines of resolution, producing a crisper picture.

Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB): Radio broadcasting using digital modulation and digital source coding techniques.

Direct Broadcast Satelite (DBS)/DISH: A high-powered satellite that transmits or retransmits signals which are intended for direct reception by the public. The signal is transmitted to a small earth station or dish (usually the size of an 18-inch pizza pan) mounted on homes or other buildings.

Distributor: A person/company that distributes signals from a satellite carrier and provides that transmission either directly to individual subscribers for private home viewing or to other program distribution companies for transmission.

Downlink: The part of a satellite system that includes the satellite itself, the receiving earth station and the signal transmitted from the satellite to earth stations.

Download (Receive): To receive data from another computer into your computer. It is also called "receive". The opposite is called "upload"


Earth Station: Equipment on earth that can transmit or receive satellite communications. In general usage, this term refers to receive-only stations.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT): An electronic system that transfers money and records financial transactions, replacing the use of paper.

Electronic Mail (E-Mail): E-Mail allows the user to send a message via a computer instantly to one or many persons around the world. E-mail users typically have a "mailbox" on a network or a videotext system where other users can send messages to be retrieved the recipient.

Enhanced Service Providers: A for-profit business that offers to transmit voice and data messages and simultaneously add value to the message it transmits. Examples include telephone answering services, alarm/security companies, and transaction processing companies. An enhanced service provider offers voice as well as data services.


Fiber Optics: A method for the transmission of information (sound, video, data) in which light is modulated and transmitted over high-purity, hair-thin filaments of glass. The band-width capacity of fiber optic cable is much greater than that of copper wire.

Footprint: The area in which a specific transmission can be received. Some footprints cover as much as one-third of the earth, such as satellite or cell systems.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): FAQs on Internet sites answer most often asked questions.

FTP: (File Transfer Protocol) - An application program that uses TCP/IP internetworks as a medium for transferring files. Users can logon to an ftp site using an ftp program and transfer files from their site to a local desktop using a GET command. Many sites allow ANONYMOUS ftp. At the login prompt, users enter ANONYMOUS as the login name, and at the password prompt enter an e-mail address as password. Users will gain access to a limited number of public directories where they can retrieve files. Example: ftp


Gateway: Gateways provide a single source through which users can locate and gain access to a wide variety of computer services. Gateways typically offer a directory of services available through them, and provide billing for these services.

Geostationary Orbit: The revolutionary path traveled by a satellite in which the satellite travels in sync with the Earth's motion, so that it appears stationary in the sky. A stationary antenna located on Earth can remain pointed at the satellite at all times.

Geostationary Satellite: A satellite whose circular and direct orbit lies in the plane of the Earth's equator and which remains fixed relative to the earth.

Gigahertz (GHz): A unit of frequency equal to one billion hertz (one billion cycles per second).

Gopher: A tool used on the Internet which permits users to locate and retrieve information quickly throughout the Internet.


Headend: The electronic control center of a cable system. This is the site of the receiving antenna and the signal processing equipment essential to proper functioning of a cable system.

Hertz (Hz): A unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second (cps). One kilohertz equals 1000 cps; one megahertz equals 1 million cps; one gigahertz equals one billion cps.

High Definition Television (HDTV): An improved television system which provides approximately twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of the existing television standards. It also provides video quality approaching that of 35 mm film, and audio quality equal to that of compact discs.

Home Satellite Dish (HSD): A home receiver that permits the consumer to receive existing satellite transmissions.

Host: Your Internet access provider's computer. You may use one of its hard-wired terminals, if you are at an institution with a mainframe computer connected directly to the Internet, or you may dial up via modem to connect with the Internet access provider's host computer.

Hyper-text: Text that links to other documents that can be retrieved from one document.

Hyper-Text Mark-Up Language (HTML): Hyper-Text Mark-up Language is the programming language used to design and present computer sites on the Internet in a graphical user interface fashion. HTML is the language used by programmers to design a Home Page for computers on the Internet as part of the World Wide Web project.

