Abbreviations & acronyms in the communications industry

The telecommunications industry is one of the largest in the world and as the industry has grown, many new technologies have been added to this industry. While it is great to be able to use and learn new technologies, sometimes the excessive use of complex abbreviations and acronyms can really come in our way and limit our learning abilities. That is where we come in.

In this article, we have tried to list down the commonly used acronyms and abbreviations within the telecom world especially the mobile communications industry. And not only that, but we have also tried to add some of those corporate terms that may not be well-known to the general public but are often used by telcos. The intention is to help those who are looking to build a quick understanding of a wide range of telecommunications acronyms and definitions.

List of telecom acronyms and definitions

1G – First generation (of mobile networks)         

A generation of mobile cellular networks which were analogue and enabled voice communications services for consumers and businesses.

2G – Second generation (of mobile networks)    

A generation of mobile cellular networks which are digital and primarily enable voice calls and text messaging services for consumers and businesses.

3G – Third generation (of mobile networks)        

A generation of digital mobile cellular networks that enable superior mobile internet which is sufficient for multimedia streaming and download services.

4G – Fourth generation (of mobile networks)     

The most recent generation of mobile cellular networks and a successor of 3G that mainly uses LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology to enable very high-speed mobile broadband services while also supporting traditional voice calls and text messaging.

AMPS – Advanced Mobile Phone System          

An analogue technology used for the first generation (1G) of mobile cellular networks in the US which was later followed by some other countries also.  

API – Application Programming Interface           

An interface defined by rules and instructions as to how software components from one source should interact with those from another.

ARPU – Average Revenue Per User      

A measure of the revenue generated per subscriber per month for telecom services such as mobile voice calls, SMS, mobile internet, etc.

B2B – Business to Business       

A type of business model and transaction where a business sells its products and services to other businesses.  

B2C – Business to Consumer    

A type of business model and transaction where a business sells its products and services to consumers. 

BC – Business Case       

A justification for a business investment which typically shows the revenues, costs, profits, payback period and other financial metrics to justify the investment.  

BoM – Bill of Materials

A list of raw materials or components required to build or repair a product or service. 

BSS – Business Support Systems            

A component within telecom networks responsible for handling customer-facing business aspects including billing, service fulfilment, revenue management, customer management, order management, product catalogues and charging, etc.

BTS – Base Transceiver Station

A network entity within 2G mobile GSM networks responsible for managing all the radio communication between a mobile phone and the mobile network.  

BU – Business Unit        

A part or segment of a company that represents a specific business function or business area e.g. a certain division of a telecom company with a focus on building network components. 

CAPEX – Capital Expenditure 

The costs that a company incurs to purchase or upgrade its assets such as network components.  

CDMA – Code Division Multiple Access              

A technology used in digital communications such as 2G and 3G mobile cellular networks where a single frequency channel is used to transmit the information for multiple users who are each allocated special codes to avoid interference. 

CDR – Call Detail Record           

A data record of each transaction within a telecom network such as a voice call or text message that details aspects such as the call duration, origin/destination of the call, the amount billed to the customer, etc.  

CEO – Chief Executive Officer 

The top executive of the highest-ranking responsible for making all key company decisions who reports to the board of directors and is ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the company.   

CFO – Chief Finance Officer     

A senior executive within a company who reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is responsible for leading the financial aspects of the business including financial planning, accounts, financial risks, company shares, taxes and other similar activities.    

CMO – Chief Marketing Officer              

A senior executive within a company who reports to the CEO and is responsible for marketing initiatives including brand management, public relations, advertising, market research and other similar activities.         

CoP – Close of Play      

A term that is used to refer to the end of a business day which in most cases is 5 pm or 5:30 pm depending on the company and the country.        

CPE – Customer Premise Equipment    

A hardware device such as an IP phone or a telephone set placed at the location of a customer to enable them to access the services from their telecom service provider.   

CRM – Customer Relationship Management     

The approach, practice and strategy that allows a business to manage the relationship and interactions with its existing and prospective customers.        

CX – Customer Experience         

The overall journey and experience of a customer when interacting with a certain brand and associated products and services.        

D-AMPS – Digital Advanced Mobile Phone System      

A digital technology used for the second generation (2G) of mobile cellular networks in the USA which was later followed by some other countries also.     

