Acronym Decoder Ring

Ever feel like you need an acronym decoder ring to decipher something someone just said?

We’ve got you covered.

5G Guys Podcast, blog posts, and other resources are intended to be friendly. As such, we always strive to avoid the use of acronyms. But in the event we drop an acronym or two, no worries. Just come back here to look it up. Same goes for any other article or whitepaper you come across.

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Basic Acronyms List

This list of acronyms covers the most basic acronyms. As you dig deeper into technology, you’ll find acronyms that go beyond this list. See the Advanced Acronym List below if it’s not in this Basic Acronym List.

Acronym Description Synonyms Definition
802.11   802.11a/b/c/g/n technical standard used for Wi-Fi.  Refers to the working group name (“eight oh two dot eleven”) that developed the global technical standard for Wi-Fi.  The suffix letters (a, b,c, g, n) refer to technical generation, similar to 3G, 4G, 5G for cellular, where each generational standard included some combination of technical advancement and/or spectrum band capability.
1G First Generation   A historically revisionist designator for the first generation of cellular technology.  It’s revisionist as this term didn’t come into existence until the time that 2G and beyond starting being used.  1G is characterized by the first technology used for cellular networks which used analog modulation to transmit voice services.  Subscriber equipment was initially car phones followed by bag phones and large portable hand phones (endearingly nicknamed “brick phones” due their bulky size and weight).  In the US, 1G technology was predominately called AMPS (Analog Mobile Phone Service).  Primary service applications for 1G were analog voice and text.  Data speeds were non-existent or on the order of single digit kbps when available for specialized use cases (2-6 kbps).
2G Second Generation   A designator used to identify the 2nd generation of cellular technology that moved from analog modulation to digital modulation.  The advancement to digital brought about significantly improved voice quality along with basic enhance features like SMS and smaller more portable subscriber devices with much longer battery life.  In the US, three major different technology standards were deployed: TDMA, CDMA, and GSM.  Primary service applications for 2G were digital voice, email, and limited/slow internet service.  Data throughput speeds were on the order of dial-up modem speeds (56-64kbps).
3G Third Generation   A designator used to identify the 3rd generation of cellular technology that enhanced the capabilities of 2G digital technology standards to move from predominately voice centric service with the introduction of data based services such as email, web browsing, and other features that were the foundation of the first smartphones.  In the US, the major 3G technology standards that were deployed included UMTS and CDMA2000. Data throughput speeds for 3G are on the order of 100s of kbps to single digit Mbps (100 kbps – 2 Mbps).
4G Fourth Generation   A designator used to identify the 4th generation of cellular technology that consolidated all cellular technology standards into one global standard known as LTE.  For the first time a cellular technology history, most every network operator in the world implemented the same technical standard in their network with 4G.  With 4G/LTE came significantly improved data throughput capabilities both in the air interface as well as the core network, resulting in the explosion of mobile video streaming in the market.  4G also signaled a shift from dedicated network resources for traditional voice calling services to encapsulated voice into packets to be serviced along with all other data services on the network, also known as VoLTE (Voice over LTE).  Primary service applications for 4G LTE include digital voice and associated phone features, SD quality video, full internet, and social media.  Data throughput speeds for 4G are in the 100s of Mbps up to 1Gbps range (100Mbps – 1Gbps).
5G Fifth Generation   A designator used to identify the 5th generation of cellular technology.  Specific 5G standards and implementation specifics are still being sorted out globally.  The main attributes of 5G are significant increases in data throughput speeds and data carrying capacity as well as significant reduction in network latency (how quickly the network can respond to service requests).  The technical demands of 5G will result in the use of many higher frequency bands capable of providing the amount of bandwidth required for 5G capabilities that traditional cellular frequency bands can’t support.  With the significantly higher frequency bands used for 5G will come much worse signal propagation characteristics, resulting in much smaller coverage footprints for individual 5G cell sites.  This will result in the need for many more 5G cell sites to achieve ubiquitous coverage similar to traditional service areas.  For this reason, it is expected that 4G and 5G networks will coexist for some time and work together for various levels of service requirements.  5G service applications expand to include HD video, virtual/augmented reality, and edge computing enabled automation and autonomy for services like massive IoT, mission critical mobility, and autonomous control.  Data throughput speeds for 5G are 1-10 Gbps with data latency dropping from tens of milliseconds for 4G down to single digit milliseconds for 5G.
