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Mobile Phone Glossary - everything you need to know about mobile phone technology.


In mobile telephony, first-generation systems were analog, circuit-switched. Voice links were poor, handoff unreliable, capacity low, and security non-existent. 1G systems are not now under active development – indeed, in some areas 1G spectrum is being auctioned for 2G and 3G use.


In mobile telephony, second-generation protocols use digital encoding and include GSM, D-AMPS (TDMA) and CDMA. 2G networks are in current use around the world. These protocols support high bit rate voice and limited data communications. They offer auxiliary services such as data, fax and SMS. Most 2G protocols offer different levels of encryption.


In mobile telephony, 2.5G protocols extend 2G systems to provide additional features such as packet-switched connection (GPRS) and enhanced data rates (HSCSD, EDGE).


In mobile telephony, third-generation protocols support much higher data rates, measured in Mbps, intended for applications other than voice. 3G supports bandwidth-hungry applications such as full-motion video, video-conferencing and full Internet access.


Advanced Mobile Phone System: a 1G standard which operates in the 800-900MHz-frequency band. It was the primary analog mobile phone system in North America (and other locales) through the 1980s and into the 2000s. As of February 18, 2008, Carriers in the United States were no longer required to support AMPS and companies such as AT&T and Verizon have discontinued this service permanently.


The simple way to transmit speech, which is translated into electronic signals of different frequency and/or amplitude. The first networks for mobile phones, as well as broadcast transmissions, were analog. Due to being longer established in some countries, analog networks may offer better coverage than digital networks, however analog phones are less secure and suffer more from interference where the signal is weak. Analog systems include AMPS, NMT and ETACS.


Historically, "application programming interface". Practically, an API is any interface that enables one program to use facilities provided by another, whether by calling that program, or by being called by it. At a higher level still, an API is a set of functionality delivered by a programming system, and as such the mix of APIs in a particular system tells you what that system can do.


The BlackBerry is a wireless handheld device introduced in 1999 which supports push e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing and other wireless information services. Developed by the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM), it delivers information over the wireless data networks of mobile phone service companies. While including the usual PDA applications (address book, calendar, to-do lists, etc.) as well as telephone capabilities on newer models, the BlackBerry is primarily known for its ability to send and receive e-mail wherever it can access an atmosphere wireless network of certain cellular phone carriers. It has a built-in keyboard, optimized for "thumbing", the use of only the thumbs to type. Some BlackBerry devices don't depend on mobile phone service coverage and are Wi-Fi compatible like similar handheld devices that are on the marketplace.


An open specification for seamless wireless short-range communications of data and voice between both mobile and stationary devices. For instance, it specifies how mobile phones, computers and PDAs interconnect with each other, with computers, and with office or home phones. The first generation of Bluetooth permits exchange of data up to a rate of 1 Mbps per second, even in areas with much electromagnetic disturbance. It transmits and receives via a short-range radio link using a globally available frequency band (2.4 GHz ISM band).


Bits per second: a way of quantifying data transmission throughput. It is the number of pieces of information (bits) transmitted or received per second.


An industry standard object-oriented compiled language, formally standardized in 1998, but tracing its history to the early 1980s, with an heritage in C and Simula. C++ is a general-purpose programming language with a bias towards systems programming. C++ runs on most computers from the most powerful supercomputers to the ubiquitous personal computers. Symbian OS is written in C++.


Code Division Multiple Access: a digital wireless telephony transmission technique.
1. CDMA allows multiple frequencies to be used simultaneously (Spread Spectrum). The CDMA idea was originally developed for military use over 30 years ago.
2. The CDMA standards used for second-generation mobile telephony are the IS-95 standards championed by QUALCOMM.


Cellular Radio

The technology that has made large scale mobile telephony possible. Current cellular networks reuse the same radio frequencies by assigning them to cells far enough apart to reduce interference. A cell is the geographical area covered by one radio base station transmitting/receiving in the centre. The size of each cell is determined by the terrain, transmission power, and forecasted number of users. Service coverage of a given area is based on an interlocking network of cells, called a cell system.