Hyper-Text Transport Protocol (HTTP): The method for moving "hypertext" files across the Internet. Requires an HTTP program at one end and a server at the other.


Information Superhighway: A term describing a network of integrated telecommunications systems connecting people around the world to information, businesses, governments, and each other.

Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN): Switched network providing end-to-end digital connection for simultaneous transmission of voice and/or data over multiple multiplexed communication channels and employing transmission that conforms to internationally-defined standards. ISDN is considered to be the basis for a "universal network" that can support almost any type of communications device or service.

Interactive Video Data Service (IVDS): A communication system, operating over a short distance, that allows nearly instantaneous two-way responses by using a hand-held device at a fixed location. Viewer participation in game shows, distance learning and E-mail on computer networks are examples.

Interconnection: The connection of one telecommunication carrier's network to another or the connection of a piece of telephone equipment to the nation-wide telephone network.

Interface: The point at which two systems or pieces of equipment are connected.

Internet: A computer network stretching across the world that links the user to businesses, government agencies, universities, and individuals. The Internet provides computers with the ability to connect with other computers, disseminating and collecting information.

Intersatellite Link: A message transmission circuit between two communication satellites, as opposed to a circuit between a single satellite and the earth.

Intranet: An internal network that provides Internet-style services and software for a company or organization, but may not be connected into the Internet at-large.




LAN: - (Local Area Network) - A geographically limited communications network used to interconnect offices, campuses, and building complexes. Ethernet and FDDI are two common types of LANs.

Land Mobile Service: A public or private radio service providing two-way communication, paging, and radio signaling on land.

Last Mile: - Hyperbole. The connection from a phone company to a home user, traditionally voice lines run by RBOCs. "Last Mile" connections are often run over older, low bandwidth wires.


Master Antenna Television System (MATV): An antenna system that serves a concentration of TV sets such as in an apartment building or hotel. MATV utilizes one central antenna to pick up broadcast signals.

Microwave Band: Those frequencies from about 1 gigahertz upward that use microwave frequencies for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications, including common carriers, cable TV operators, broadcasters, and privately operational fixed users.

Modem: An abbreviated term for "modulator-demodulator". A modem converts digital signals into analog signals (and vice versa), enabling computers to send and receive data over the telephone networks.

Multiplexing: To transmit two or more data signals over a single channel.


Narrowband: A term applied to telecommunications facilities capable of carrying only voice, facsimile images, slow-scan video images and data transmissions at "kilobit" speeds. The term id commonly applied to voice-grade analog facilities and to digital facilities operating at low speeds (less than 1.544 Nbps).

Netiquette: Network + etiquette = netiquette. Customs and socially accepted behavior for using the Internet networks.

Network/Networking: A group of computers connected in any way that allows data to be sent among these computers.


Operator Service Provider (OSP): A common carrier that provides services from public phones, including payphones and hotel/motel phones.


Paging System: One-way mobile radio service where a user carriers a small, lightweight miniature radio receiver capable of responding to coded signals.

PC: Personal computer.

Personal Communications Services (PCS): A term coined by the FCC, it describes a two-way voice and digital, wireless telecommunications system. PCS encompasses cordless phones, cellular mobile phone, paging systems, personal communications networks, wireless office phone systems, and any other wireless telecommunications systems that allow people to place and receive voice/data calls while away from home and office.

Pixel: The smallest area of a television picture capable of being sampled, transmitted through a system and displayed on a monitor.

Primary Interexchange Carrier (PIC): The PIC is the main long distance carrier used for the "1=dialing" through which all interstate long distance toll calls are made.



Radiotelegraphy: The use of a radio (instead of wire) to communicate a message over a distance.

Radiotelephony: The use of radio to communicate sounds (e.g., speech).