AP Access Point   A piece of hardware in a wireless network that serves as the first point of wireless access to a wireless subscriber (i.e. cell phone, computer, etc.).  The Access Point may connect further upstream in the network via a wired or wireless network in order to provide the wireless subscriber the service or access to data, voice, or content provided by the network.  The term AP, or Access Point, is most commonly used in a Wi-Fi network, but can be used agnostically in other networks as well.
FCC Federal Communications Commission   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the United States. The FCC maintains jurisdiction over the areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.
Gbps Gigabits per second Gb/s, Gb/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second (as in this case) or bytes per second.  The prefix “Giga” or “G” means 1,000 Megabits (Mb) or 1,000,000,000 bits per second. So 1 Gigabit per second (1 Gbps) = 1,000,000,000 bits per second (bps) = 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps).
GPS Global Positioning System   The satellite-based navigation system that provides location and time data to devices anywhere on or near the surface of the earth.  Obstacles such as buildings, trees, and mountains can obstruct reception.  GPS devices do not transmit data to the GPS system in space, but instead only receive data from one or more GPS satellites in order to determine timing and location information.  The GPS satellite network is owned and operated by the United States and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.  Phones, watches, and other devices utilize GPS for navigation, synchronization, and to assist with location in 911 calls (among thousands of other functions).
IoT Internet of Things   Internet of Things refers the billions of devices interconnected via the internet, either by wire or wirelessly.  It typically refers to any device that is not a phone.  Examples include sensors, meters, machines, fixtures, appliances, etc.  IoT is leveraged to enable concepts such as Smart Home, Smart City, Smart Cars, etc.
IP Internet Protocol   Internet Protocol is the standard technical protocol introduces in the 70s that enabled the creation of the internet as we know.  The Internet Protocol created a global method by which devices connect and communicate with each other in order to form a network and enable addressing and communicating.  The internet today still works on the original IP standard with numerous upgrades to those standards to improve performance and capacity.  Numerous other technologies are layered on top of IP to provide the services, security, and features we now as the internet.
kbps kilobits per second kb/s, kb/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second (bps as in this case) or bytes per second.  The prefix “kilo” or “k” means 1,000, so 1 kilobits per second (1 kbps) = 1,000 bits per second (1,000 bps).
LTE Long Term Evolution   Long Term Evolution is the project name given to the technology standard that is also known as 4G.  It specifically refers to both the radio and core network standard that together achieve the high spectral efficiency, data rates, and flexibility in frequency and bandwidth used that is used worldwide for 4G cellular networks.  LTE uses various channel bandwidths providing much more flexibility to be used in various spectrum bands than prior generations of radio technology.  LTE supports channels as small as 1.4 MHz each and as large as 20 MHz each, offering network operators maximum flexibility based on the spectrum holdings and network capacity needs.
Mbps Megabits per second mb/s, mb/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second (bps as in this case) or bytes per second.  The prefix “Mega” or “M” means 1,000 megabits (Mb) or 1,000,000,000 bits per second. So 1 Megabit per second (1 Mbps) = 1,000,000 bits per second (bps) = 1,000 kilobits per second (kbps).
Network     A collection of devices (aka nodes) that work collectively together to form a communication system.
RF Radio Frequency   Radio Frequency is an electromagnetic wave, or signal, used to carry wireless telecommunications signals.  RF also designates a specific part of the electromagnetic band between 3kHz and 300 MHz.
Tbps Terabits per second Tb/s, Tb/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second (bps as in this case) or bytes per second.  The prefix “Tera” or “T” means 1,000 Gigabits (Bb) or 1,000,000,000,000 bits per second. So 1 Terabit per second (1 Tbps) = 1,000,000,000,000 bits per second (bps) = 1,000 Gigabits per second (Gbps)
VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol Voice over IP A technical standard that defines the method in which voice communications can be delivered over Internet Protocol (IP).  This enables voice services which historically ran over circuit switched platforms to be delivered on data centric platforms such as the internet, thus allowing historically separate voice and data networks to converge into solely data networks.  This became the standard method for delivering voice on 4G wireless networks as well as over apps such as Whatsapp, Zoom, etc.
WiFi Wi-Fi   A family of wireless network protocols that provide local area networking via radio waves versus tradition wired ethernet.  Most Wi-Fi services are delivered over unlicensed frequency bands allocated for public use, thus making Wi-Fi the worldwide standard for wireless access to internet access points for public, private, and commercial uses.

