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Frequently Asked Questions


  • In the auction process, the FCC identified each geographical MSA, RSA, MTA, and BTA by a number.  This is the market SID.  Often, this identifier will correspond to the billing SID for the same geography but it doesn't have to.

  • 1xRTT. 1x (single-carrier) Radio Transmission Technology.  The first in a family of cdma2000 1x digital wireless standards designed to extend and replace the IS-95 CDMA standard. 1xRTT is sometimes referred to as a "2.5G" standard.  Compared to the IS-95 CDMA technology it replaces, 1xRTT offers increased network voice capacity. This benefit requires support on both the base station (tower) and handset (phone). If everyone using a given tower has a 1xRTT phone, twice as many people can use that tower at the same time, compared to the old IS-95 standard.  1xRTT also offers increased data speeds. The initial release - release 0 (zero) - supports data speeds peaking at 144 kbps. Typical real-world speeds are closer to 60-80 kbps.

  • 2nd-generation (2G) refers to the initial group of wireless technology standards that were digital instead of analog (1G).  Digital increased capacity significantly over analog, permitting many more people to use the same base station (tower) at one time.  2G offers both data and voice, but unlike 2.5G or 3G standards, transferring data over a 2G involves a "data call", which uses as much network capacity as any other call, and uses that capacity for the duration of the connection, regardless of whether data is being transmitted at any one moment.   Newer 2.5G and 3G standards are much faster for data, and only use network capacity when data is actively being transmitted.

  • 3G Stands for 3rd-generation. Analog cellular phones were the first generation. Digital marked the second generation.  3G is loosely defined, but generally includes high data speeds, always-on data access, and greater voice capacity.  The high data speeds are possibly the most prominent feature, and certainly the most hyped.  The other major standard is cdma2000, which is an evolution of CDMA 2G technology. There are several types of cdma2000, each offering different data rates and levels of compatibility with 2G CDMA.  EVDO is often called 3G.

  • 4G Stands for 4th-generation. The next-generation network beyond 3G. In addition to enabling fixed to mobile migrations of Internet applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP), video streaming, music downloading, mobile TV and many others, 4G LTE networks will also provide the capacity to support an explosion in demand for connectivity from a new generation of consumer devices tailored to those new mobile applications.

  • Assisted Global Positioning System.  A type of handset-based position location technology. To determine location, the phone takes readings from both GPS satellites and nearby cellular base stations (towers), with the help of a location server on the network.  The location server on the network is required to tell the phone which satellites to look for, and also to perform the complex calculations that provide precise location information.  This technology generally provides better accuracy than GPS-only and network-based technologies. A-GPS also works in places where GPS-only technologies do not work well, such as dense urban areas, inside buildings, and in moving cars.

  • The traditional method of modulating radio signals so they can carry information.  AM & FM are the two most common methods of analog modulation. This is the 'old' method and only applies to 800 mhz cellular.  The FCC has ruled that analog can be discontinued on the 800 mhz system after 2008.

  • Basic Trading Area.  A geographical area often comprised of 3 to 6 counties in size that the FCC for which auctioned the PCS 1900 mhz spectrum.  Usually a BTA is a community of interest.  Like an RSA or MSA for PCS.  The PCS BTA boundaries usually do NOT coincide with those of the MSA or RSA for the 800 mhz license.

  • System ID or Billing System ID. Each cellsite is of course located within some geographical boundary – usually a market.  Calls placed on that cellsite are identified though carriers billing systems and intercarrier clearinghouse systems as being part of that area by the inclusion of a numerical designation, SID.  Usually this Billing SID will correspond to the FCC market SID but it doesn't have to.  Carriers can conceptually 'divide' up a market into smaller sections and give each section its own billing id (BID).  This is usually done for special financial purposes such as special intercarrier roaming rates on certain towers within a market, or towers that have shared or unusual ownership so the traffic on those sites can be isolated for financial allocation purposes.  The billing SID may be but usually is not the same as the broadcast SID.

  • Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology used to create PANs (Personal Area Networks) among your devices.  Bluetooth allows you to leave your phone in your pocket, while talking on your phone with a Bluetooth headset - with no wires. You can also exchange contact or scheduling information with other Bluetooth-enabled phones nearby, or send such information to a nearby Bluetooth-enabled printer.  Bluetooth also enables the communication between phones/tablets and "smart accessories". Bluetooth is named for the 10th century Viking King Harald Bluetooth, a Danish king who conquered Norway.

  • Each cellsite no matter if its analog, CDMA 2g digital, CDMA 3g digital, or CDMA 1x capable transmits a 'number'.  This is the broadcast SID.  Each phone sees the cellsites transmitted number and uses it in conjunction with the phone programming to determine if the phone is at 'home' or 'roaming'.  Usually the same broadcast SID is transmitted by all the towers in a number of markets.

  • Code Division Multiplex Access.  A spread spectrum approach to digital transmission.  With CDMA, each conversation is digitized (turned into 1's and 0's), and then tagged with a code.  The mobile phone is then instructed to decipher only a particular code to receive the right conversation off the air.

  • Cellular Intercarrier Billing Exchange Record.  Each billing system processes call records and charges differently.  Before a carrier can submit charges through the clearinghouse to another carrier, these calls & charges need to be formatted in an agreed upon manner in which all parties know how to read them.  This is called Ciber and the process of converting and exchanging call records is called the ciber process.

