Mobile Phone Terms Glossary

Here, we at would like to expand on our article Mobile Abbreviations by giving a fuller description of what terms mean and refer to.


First Generation. First-generation systems were analogue, circuit-switched. Voice links were poor, and security non-existent. 1G systems are no longer under active development – in some areas the 1G spectrum is being auctioned for 2G and 3G use.


Second-generation. 2G uses digital encoding and include GSM, D-AMPS (TDMA) and CDMA. 2G networks are in current use around the world. 2G supports high bit rate voice and limited data communications. 2G offers additional services such as data, fax and Small Message Services (SMS). Most 2G protocols offer a higher level of encryption (security) than its predecessor 1G.


An advancement to its predecessor 2G systems by providing additional features such as packet-switched connection (GPRS) and enhanced data rates (HSCSD, EDGE).


Third Generation. Supports much higher data rates, measured in Mbps, intended for applications other than voice. 3G will support bandwidth-hungry applications such as full-motion video, video-conferencing and full Internet access.


Assisted Global Positioning System.Some mobile phones that have a Global Positioning System chip built-in also support A-GPS. A-GPS is simply Assisted GPS and it means your mobile phone handset will use a triangulation technique to help get a fast fix on your current location. Triangulation means the handset will judge your location to within 100 metres by judging your distance from three mobile phone masts within your area. The distance from each aerial is calculated and your location recorded. Sometimes a GPS fix can take up to 30 seconds to work, using A-GPS means a faster fix and a better end user experience.


An Accelerometer is generally used for measuring acceleration however within your mobile phone handset the accelerometer detects the motion of your handset, and will auto rotate the display to show in landscape rather than portrait mode and vice-versa when your mobile phone is rotated 90 degrees. This is an ideal feature for viewing photos on your mobile phone screen in full screen mode and in landscape or portrait view according to the photo layout.


Advanced Mobile Phone System. This is a 1G standard which operates in the 800-900MHz-frequency band.


Used for seamless wireless short-range communications of data and voice between both mobile and stationary devices. For example, it specifies how mobile phones, and other devices such as computers and Portable Digital Assistants interconnect with each other.  The first generation of Bluetooth permits exchange of data up to a rate of 1 Mbps even in areas with much electromagnetic disturbance. Bluetooth transmits and receives via a short-range radio link using a globally available frequency band.

Bluetooth technology allows connections without the need for wires. Benefits include car kits and headsets that can be connected to your mobile phone without the need for wires. Bluetooth is a short range technology, usually working up to a distance of 10 metres.


Mobile Phones generally cost up to around £500.00p if you just want the mobile phone on its own. Some people take out a 12 month, 18 month or 24 month contract with the mobile phone where in return for committing to pay their bill every month you get the mobile phone either for for free or for a heavily reduced cost. Contracts are typically subject to proof of identification and credit checks, calls are billed monthly, as opposed to pay-as-you-go mobile phones


D-AMPS (Digital-Advanced Mobile Phone Service) is the digital wireless standard widely used throughout the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. 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.


Digital Communications System 1800: 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.

Dual Band

Dual band mobile phones can work on networks that operate on two 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 centers and GSM-900 in the rest of the country.


Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution. This is an 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.


General Packet Radio Service(s). GPRS is a radio technology for GSM networks that adds packet-switching protocols, shorter set-up time for Internet Service Provider connections, and offer the possibility to charge by the amount of data sent rather than connect time. GPRS promises to support flexible data transmission rates typically up to 20 or 30 Kilobytes per second , as well as continuous connection to the network. A 2.5G enhancement to GSM, GPRS was the most significant step towards 3G.


Global System for Mobile communications is the most widely used digital mobile phone system. Originally defined as a pan-European open standard for a digital mobile 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 70 percent of the total digital mobile wireless market. GSM is used on the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz frequency bands.

Quad Band

Quad band mobile phones will work on four different frequency bands. This is quite useful if you move between areas covered by the four frequency bands that your mobile covers.


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


Short Message Service. This is a feature available on digital GSM networks allowing text messages, typically of up to 160 characters, to be sent and received via the network operator's message center to a 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 on the network and are delivered at the next opportunity.

Tri Band

Tri-band mobile phones are mobile phones that will work on three different frequency bands. This is useful if you move between areas covered by different frequency bands.

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Tim Austin writes articles about various aspects of the Mobile Phone industry.

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