Advanced Acronym List

This list of acronyms goes a step beyond the most basic covered above. However, this list still barely scratches the surface of acronyms you’re likely to come across in wireless technology. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for from this advanced list, reach out to us and we’ll be glad to help.

Acronym Description Synonyms Definition
AMPS Advanced Mobile Phone System Analog Mobile Phone Service 1G technology standard used in the US, Canada, and select countries for the air interface of cellular phone networks.  AMPS used analog FM modulation, the same technology used for FM radio broadcast, with 30 kHz wide channels dedicated to each unique phone call.  AMPS pre-dated other technologies’ ability to provide advanced services such as data and only supported analog voice service.  In the US, the AMPS system operated in the 800 MHz frequency band as designated by the FCC, with 832 specific channels available for use.  This required cellular networks to be engineered for geographically isolated re-use of channels.  This channel re-use could result in interference between different calls using the same channel if enough geographic isolation did not exist between cell sites re-using channels.  Call quality degradation was characterized by static and popping as well as crosstalk, a situation where one could hear other’s conversations while on a call.
Broadcast     Communication signal that is sent out across a network with the intent of sending information and no intent of return links or communication back from nodes receiving the information.  Good example include over the air television and radio transmissions.
CDMA Code Division Multiple Access   2G technology standard that uses digitized packets to allow several transmitters and receivers to simultaneously deliver information over a single communication channel.  This allows multiple users/resources to share a band of frequencies instead of each user/resource requiring a dedicated communication channel similar to 1G AMPS.  CDMA uses 1.25 MHz channels.  CDMA was one of several competing digital multiple access standards used for 2G cellular services.
CPE Customer Premise Equipment   CPE is a generic term for any device used by subscribers of telecommunications services, wired or wireless, fixed or mobile.  Phones, tablets, computers, modems, or other CPE are the subscriber’s access to the relevant telecommunications service/infrastructure.
CPU Central Processing Unit   Central Processing Unit is the brains of any computing, processing, or communication device that controls all associated processes of the device in order to accomplish the device’s capabilities.  
DAS Distributed Antenna System   A group of interconnected antennas and/or signal distribution nodes designed to extend the coverage of one or more wireless transceiver sources across a targeted area.  DAS are often used to extend wireless service to difficult to serve areas, effectively extending the reach of a wireless transceiver location.
iDAS Indoor DAS Indoor Distributed Antenna System A DAS located indoors in order to extend coverage or capacity across a targeted indoor area.
oDAS Outdoor DAS Outdoor Distributed Antenna System A DAS located outdoors in order to extend the coverage or capacity across an outdoor area with possible additional service into buildings from the same outdoor DAS nodes and antennas.
dB Decibel   Decibel is a logarithmic unit of reference of a value in terms of it’s ratio to another base value.  Decibel is used in engineering, communications, and other scientific fields where signficantly large ratios of change can occur.    In telecommunications, decibels are used in reference to power ratios to identify the relative changes to power levels of communication signals.  A power level change of 3 dB is equivalent to doubling (+3dB) or halving (-3dB) the reference signal.  6 dB is 4 times increase or 1/4 reduction, and every 10 dB is ten times, or 1/10th reduction of signal power.
DL Downlink   Downlink is the telecommunications link direction from a more central network node to a less central node.  In cellular communications, downlink is the signal from the cell site to the subscriber or customer device (phone, tablet, modem, etc).  In WiFi, downlink is the signal from the WiFi router or access point to the client device (computer, tablet, phone, etc).  In satelite systms, downlink is the signal from the satelite to the terrestrial based receiving unit (phone, house mounted dish and receiver, etc).