Means of creating a connection by setting up a dedicated end-to-end circuit, which remains open for the duration of the communication.


J2ME Connected Limited Device Configuration. The CLDC serves the market consisting of personal, mobile, connected information devices. This configuration includes some new classes designed specifically to fit the needs of small-footprint devices.


A generic name for information centric mobile phones; in effect a fully featured personal digital assistant and mobile phone in one unit. The Nokia 9210 Communicator is an example of such a Symbian OS phone.


Content Provider
A company that provides services to mobile phone users or network operators. These services could be shopping, web surfing, chat rooms, playing games, accessing data such as music and books through a server.


Code-name for a half VGA reference design for Symbian OS.


Digital AMPS (Digital-Advanced Mobile Phone Service) was the digital wireless standard widely used throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific and other areas. D-AMPS uses digital TDMA on the one hand, and is required to be compatible with installed AMPS base station networks on the other. D-AMPS operates on the 800 and 1900 MHz bands. D-AMPS is considered end-of-life, and existing networks are in the process of being replaced by GSM/GPRS and CDMA2000 technologies.


DCS 1800
Digital Communications System: another name for GSM working on a radio frequency of 1800 MHz. Also known as GSM1800 or PCN, this digital network operates in Europe and Asia Pacific.


A way of encoding information. On digital networks, data doesn't need to go though the extra step of being converted to an analog signal, voice is sampled and coded in a way similar to how it is recorded on a CD. Digital networks are fast replacing analog ones as they offer improved sound quality, secure transmission and can handle data directly as well as voice. Digital networks include mobile systems GSM, D-AMPS, CDMA, TDMA and UMTS.


Dual band
Dual band mobile phones can work on networks that operate on different frequency bands. This is useful if you move between areas covered by different networks. Some networks operate on two bands, for instance GSM-1800 in town centres and GSM-900 in the rest of the country.


Dual mode
Dual mode mobile phones have more than one air interface and hence can work on more than one network. One example is phones that operate on both digital and analog networks. They are quite useful if you want the advantages of a digital phone, but regularly visit areas where analog is the only service available.


Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution. An enhanced modulation technique designed to increase network capacity and data rates in GSM networks. EDGE should provide data rates up to 384 Kbps. EDGE will let operators without a 3G license to compete with 3G networks offering similar data services. EDGE is not expected before 2001 at the earliest.


Deprecated term. Refer to Symbian OS.


Extended Total Access Communications System: a 1G mobile phone network developed in the UK and available in Europe and Asia.


Fixed Cellular Terminal - also known as : GSM Gateway, GSM Modem, GSM Router, Mobile Gateway, channel bank, GSM channel Bank, ISDN GSM Gateway, analog GSM gateway.


Fixed Cellular Terminal
Mobile Device that allows fixed telephony devices such as PBX Telephone Systems to connect directly to the GSM Mobile Phone Network - This may be to allow PBX users to call colleagues on their mobiles free of charge, or call other mobile users at reduced rates (depending upon available tariffs) - or for use in remote offices where no fixed line services are available (e.g. building site / remote monitoring post) - for landline substitution then Fixed Cellular Terminals are available that can provide voice, fax and data over the GSM network such as the Ericsson F251m .


General Packet Radio Service: a radio technology for GSM networks that adds packet-switching protocols, shorter set-up time for ISP connections, and offer the possibility to charge by amount of data sent rather than connect time. GPRS promises to support flexible data transmission rates typically up to 20 or 30 Kbps (with a theoretical maximum of 171.2 Kbps), as well as continuous connection to the network.


Global System for Mobile communications, the most widely used digital mobile phone system and the de facto wireless telephone standard in Europe. Originally defined as a pan-European open standard for a digital cellular telephone network to support voice, data, text messaging and cross-border roaming. GSM is now one of the world's main 2G digital wireless standards. GSM is present in more than 160 countries and according to the GSM Association, accounts for approximately 82 percent of the total digital cellular wireless market. GSM is a time division multiplex (TDM) system. Implemented on 800, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz frequency bands.