DSL – Digital Subscriber Line    

A technology that comes in different flavours such as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) to provide high-speed internet services to consumers and businesses via traditional copper telephone lines.

EBITDA – Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation              

A measure of the operational performance of a business which is calculated by deducting all the operational costs (including direct costs) from the revenues.

EDGE – Enhanced Data for Global Evolution    

A pre-3G technology also sometimes referred to as 2.75G which was an enhancement to General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and improved the achievable data rates by at least three times as compared to GPRS.       

EMEA – Europe, the Middle East and Africa     

A term or designation used for referring to the countries within Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  

EULA – End User License Agreement   

A license agreement that the users of software are required to agree to in order to be granted the legal rights to use the software.             

FDMA – Frequency Division Multiple Access    

A technology used in analogue communications such as 1G mobile networks where a frequency band is broken down into smaller frequency sub-bands or channels to transmit and receive the information.   

FM – Frequency Modulation      

A technique used for the transmission of a signal carrying information such as audio where the frequency of the signal is altered to incorporate the information into the signal.   

FTE – Full-time Equivalent        

The work carried out by one full-time employee in a given period e.g. 1 FTE = 40 hours per week. 

FTTH – Fibre-to-the-home       

A type of fibre optic broadband installation also known as Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) where the fibre optic cable runs all the way from the local exchange to the home or premises of the customer.             

GB – Gigabyte 

A measure of the amount of data which most commonly refers to the internet data limit or internet data consumption. 1 gigabyte (GB) equals 1000,000,000 Bytes or 1000,000 kilobytes (KB) or 1000 megabytes (MB). 

Gbps – Gigabits per second       

A unit most commonly used when referring to the network or internet speed which is the rate at which the data is transferred from a network to a device and vice versa. 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) equals 1000,000,000 bits per second or 1000,000 kilobits per second (Kbps) or 1000 megabits per second (Mbps).       

GHz – Gigahertz            

A unit widely used in telecommunications and electronics to measure the frequency of electromagnetic waves that carry information signals. 1 gigahertz (GHz) equals 1000,000,000 hertz or 1000,000 kilohertz (kHz) or 1000 megahertz (MHz).        

GPRS – General Packet Radio Service 

A technology also referred to as 2.5G, that introduced efficient mobile internet services in the 2G GSM networks. 

GPS – Global Positioning System           

A global system that uses a network of satellites to help navigate by calculating the location of GPS receivers within satellite navigators (Sat Nav), smartphones and other devices with embedded GPS capability.   

GSM – Global System for Mobile Communications         

A digital technology most widely used for the second generation (2G) of mobile cellular networks that enables secure voice calls and text messaging services.    

GUI – Graphics User Interface  

A user interface that utilises visual representations such as graphics and icons to allow users to be able to interact with IT, electronics and telecom devices.   

HD – High Definition     

A display technology used by television and other media device manufacturers which has a resolution of 1280 x 720 (0.9 megapixels).    

HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface   

A standard interface that connects two high-definition (HD) devices such as laptops, televisions, etc. through a special cable. It is used for viewing HD content from one device on the other. 

HQ – Head Quarter(s)   

A location, also known as a head office, that represents the most important office of an organisation where the key decisions are made.

HSDPA – High-Speed Downlink Packet Access

A technology used in 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service) networks which significantly improves the achievable download speed (data rates) of the 3G network.         

HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol    

A protocol used by the web to transfer files such as text, images, audio, video, etc. from a web server to a user’s web browser so that the user can view information on the web pages over the internet.    

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service            

A model where computing infrastructure such as servers, hard disks, firewalls, etc. are provided to a company by a 3rd party as a hosted service to avoid CAPEX intensive infrastructure deployment within the company.

ICT – Information and Communications Technology      

An extended term for Information Technology (IT), that refers to the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications. 

IM – Instant Messaging 

A type of chat that offers real-time communication between two or more parties through text messages over the internet on various devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.   

IMEI – International Mobile Equipment Identity              

A unique 15 digit number assigned by the device manufacturers to every mobile device including mobile phones and mobile broadband data cards to identify the device within the network.    

IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem              

An architecture based on the Internet standards for providing multimedia services in the mobile and fixed networks.   