GBps Gigabytes per second GB/s, GB/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second or bytes per second (as in this case).  The byte (B) is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of 8 bits (b). Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.  The prefix “Giga” or “G” means 1,000 Megabytes (MB) or 1,000,000,000 bytes per second. So 1 Gigabyte per second (1 GBps) = 1,000,000,000 bytes per second (Bps) = 1,000 Megabytes per second (MBps).  Multiply by 8 to convert GBps to Gbps.
GSM Global System for Mobile Communication 2G technology standard that uses digitized packets to allow several transmitters and receivers to  deliver information over a single communication channel by giving each user/resources a timeslot to use the channel.  This allows multiple users/resources to share a band of frequencies instead of each user/resource requiring a dedicated communication channel similar to 1G AMPS.  GSM uses 200 kHz channels.  GSM was one of several competing digital multiple access standards used for 2G cellular services and was the most broadly used standard globally.
ISP Internet Service Provider   An company or organization that provides users and/or devices access to the internet.  
kBps kilobytes per second kB/s, kB/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second or bytes per second (as in this case).  The byte (B) is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of 8 bits (b). Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.  The prefix “kilo” or “k” means 1,000 bytes per second (kBps). So 1 kilobyte per second (1 kBps) = 1,000 bytes per second (Bps).  Multiply by 8 to convert kBps to kbps.
LOS Line of Sight   A term used to describe wireless technologies or use cases in which the transmitter and receiver of a radio channel require a clear, unobstructed view of each other in order for communication to reliably occur over the wireless channel/technology.
M2M Machine to Machine, Mobile to Mobile Machine to Machine describes two or more machines, or devices, communicating directly with eachother without human interaction.  In this definition, M2M is what facilitates IoT (Internet of Things), in which billions of devices, sensors, or systems can work together over the internet to facilitate smarth cars, smart homes, smart cities, and so on.  Mobile to Mobile identifies a call or connection between two or more different cellular phones or subscribers. 
MBps Megabytes per second MB/s, MB/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second or bytes per second (as in this case).  The byte (B) is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of 8 bits (b). Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.  The prefix “Megga” or “M” means 1,000 kilobytes (kB) or 1,000,000 bytes per second. So 1 Megabyte per second (1 MBps) = 1,000,000 bytes per second (Bps) = 1,000 kilobytes per second (kBps).  Multiply by 8 to convert MBps to Mbps.
MPE Maximum Permissible Exposure EME – Electronmagnetic Energy The FCC regulates all wireless devices and wireless network operators to operate below maximum RF exposure levels in order to insure no workers or citizens are exposed to unhealthy levels of RF or electromagnetic energy.  Device manufactures and wireless network operators must analyze to calaculate expected exposure levels relative to the FCCs Maximum Permissible Exposure levels as outlined in the FCC’s OET-65 bulletin.  Bulletin OET-65 was established in 1996 by the FCC working with IEEE, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, and ANSI as well as a committee of 40+ doctors, scientists, and engineers to establish safe exposure limits and guidelines and policies that all service providers and FCC/ANSI certified base station and subscriber devices must comply with (known as OET65).  For devices, power/spectral emissions must be limited and verified by independently certified labs to comply in such a manner that no type of use by an individual will cause the safe limits defined to be exceeded (basically in the worst case scenario of being right up against the body for duration of use).  For service providers, site-by-site assessment must be done.  In all cases, safe levels are defined as levels less than the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) as covered by OET-65
NLOS Non-Line of Sight Non-LOS A term used to describe wireless technologies or use cases in which the transmitter and receiver of a radio channel do not require a clear, unobstructed view of each other in order for communication to reliably occur over the wireless channel/technology.  Non-line of site technologies can withstand losses caused by physical obstructions such as trees and buildings and still work albeit potentially degraded compared to when LOS (Line of Sight) is available.
Node Node   One or more devices in a communication network that processes, sends, receives, or relays information
