Glossary of Telecommunications Industry Terms

Nearly all professions use terminology specific to their field. Jargon is part of the bargain whether you’re a doctor, chef, lawyer, or teacher. The telecommunications industry is no exception; there’s a whole slew of lingo related to phones, cable TV, and internet.  

To help you better understand the language, here’s a glossary of terms relevant to telecommunications. Familiarizing yourself with these should make navigating communications from Golden West easier.  

Telecommunications from A to Z 

Common terms in the telecommunications industry include: 


ACCESS CHARGE – A fee charged subscribers or other telephone companies by a local exchange carrier for the use of its local exchange networks. 

ADWARE – Software that automatically downloads or displays advertisements while the program is running.  

ANALOG TRANSMISSION – A signaling technology that converts sound waves or other information into electrical impulses.  

APPLICATION (APP) – Software designed to help the user perform specific tasks. Most often used on smartphones but may also be found on other wired and wireless broadband networks.  


BANDWIDTH – The capacity of a telecom line to carry signals. The necessary bandwidth is the amount of spectrum required to transmit the signal without distortion or loss of information. Measured in bits per second (bps). 

BLUETOOTH – Short-range wireless technology used to exchange data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances.  

BROADBAND – Wide bandwidth data transmission that transports signals over a high-speed internet connection. Broadband can be delivered through different technologies including fiber optics, wireless, DSL, cable, and satellite. As of Nov. 1, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission defines broadband speed as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload or faster.


CATV (COMMUNITY ANTENNA TELEVISION) – A service through which subscribers pay to have local television stations and additional programs brought into their homes from an antenna via a coaxial cable. 

CELLULAR TECHNOLOGY – Network technology that facilitates mobile device communication over areas comprised of cellular base stations. 

CLOSED CAPTIONING – A service for people with hearing disabilities that translates television program dialog into written words on the television screen. 

COOKIE – A small text file stored on the user’s computer. Cookies help a website keep track of the user’s visits and activity.  


DATABASE – An organized collection of data on a computer, structured so that it can be retrieved or controlled.  

DSL (DIGITIAL SUBSCRIBER LINE) – A technology that brings high-bandwidth information to homes and businesses over copper telephone lines. 

DTV (DIGITAL TELEVISION) – A technology for transmitting and receiving broadcast television signals using digital encoding. DTV provides clearer resolution and improved sound quality over analog. 


E-MAIL – Text and multimedia messages sent over the internet. Also called electronic mail, can also be sent and received via wireless phones.  

ETHERNET – A frame-based, wired computer networking technology for local area networks.  


FIBER/FIBER OPTICS – Communications technology that uses thin filaments of glass or other transparent materials to transmit pulses of light. Fiber optic technology offers greater bandwidth and speed and provides an extremely reliable connection.  

FIREWALL – A computer system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic to protect the internal network from unauthorized access.  

FIXED WIRELESS – The operation of wireless devices or systems in fixed locations such as homes and offices.  


GIGABYTE – A unit of measurement equal to one billion bytes of digital information. 

GIF (GRAPHICS INTERCHANGE FORMAT) – A bitmap image format for the compression and storage of digital color images and short animations. 

GPS (GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM) – A satellite-based navigation system that allows people to determine their position with extreme accuracy using GPS receivers. 


HDTV (HIGH-DEFINITION TELEVISION) – A digital broadcasting standard that provides substantially higher image resolution and audio than earlier standards. 

HOTSPOT – A specific geographic location in which an access point provides a public wireless internet connection to mobile users. 

HTML (HYPERTEXT MARKUP LANGUAGE) – The standard markup language for the internet that tells browsers how to display a webpage’s words and images.  


IM (INSTANT MESSAGING) – A service that allows users to send and receive messages over the internet in real time. 

IP (INTERNET PROTOCOL) – The method by which data is transmitted from one computer (or host) to another over the internet. 

IPTV (IP TELEVISION) – A system where a digital television service is delivered to subscribers using IP over a broadband connection.  


JPEG – A computer file format for the compression and storage of digital photographic images.  