  • There are many wireless customers from many geographical areas, from many different carriers.  After a customer uses their phone on another carriers network, the serving carrier bills the customers 'home' carrier for the charges incurred.  Rather than each carrier sending their charges to the other carrier, they send them to one third party company that 'nets' the charges on a monthly basis.  Issues one invoice / payment to each carrier and simplifies the overall roaming billing process.

  • A method of encoding information for transmission.  Information (commonly, a voice conversation), is turned into a series of digital bits- 0's and 1's of computer binary language.  At the receiving end, the information is reconverted into its original form.  Digital transmission offers a cleaner signal is more immune to the problems of analog modulation such as fading and static.  It does have a greater tendency to 'drop' when the signal gets weak compared to analog that tries to hang on for as long as possible even if the reception is poor. 

  • Enhanced 911.  The wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) rules seek to improve the effectiveness and reliability of wireless emergency service by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls.  The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts - Phase I and Phase II.  Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the cell site that received the call.  Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 300 meters in most cases, using technologies such as A-GPS.  The deployment of E911 requires the development of new technologies and upgrades to local 911 dispatching centers (PSAPs), as well as coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and local wireline carriers.  The FCC established a four-year rollout schedule for Phase II, beginning October 1, 2001 and to be completed by December 31, 2005.   With landline phones, if a 911 caller could not speak or effectively communicate their location, a 911 dispatcher could use the street address associated with that phone number to send help to the correct location.  Before E911, no equivalent option was available to dispatchers for 911 calls made from wireless phones. E911 is designed to correct that.

  • Part of a family of CDMA2000 1x digital wireless standards. 1xEV-DO is a "3G" CDMA standard. EV-DO stands for "EVolution, Data-Only".  EV-DO provides data rates over 10 times faster than 1xRTT, the previous data technology for CDMA networks.  Unlike other "1x" standards, EV-DO only addresses data - not voice. It requires a dedicated slice of spectrum, separate from voice networks using standards such as 1xRTT. 1xEV-DO is based on a technology initially known as "HDR" (High Data Rate) or "HRPD" (High Rate Packet Data), developed by Qualcomm. The international standard is known as IS-856.

  • When a customer from one carrier, goes to another area and uses their phone on another carriers network.

  • Global Standard for Mobile.  A time-division based standard for digital wireless transmissions.  Originally most prevalent in Europe.  Now adopted by AT&T and T-Mobile.

  • A PRL can be segmented into different sections based upon geography in which the broadcast SIDs reside.  These geographical groupings are called geogroups.

  • International Mobile Equipment Identifier for GSM and LTE devices.

  • The next-generation network beyond 3G. In addition to enabling fixed to mobile migrations of Internet applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP), video streaming, music downloading, mobile TV and many others, LTE networks will also provide the capacity to support an explosion in demand for connectivity from a new generation of consumer devices tailored to those new mobile applications.

  • Mobile Equipment Identifier for 2G/3G devices.

  • Metropolitan Service Area.  An area with a sufficiently dense population to be identified 'metropolitan'.  An MSA is one or more counties in size.  An MSA is only applicable to Cellular (800 mhz)

  • Major Trading Area.  An MTA is largest license area (the Milwaukee MTA is most of Wisconsin) the FCC auctioned in the PCS 1900 mhz spectrum.  Only the PCS A and B block licenses were for the entire MTA.  An MTA is a number of BTA's.

  • The FCC has divided the country into smaller geographical groupings based upon the areas population and community of interest.  In Cellular (800 mhz), they are called MSA's and RSA's.  In PCS (1900 mhz), they are called MTA's and BTA's.  If a carrier owns the license, each MSA, RSA, MTA and BTA represents a carriers market- the area in which they can promote and sell their services.

  • Network ID.  Used in CDMA digital systems and transmitted along with the broadcast SID.  Conceptually, the NID could be used to somehow divide up a large area in which the same broadcast SID was transmitted.  Often, the NID is the same for the entire area.

  • Preferred Roaming List.  An electronic table that is loaded into each current model phone that tells the phone which broadcast SIDs are preferred, less preferred or not to be used.  A PRL can be induced into a phone using a computer and connecting cable, by downloading it over the air (pulling it down by first pressing a special key sequence on the phone, or pushed to the phone over the air by carriers computer systems in conjunction with their SMS systems.  Analog, dual mode digital, and some older tri-mode digital phones are not PRL capable.

  • Rural Service Area. This is an area in which the population is less dense.  Usually an RSA has 3 or more counties. An RSA is only applicable to Cellular (800 mhz).

  • When a customer from one carrier, goes to another area and uses their phone on another carrier's network.  Also, when a customer uses their phone outside of their own HOME area and incurs additional charges- may or may not be on another carrier's network.

  • System ID. This can have 3 different meanings.  When you hear or use this acronym, be careful.  Be sure you understand or are clearly stating which SID you are discussing.  These 3 are Market SID, Broadcast SID, and Billing SID.  See below.

  • Subscriber Identity Module for use in GSM and LTE devices.

  • Signaling System 7.  SS7 is the industry-standard protocol for routing phone calls, both wireless and wireline.  Switches communicate-send messages to each other via SS7.

  • Carriers must have an FCC license to put up cell sites and broadcast radio frequencies (RF) in a geographical area.  Carriers obtained these license from the FCC by bidding on them in an auction. 

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