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The telecommunications industry is constantly evolving, and so is the language used to describe it. Unless you work in the industry, remembering all the terms and acronyms can be challenging. And not knowing the basic vocabulary of telecom can make talking to your IT department or service providers difficult. This “need to know” list will help you understand the basics of telecom terminology.

3G and 4G

Third-generation and fourth-generation wireless capabilities that allow for faster and broader access to information and services via mobile devices.


The portion of a hierarchical telecom network that makes up the links between the core network (such as a telephone company) and smaller sub-networks (such as a cell tower).


The range of frequencies in a communication channel. Analog communications measure bandwidth in Hertz, whereas digital communications use bits per second (bps).


A high-capacity transmission technique that allows for the communication of a large amount of information over a wide range of frequencies.


Packaged services offered by telecom companies, such as home phone, Internet and television. Telecommunications companies often offer discounted pricing for bundled services.

Central office

A windowless building that houses the equipment that connects and routes calls from one telephone to another, both for local and long-distance calls. Nearly every neighborhood is home to one of these buildings.

Communication Service Provider (CSP)

Companies that provide services such as telecommunications, Internet and cable television.

Customer Provided Equipment (CPE)

Equipment needed for telecommunications located on the client’s premises, including telephones,

Fiber optic cable answering machines, routers and modems.

Glass strands used to transmit light signals for cell phone and Internet connections. These cables allow for connection speeds 10 to 100 times faster than copper wire.

Long-Term Evolution (LTE)

A standard for wireless communication that allows for high-speed data transmission for mobile phones and data terminals.

Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

A small version of a telephone switchboard used by a business to connect private and public telephone networks. Instead of being hosted on-site, these PBX features, along with the call platform, are hosted at the service provider’s location.

Signaling System Number 7 (SS7)

An international standard of protocols for telephone signaling that is used to originate and terminate most phone calls over public networks. Synchronous Data Hierarchy (SDH) and Synchronous Optical Network (SON) These are synonymous terms. They both refer to a system of fiber optic transmissions that allows multiple digital signals to travel simultaneously over a single communications channel.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Telephone services provided over broadband Internet connections rather than traditional phone networks.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

Similar to VoIP, this system uses wireless LTE networks to transmit phone calls.

As the industry continues to evolve, new terminology will come into play. You’ll have to keep learning to stay “in the know” about telecommunications…and we’ll be here to help you through the coming advancements in telecom.

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