GSM Gateway
A mobile phone device that takes a single SIM card or multiple SIMs and provides a telecoms interface - either Analog (FXO/FXS) to allow connection to Analog trunk of a Telephone System (or to allow a standard telephone to connect directly), ISDN Interfaces such as ISDN2e and ISDN30 for connection to ISDN telephone systems and VOIP interfaces to allow the gateway to connect to a Voice Over IP network. The GSM Gateway enables these traditional telephony devices to connect directly to the mobile phone network, usually providing the user with access to cheaper call rates.


High Speed Circuit Switched Data: dedicated circuit-switched data communications technology for GSM which boosts data throughput up to 14.4 Kbps in a single channel, and by aggregating channels, up to 57.6 Kbps. An asymmetrical service can be offered where, for instance, one channel is allocated for the uplink and several are aggregated for the downlink. HSCSD can provide a fixed bit rate (transparent mode) or a variable one (non-transparent mode). In most cases HSCSD is available to network operators as a pure software upgrade. HSCSD started to appear in some networks in 1999.


International Mobile Telecommunications-2000: term used by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for the specification for third-generation wireless services. Formerly referred to as FPLMTS, Future Public Land-Mobile Telephone Systems.


Proprietary packet-based information service for mobile phones. i-mode delivers information (such as mobile banking, and train timetable) to mobile phones and enables exchange of email from handsets on the PDC-P network. Launched in 1999 by NTT DoCoMo, i-mode is very popular in Japan (especially for email and transfer of icons), and is increasing in popularity in other parts of the world, such as Israel.


The iPhone is a multimedia, Internet-enabled mobile phone designed and marketed by Apple Inc. It has a multi-touch screen with virtual keyboard and buttons. The iPhone's functions include those of a camera phone and a portable media player ("iPod"), in addition to text messaging and visual voicemail. It also offers Internet services including e-mail, web browsing, and local Wi-Fi connectivity. It is a quad-band mobile phone that uses the GSM standard, hence has international capability. It supports the Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) data technology.

1. A suite of protocols for infrared (IR) exchange of data between two devices, up to 1 or 2 meters apart (20 to 30 cm for low-power devices). IrDA devices typically have throughput of up to either 115.2 Kbps or 4 Mbps. IrDA protocols are implemented in Symbian OS phones, many PDAs, printers and laptop computers.
2. The Infrared Data Association, the industry body that specifies IrDA protocols, originally founded by Hewlett-Packard and others.


Industry standard object-oriented language and virtual machine, invented by Sun Microsystems and formally released in 1996. Java is an ideal language for network applications and applets. Sun's Java specifications include many Java APIs and platforms, including the JavaPhone API and PersonalJava platform, which are included in Symbian OS.


Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME): The edition of the Java platform that is targeted at small, standalone or connectable consumer and embedded devices. The J2ME technology consists of a virtual machine and a set of APIs suitable for tailored runtime environments for these devices. The J2ME technology has two primary kinds of components – configurations and profiles.


A Java API specification controlling contacts, power management, call control, and phonebook management, intended specifically for the programmability requirements of mobile phones.


The Java Telephony API is an extensible API that offers an interface to all call control services (from those needed in a consumer device up to those of call centers). JTAPI is part of the JavaPhone API.


Core of an operating system, a kernel manages the machine's hardware resources (including the processor and the memory), and provides and controls the way any other software component can access these resources. The kernel runs with a higher privilege than other programs (so-called user-mode programs). The power and robustness of an OS's kernel play a major role in shaping overall system design and reliability.