IMSI – International Mobile Subscriber Identity

A unique 15 digit number assigned to each SIM card to identify a mobile user within the network. This number comprises Mobile Country Code, Mobile Network Code, and Mobile Subscriber Identification Number.    

IoT – Internet of Things              

A system where devices, vehicles, buildings, etc. communicate with each other through an open cloud network.  

IP – Internet Protocol   

A protocol which governs the format and the address of the information data sent from one computer device to another over the Internet.  

IP PBX – Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange    

A private telephone system used by a company which utilises VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for phone calls allowing users to communicate internally and externally while sharing a pool of available external lines.              

IPS – In-Plane Switching             

Display technology for LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, used in high-end tablets and other LCD panels, which allows the viewing of the screen from many different angles without any distortion in the colours however the images do not switch as fast when viewing fast-moving objects.      

IPv6 – Internet Protocol version 6          

The new version of the Internet Protocol (IP) designed to support 3.4 x 10^29 billion IP addresses which will replace the current version IPv4 to accommodate the growing demand for the use of the Internet and associated devices.      

IRAT – Inter-Radio Access Technology 

The inter-working of two radio interface technologies mostly referred to in the context of handing over the call or session from one technology to another e.g. GSM to WCDMA.    

ISDN – Integrated Services Digital Network       

A set of standards used for the digital transmission of voice, video and other data over traditional circuit-switched networks.     

ISV – Independent Software Vendor     

A software vendor that specialises in developing consumer or enterprise software for horizontal or vertical markets so that the software can work on one or more of the available platforms such as Windows, Linux, MAC, etc.   

IT – Information Technology      

A technology that makes use of computers and communication networks to store, process, send and receive information.   

IVR – Interactive Voice Response           

An automated telephone system, used by businesses, which provides pre-recorded instructions and choices to the callers so that they can be directed to the most appropriate departments.   

KPI – Key Performance Indicators          

A set of metrics used in telecom and other industries to evaluate the performance of a product or service based on the compliance standards for each of the product or service components which may or may not be directly exposed to the end-user. Network KPIs mainly focus on network performance as opposed to the quality experienced by the end-user. When used in a business context, KPIs can also be defined for financial and business metrics.    

LCD – Liquid Crystal Display     

A display technology used in computer monitors, laptops, notebooks, digital watches, calculators and televisions, etc. which can provide a much thinner display as compared to the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) display in the earlier versions of televisions and monitors. 

LED – Light Emitting Diode       

A semiconductor device that is a light source and can be used as the backlight for LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) televisions to transform them into “LED” televisions.    

LTE – Long-term Evolution        

The leading technology used for the fourth generation (4G) of mobile cellular networks that provides upgrade paths to the existing 3G networks such as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service) and CDMA2000. 

M2M – Machine to Machine     

A point-to-point solution where a device can communicate with another device or a remote computer through mobile, fixed or IT networks to meet certain business objectives. For example, an alarm system triggering an SMS to the local police station in case of an emergency.         

MB – Megabyte              

A measure of the amount of data which most commonly refers to the internet data limit or internet data consumption.  1 megabyte (MB) equals 1000,000 bytes or 1000 kilobytes (KB). 

Mbps – Megabits per second     

A unit most commonly used when referring to the network or the internet speed which is the rate at which the data is transferred from a network to a device and vice versa. 1 Megabits per second (Mbps) equals 1000,000 bits per second or 1000 Kilobits per second (Kbps).  

MMS – Multimedia Messaging Service                

A service used for sending multimedia messages including photos, audio and video clips from one mobile phone to another over a mobile network.  It is an extension of Short Message Service (SMS) which is a text-only service.   

MP4 – Moving Picture Experts Group 4 (MPEG-4)            

A standardised and popular media (container) format that is used for storing video, audio, subtitles, images, etc. to enable the sharing of video over the Internet.   

MPEG – Moving Picture Experts Group              

A standardised format used for video and audio in DVDs/CDs which uses MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 compression.   

MRS – Marketing Requirements Specification  

The requirements defined by product marketing or product management within a company to detail a market opportunity from a customer perspective as an input for a new product, proposition or service.  