Real Time: Usually used to describe situations when two or more people are interacting via their keyboards on the computer in real time, versus delayed back-and-forth communication, such as with e-mail.

Resolution: The amount of detail that can be seen in a broadcast image. The resolution of a TV screen in defined by the number of horizontal lines of picture elements that the screen displays and the number of pixels per line.


Satellite: A radio relay station that orbits the earth. A complete satellite communications system also includes earth stations which communicate with each other via the satellite. The satellite receives a signal transmitted by an originating earth station and retransmits that signal to the destination earth station(s). Satellites are used to transmit telephone, television, and data signals originated by common carriers, broadcasters, and distributors of CATV program material.

Satellite Carrier: An entity that owns or leases the facilities of a satellite or satellite service to establish and operate a channel of communications for point-to-multipoint distribution of television station signals.

Satellite Dish: A kind of antenna used to pick up transmissions broadcast from a satellite.

Server: A computer dedicated to providing specific services to client computers. Print servers, for example, do nothing but accept, store, and print out jobs sent to them by other computers.

Specialized Common Carrier (SCC): A company (other than the telephone company) that provides point-to-point communications service on a common carrier basis. For example, point-to-point services are used to connect points on the telephone network that normally cannot be connected using standard wire line or fiber optic because of terrain.

Subcarrier: An inaudible portion of the broadcast signal that is added to the program signal of FM or TV sound and can be used for either broadcast or non-broadcast purposes. Uses include stereo sound, augmented audio for the blind, bilingual programming and paging.

Surfing: A slang term used to describe switching a television from channel to channel in a continuous order with a remote control. Also used to describe the process of scanning entries on the Internet.


T-1: A standard digital carrier line used to transmit a DS-1 formatted digital signal at 1.544 megabits per second.

T-3: A classification of leased telephone line service offering 672 voice channels or 44.74 Mbps digital data service.

Telco: A company providing phone services to end users. The company may provide other phone services such as operating long-distance, running a wholesale data backbone or a wireless cell phone network. A catch - all phrase for a service provider that is more idiomatic than the more technical term, integrated carrier.

Teleconferencing: The use of audio, video, or computer equipment brought together through a communications system to permit geographically separated individuals to participate in a meeting or discussion.

Telephony: The word used to describe the science of transmitting voice over a telecommunications network.

Transponder: The device in a communications satellite that receives signals from the earth, translates and amplifies them on another frequency, and retransmits them.


Unbundling: The term used to describe the access provided by local exchange carriers so that other service providers may buy or lease portions of its network elements, such as interconnection loops to serve subscribers.

Uniformed Resource Locator (URL): The standards way to give the address of any resource that is on the Internet and is part of the World Wide Web. For example, the FCC's URL is

Uplink: The signal that carriers information from an earth station source to a satellite.

Upload: To send a text file or software program via telecommunications to another computer

User Name: A short name (with no spaces allowed) unique to you on your Internet access provider's system. Sometimes these are assigned and sometimes you can select your own. The user name, or ID, followed by your site address, becomes your e-mail address. For example, if Ben Franklin had an account at and he chose a user name of bfranklin, his e-mail address would be


Value Added Network (VAN): A national (or international) enhanced network that is designed expressly to carry data communications. VANs provide special services to their customers, such as access to databases.

Vertical Integration: The involvement of cable systems in other links of the video distribution chain, such as program production and supply.

Videodisc: A phonograph record-type disc that displays recorded video information when played on an attachment to a television set.


Wide Area Network (WAN): Local Area Network (LAN): The term WAN is used to describe a data network used to interconnect a company's remote sites, or widely-dispersed computer equipment. The term LAN is used to describe a local data network, one that is used to interconnect the computer equipment of a commercial user.

Wireless Communication: Any broadcast or transmission which can be received through microwave or radio frequencies without the use of a cable connection for reception.

World Wide Web (WWW): Created in Switzerland, WWW is client/server software. It uses the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to exchange documents and images.




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