Mobile Station Application Execution Environment (GSM 02.57): a framework to ensure a predictable environment for third-party applications in GSM or UMTS handsets (ie the Mobile Station). MExE does this by defining different technology requirements called "classmarks". MExE classmark 1 is based on WAP, classmark 2 on PersonalJava and JavaPhone, and classmark 3 on J2ME CLDC and MIDP. Other classmarks may be defined in the future. MExE specifies additional requirements for all classmarks, for instance a security environment, capability and content negotiation, a user profile, user interface personalization, management of services and virtual home environment. A handset can support any number of classmarks.


Mobile Information Device Profile. Set of Java APIs that is generally implemented on the Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC). It provides a basic J2ME application runtime environment targeted at mobile information devices, such as mobile phones and two-way pagers. The MIDP specification addresses issues such as user interface, persistent storage, networking, and application model.


Mobile Phone

The mobile phone (also called a mobile, a cellular phone, or cell phone) is a long-range, portable electronic device used for mobile communication that uses a network of specialized base stations known as cell sites. In addition to the standard voice function of a telephone, current mobile phones can support many additional services such as SMS for text messaging, email, packet switching for access to the Internet, and MMS for sending and receiving photos and video.


Network operator

Company with a license to provide wireless telephony services


Nordic Mobile Telephone. One of the earliest 1G cellular network developed jointly in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Originally operated in the 450 MHz band. Later the 900 MHz was used as well.


Object Exchange: a set of high-level protocols allowing objects such as vCard contact information and vCalendar schedule entries to be exchanged using either IrDA (IrOBEX) or Bluetooth. Symbian OS implements IrOBEX for exchange of vCards, for example between a Nokia 9210 Communicator and an Ericsson R380 Smartphone, and vCalendar.


Operating System: historically, the minimal set of software needed to manage a device's hardware capability and share it between application programs. Practically, "OS" is now used to mean all software including kernel, device drivers, comms, graphics, data management, GUI framework, system shell application, and utility applications. This would define Windows, Palm OS and MacOS as operating systems. Symbian provides an operating system – Symbian OS – tailored for data-enabled mobile phones.


A BASIC-like programming language, for rapid application development, used on Symbian OS.


Technique whereby the information (voice or data) to be sent is broken up into packets, of at most a few KB each, which are then routed by the network between different destinations based on addressing data within each packet. Use of network resources is optimized, as the resources are needed only during the handling of each packet. This is an ideal model for ad hoc data communication, and works well also for voice, video and other streamed data. Mobile phones with packet-switched communication appear to be "always connected" to the data network, whereas in the case of circuit-switched connections, setup time takes around 30 seconds to connect from a mobile phone to an ISP. Use of packet-switched network can be charged according to the volume of data transferred and not to any notion of time spent online.


Personal Communications Network: another name for GSM 1800 (it is also known as DCS 1800). It is used in Europe and Asia Pacific.


Personal Communications Service: an American generic term for a mass-market mobile phone service, emphasizing personal communication, independent of the technology used to provide it. PCS includes such digital cellular technologies as GSM 1900, CDMA and TDMA IS-136.


Personal Digital Cellular: the 2G TDMA-based protocols used in Japan, owned by NTT DoCoMo. PDC services operate in the 800 and 1500 MHz bands.


A Java platform optimized for the requirements and constraints of mobile devices.


A set of technology, which acts as a foundation for real-world applications, or higher-level platforms. Symbian OS includes C++ APIs, a leading Java implementation, an application suite and integration with wireless and other communications protocols.


Polyphonic Ringtones
Todays poly ringtones are almost as good as the original records, the quality gets better all the time due to continuous improvement in mobile phone audio technology. Most modern mobile phones with play 16 track tunes. Whilst the early mobile phones that would only play monophonic sounds are still around it is only a matter of time before all mobile phone manufacturers produce handsets that play polyphonic tones. Polytones sound good and most hits are available to be transmitted in stereo to give up to 40 different notes playing at a time.


Code-name for a tablet-like, quarter-VGA portrait screen size, pen-based, reference design.