MSC – Mobile Switching Centre             

A key component of the mobile core network in the GSM, GPRS, EDGE and UMTS networks responsible for Circuit Switched (CS) voice calls and functions such as switching of calls between mobile and fixed users, administration of handovers, authentication and location updates.   

MVNO – Mobile Virtual Network Operator       

A mobile service provider that provides mobile voice, text messaging, data and associated services but does not have a radio access network of their own. An MVNO usually purchases the network capacity from a mobile network operator (MNO).    

NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement         

A legal contract, usually signed by two parties wanting to do business together, which forms an agreement between the two parties to not disclose each other’s confidential information such as sensitive documents, presentations, and other sources of information to a third party.   

NOC – Network Operations Centre       

A department or location within a telecom or IT company where activities such as network management, control and monitoring take place.      

NPD – New Product Development         

The process used within product management to bring a new product to market by transforming a market opportunity into a sellable product. The end-to-end NPD process may vary depending on the company and/or industry, but generally, all NPD processes start with idea generation and end at the commercial launch of the product.

Check out our template for creating a Product One Pager


NPV – Net Present Value           

A profitability measure of an investment that takes into account the present value of future returns from an investment, less the actual investment. 

OFDM – Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing   

A technique used in telecom networks including LTE, Wi-Fi and WiMAX to carry the data signal over the air interface in a highly efficient manner. In OFDM, a large amount of data can be transmitted by splitting it across multiple closely-spaced signals at different frequencies and low data rates.  

OMC – Operations and Maintenance Centre     

A department within telecom and IT companies that deals with network operations and maintenance.  

OPEX – Operational Expenditures        

The costs incurred by a company for the usual business operations that include maintenance, support, and any other recurring activities.  

OSS – Operations Support Systems (aka Operational Support Systems) 

A system consisting of specialised software and hardware to monitor, analyse, configure and manage all the operational activities within a mobile network.

OTT – Over The Top    

A service model in which the overall communication, as well as the delivery of on-demand and live content, takes place over the public Internet on a best-effort basis with no guaranteed service quality levels. 

PAC – Porting Authorisation Code         

An authorisation code that a customer requires from his/her mobile operator when he/she wants to switch to another mobile operator while keeping the existing mobile phone number.              

PBX – Private Branch Exchange              

A private telephone system used by a company which allows users to make internal and external phone calls while sharing a pool of available external lines within the company. 

PLMN – Public Land Mobile Network   

A network which is established to provide terrestrial or land mobile communications services to the general public.  

PMO – Project Management Office      

A department within a company that defines and maintains the standards for project management.    

PO – Purchase Order    

A commercial document and legal binding between a supplier and a buyer to specify what is being purchased and at what price and payment terms. 

PoC – Proof of Concept             

A testing exercise carried out in a test environment to assess the feasibility of the core concepts and business objectives of a potential product, service or solution.  

PRD – Product Requirements Document            

The product requirements defined by product management within a company detailing what the product should do in order to address a certain market opportunity.  

Check out our templates for Product & Portfolio Roadmaps

PS – Packet Switched   

A switching technique used for the communication of data (mobile internet) services in mobile networks.              

QoE – Quality of Experience      

A measure of the performance of a product or service from a user viewpoint which focuses on how a user subjectively feels about his/her experience of interacting with the product or service.

R&D – Research & Development            

The engineering department within a company where a certain technology is developed.   

RAG – Red, Amber, Green        

The status reporting used in project management where green suggests that the project is on-track, amber means there are some issues that require close monitoring, and red means there are serious issues where a recovery plan is required.  

RAN – Radio Access Network   

A key part of the mobile network that enables air-interface communication between a mobile phone and the mobile network. RAN connects a mobile phone to the mobile core network.  

RF – Radio Frequency   

Any frequency used for the transmission of information wirelessly using radio waves. Examples include televisions, radio, mobile phones, walkie-talkies and baby monitors, etc. 

RFP – Request For Proposal     

A formal request made by a company to potential suppliers with the intention to get a proposed solution and associated price models and process details to address specific business needs of the company.

ROI – Return On Investment     

A measure of the efficiency of an investment that compares the return from the investment with the associated cost to get a ratio between the return and the cost. This ratio can also be expressed as a percentage.         