PSTN Public Switched Telephone Network POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service The name, or identifier, for the legacy wired, circuit switched, landline telephone network which provided dial tone service operated by national, regional, or local telephone operators.
RBOC Regional Bell Operating Company, BOC – Bell Operating Company Term for describing or identifying any one of the regional operating companies authorized by the FCC to provide wired telephone service in a geographic region after the breakup of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T).  In 1983, a Federal Court ruled that AT&T had a monopoly which violated US anti-trust laws and must therefore be divested into 7 RBOCs, with AT&T being allowed to continue as a national long distance service provider.  AT&T was split up into 7 RBOCs: Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, NYNEX, Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, and US WEST.  These companies were also known as LECs (Local Exchange Carriers).  In a wireless telecommunications network, the RBOC (or LEC) must be used to connect the cellular network to the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) network in order for cellular to land-line calls, and visa-versa, to be made.  The LEC often times also provides the wired telecommunications connections, or backhaul, from the cell site to the cellular core network and/or provides the wired telecommunications connections between the cellular core network elements and core network elements of all other telecommunications networks.
RX Receive Receiver The process of receiving a communications signal, wired or wireless, over a telecommunications network.  Also used to identify the receiving path, or communications direction, as opposed to the transmit path, or TX, in which a communications signal is transmitted over the network.
SIM Subscriber Identification Module Subscriber Identity Module A card that is inserted into a device (such as a cell phone) .  SIM cards are used by services companies to authorize subscribers to use their device on their network and well as to securely store and share the user’s identity and associated information such as phone numbers, contact information, etc.
TBps Terabytes per second TB/S, TB/sec A measure of data transfer rate in a telecommunications system (wired or wireless).  Common data rate units are multiples of bits per second or bytes per second (as in this case).  The byte (B) is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of 8 bits (b). Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.  The prefix “Tera” or “Y” means 1,000 Gigabytes (GB) or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes per second. So 1 Terabyte per second (1 TBps) = 1,000,000,000,000 bytes per second (Bps) = 1,000 Gigabytes per second (MBps).  Multiply by 8 to convert GBps to Gbps.
TX Xmit, Transmit Transmitter The process of sending a communications signal, wired or wireless, over a telecommunications network.  Also used to identify the transmitting path, or communications direction, as opposed to the receive path, or RX, in which a communications signal is received over the network.
UL Uplink   Uplink is the telecommunications link direction from a less central network node to a more central node.  In cellular communications, uplink is the signal from the customer device (phone, tablet, modem, etc.) to the cell site.  In Wi-Fi, uplink is the signal from the client device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) to the Wi-Fi router or access point.  In satellite systems, uplink is the signal from the terrestrial based unit to the satellite.  Broadcast technologies like radio and television by definition do not have an uplink communication path and only have a downlink signal broadcast to devices with no return communication, or uplink signal.
UMTS Universal Mobile Telecommunications System 3G technology standard that uses digitized packets to allow several transmitters and receivers to simultaneously deliver information over a single communication channel.  This allows multiple users/resources to share a band of frequencies instead of each user/resource requiring a dedicated communication channel similar to 1G AMPS.  UMTS uses spread spectrum concepts simlar to 2G standard CDMA as well as similar concepts adapted from 2G standard GSM.  UMTS uses a 5 GHz channel bandwidth, which is larger than CDMA (1.25 MHz) and much larger than GSM (200 kHz). 
VoLTE Voice over LTE   A very specific VoIP (Voice over IP) standard which enables voice services to be delivered over the 4G LTE radio network standard.
WISP Wireless Internet Service Provider Wireless ISP An company or organization that provides users and/or devices access to the internet using wireless and physical communication channel for connectivity to the internet.

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