LANDLINE – Traditional wired phone service. 

LATENCY – A measure of time delay experienced in a network for sending and receiving data.  

LIFELINE SERVICE – Basic local exchange telephone service provided at a discount to qualifying subscribers based on income and location.  


MALWARE (MALICIOUS SOFTWARE) – Software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s consent or knowledge. 

MEGAHERTZ (MHz) – A unit of frequency equal to one million hertz or cycles per second.  

MMS (MULTIMEDIA MESSAGING SERVICE) – A communications technology that allows users to send messages to and from a mobile phone over a cellular network. 


NETWORK – Any connection of two or more computers that enables them to communicate. Networks may include transmission devices, servers, cables, routers, and satellites. The phone network is the total infrastructure for transmitting phone messages. 

NUMBER PORTABILITY – A term used to describe the capability of individuals, businesses, and organizations to retain their existing telephone number(s) –– and the same quality of service –– when switching to a new local service provider. 


OS (OPERATING SYSTEM) – Software that manages a device’s hardware, software, memory, and processes.  


PACKET – A formatted unit of data packaged for transmission over the internet.   

PBX (PRIVATE BRANCH EXCHANGE) – A telephone switching system that interconnects in-house telephone extensions to each other, as well as to the outside network. 

PHISHING – The criminally fraudulent process of using electronic communication to masquerade as a trustworthy entity in an attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.  


QUERY – Any operation that obtains data or attributes from an object.  


RETRANSMISSION CONSENT FEES – Fees that local broadcast stations charge cable and satellite providers for passing, or retransmitting, their signal to customers. The signal is available over the air for free to those who live within range of the station’s transmitter.

ROAMING – The use of a wireless phone outside of your service provider’s local coverage area. Higher per-minute rates are usually charged for calls made or received while roaming.  

ROUTER – A device that forwards data packets between two or more networks.  


SATELLITE – A radio relay station that orbits the earth. 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 from common carriers, broadcasters, and cable TV distributors. 

SERVICE AREA – The geographic area a telecommunications provider services.  

SERVICE PLAN – The rate plan you select when choosing a wireless phone service. A service plan typically consists of a monthly base rate for access to the system and a fixed number of minutes per month. 

SERVICE PROVIDER – A telecommunications provider that owns circuit switching equipment. 

SMARTPHONE – A mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, often with PC-like functionality.  

SMS (SHORT MESSAGING SERVICE) – A technology for sending short text messages between mobile phones.  

SOCIAL MEDIA – Internet applications that allow users to comment and create, share, and exchange content among themselves in virtual communities and networks.  

SPOOFING – The act of disguising a communication from an unknown source by masquerading as a known, trusted source. Caller ID spoofing can make it appear that a phone call is originating from any phone number the caller wishes, much as email spoofing can make it appear that a message came from any email address of the sender’s choosing.   

SPYWARE – Malicious software installed on a user’s computer to gather data and transmit it to a third-party without their knowledge or consent.  


TELECOMMUNICATIONS RELAY SERVICE (TRS) – A free service that enables people with TTYs, individuals who use sign language, and those who have speech disabilities to use telephone services by having a third party transmit and translate the call. 

TELEPHONY – The word used to describe the science of transmitting voice over a telecommunications network. 

TTY (TeleTYpe) – A machine that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the phone using a keyboard and a viewing screen. It is sometimes called a TDD. 


UNIVERSAL SERVICE – The government’s aim of providing telecommunications services at reasonable and affordable rates to everyone throughout the country, regardless of their distance from the switch or ability to pay.  


VOD (VIDEO ON DEMAND) – An interactive multimedia system similar to cable television that gives customers the ability to select movies from a large video database to view at their convenience. 

VoIP (VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL) – The transmission of voice and multimedia content over an internet connection.   

VPN (VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK) – An encrypted private network that allows users to send and receive data over a public internet connection.  


WI-FI (WIRELESS FIDELITY) – The wireless technology used to connect computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices to the internet using radio signals from wireless routers.