SaaS – Software as a Service    

A model where software applications such as email clients and other office software are provided to a company by a 3rd party as a hosted service in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee.  This way the company doesn’t need to invest its CAPEX in purchasing and deploying the software on company devices.

SDK – Software Development Kit          

A set of software tools used by application developers and programmers to build applications for specific platforms or operating systems.

SDMA – Spatial Division Multiple Access           

A technology used in satellite communications where spatially separated users can communicate on the same frequency with the use of highly directional antennas which can track a user.  

SDN – Software Defined Networking    

An approach used in network management that provides centralised control capability with the aim to increase network flexibility and agility. 

SIM – Subscriber Identity Module          

A small card with an integrated circuit which can be inserted into SIM-enabled devices such as mobile phones, tablets and data cards to connect them to a mobile network. 

SIP – Session Initiation Protocol             

A communication protocol used for enabling multimedia services such as voice calls, video chat/conferencing and instant messaging over the Internet. SIP is one of the key enablers of Voice over IP (VOIP).   

SLA – Service Level Agreement               

A contract between a service provider and a customer to establish what service levels and performance standards will be provided to the customer.  

SMB – Small Medium Business

A size-based classification of businesses which takes into account the number of employees within a business and its yearly revenues. A business with 1 to 99 employees and annual revenues of under 50m$ is categorised as small while a business with 100 to 999 employees and annual revenues of over 50m$ and within or up to 1b$ is categorised as mid-sized.      

SMS – Short Message Service  

A service that allows a mobile phone user to send text messages to other users over the mobile network. It is a text-only service with a limit of 160 characters (for Latin characters) including alphabets, numbers and symbols.    

SoHo – Small Office Home Office         

A very small business located in a home office environment within the owner’s residence with an employee base of less than ten (10). 

SS7 – Signalling System 7          

A signalling standard, used by telecom switches within fixed and mobile networks, that defines how the associated network nodes communicate with each other.      

SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats         

An analysis that allows a business to determine its current position with regards to its strengths, weaknesses, potential threats and opportunities which serve as input towards the future strategy of the business.      

TCO – Total Cost of Ownership               

A cost estimate, often used by a business prior to a purchase, which looks at the full cost of an asset or solution including the purchase price as well as any other operational costs e.g. maintenance and support.    

TDMA – Time Division Multiple Access

A technology used in digital communications such as 2G mobile networks where a frequency channel is broken down into multiple time slots to transmit and receive the information.                     

UAT – User Acceptance Testing              

A type of testing usually carried out for a software product after all the functional testing has been completed and when the product is ready to be tested by the intended users. This testing covers test cases from a user-perceived performance and user experience perspective.  

UC – Unified Communications  

An umbrella term which represents a range of communication tools and capabilities that provide a consistent and unified experience across all customer end-points. 

UMTS – Universal Mobile Telecommunication System 

A technology which provides the 3G upgrade path to mobile networks on the GSM track such as GSM, GPRS and EDGE networks. It uses Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) as its radio access network.  

UX – User Experience   

The feeling and experience of a user when interacting with all aspects of a specific product or service.          

VAS – Value Added Services     

The non-core services from a service provider which increase the customer benefits from a certain product offering and hence lead to additional revenues. 

VoD – Video On Demand           

A system that provides the ability to select and view live or pre-recorded video content as and when requested (or demanded) by the customer.  

VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol      

A technology that enables voice calls over the internet as an over-the-top service where the quality of service is based on best-effort and hence not guaranteed. 

VoLTE – Voice over Long Term Evolution          

A technology that uses virtually dedicated data packets to enable mobile voice calls over the LTE (Long Term Evolution) network as opposed to dedicated circuits which are traditionally used for voice calls.        

WCDMA – Wideband Code Division Multiple Access   

The access technology used in the third generation (3G) of mobile cellular networks on the GSM track ( Universal Mobile Telecommunications System aka UMTS) where a single frequency channel of 5 MHz bandwidth is used to transmit the information for multiple users who are each allocated special codes to avoid interference.             

WiMAX – Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access     

A technology standard for high-speed wireless internet as well as 4G mobile networks and uses radio waves to provide high-bandwidth services within large geographical areas.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy which explains the network nodes e.g. BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.


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