Reference design
User interface designs for Symbian OS delivered to Symbian licensees


Service provider
A company that provides mobile phone users with services and subscriptions to mobile phone networks.



Subscriber Identity Module. The SIM card is the smart card inserted inside all GSM phones. It identifies the user account to the network, handles authentication and provides data storage for basic user data and network information. It may also contain some applications that run on a compatible phone (SIM Application Toolkit).



A generic name for voice centric mobile phones with information capability. The Ericsson R380 Smartphone is an example of such a Symbian OS phone.


Short Message Service: available on digital GSM networks allowing text messages of up to 160 characters to be sent and received via the network operator's message centre to your mobile phone, or from the Internet, using a so-called "SMS gateway" website. If the phone is powered off or out of range, messages are stored in the network and are delivered at the next opportunity.


Symbian Connect
The PC-based Symbian Connect is a system for data synchronization, file management, printing via PC, application installation from a PC, and other utility functions allowing Symbian OS phones to integrate effectively with PC and server-based data.


Symbian Developer Network
The developers' support network for Symbian OS, where you will find all the resources to enable you to develop world-class applications for Symbian OS phones.


Symbian OS
Symbian's advanced open standard operating system for data enabled mobile phones. It includes a multi-tasking multithreaded core, a user interface framework, data services enablers, application engines and integrated PIM functionality and wireless communications.


Synchronization Markup Language, an industry-wide effort to create a single, common data synchronization protocol optimized for wireless networks. SyncML's goal is to have networked data that support synchronization with any mobile device, and mobile devices that support synchronization with any networked data. The SyncML structured data layer will use XML wherever appropriate. SyncML is intended to work on transport protocols as diverse as HTTP, WSP (part of WAP) and OBEX, and with data formats ranging from personal data (e.g. vCard & vCalendar) to relational data and XML documents. The SyncML consortium was set up by IBM, Nokia and Psion among others. Symbian is a sponsor of the SyncML consortium.


Total Access Communication System: a British 1G analog mobile telephone standard based on the US AMPS system. It was later adopted in other countries including Hong-Kong and Japan.



1. Time Division Multiple Access: a digital wireless telephony transmission technique. TDMA allocates each user a different time slot on a given frequency. GSM, D-AMPS, PDC and DECT use TDMA in one form or another. 2. A name generally used for D-AMPS. TDMA networks are operated in the US, Latin America, New Zealand, parts of Russia and Asia Pacific.


Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service, part of the IMT-2000 initiative, is a 3G standard supporting a theoretical data throughput of up to 2 Mbps. First trials started in 2001. It should be rolled out in most of the world by 2005.


A 16-bit character encoding scheme allowing characters from Western European, Eastern European, Cyrillic, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Urdu, Hindi and all other major world languages, living and dead, to be encoded in a single character set. The Unicode specification also includes standard compression schemes and a wide range of typesetting information required for worldwide locale support. Symbian OS fully implements Unicode.


Defines a transport- and platform-independent format for exchanging calendar and schedule information so that any vCalendar-compliant application can send or receive calendaring and scheduling information to or from any other vCalendar-compliant application. For instance, users with mobile phones running vCalendar-aware applications can schedule meetings automatically over an infrared link or via sending an SMS.


Standard defining the format of an electronic business card. All devices supporting vCard can exchange information such as phone numbers and addresses. For instance a user with a vCard-aware phonebook application on a handheld computer can easily transfer names and phone numbers to a vCard-aware mobile phone.


Video Graphics Array: “standard” screen size of 640 by 480 pixels.

Wide-band CDMA: a CDMA protocol originated by NTT DoCoMo and now adopted for third-generation use by ETSI in Europe. WCDMA supports very high-speed multimedia services such as full-motion video, Internet access and video conferencing.

1. Wireless Application Protocol: a set of communication protocol standards to make accessing online services from a mobile phone simple. 2. WAP was conceived by four companies: Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and Unwired Planet (today called The WAP Forum is an industry association with over 200 members. Symbian is a full member of the WAP Forum.

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