Glossary of Terms


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The telecommunications and fiber industries are full of terms and acronyms. Our glossary of terms attempts to capture some of them.

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Cable Modem System: Cable television companies have offered Internet access via their cable system since 1997. The network architecture uses a loop that connects each subscriber in a given neighborhood, meaning they all share one cable to the Internet. Because the cable network shares the last mile connection among potentially hundreds of subscribers, a few bandwidth hogs can slow everyone's experience.

Cable Television (CaTV or CATV): In its original incarnation the acronym was CATV standing for Community Antenna or Community Access Television. The CaTV acronym comes from Cable Television. In either case, cable television uses coaxial cable to deliver video signals to multiple homes. Cable television technologies almost always "broadcast" all channels on the cable and rely on in home tuners to select a channel from the broadcast stream.

CAP: See Customer Access Point.

CAP: See customer access point

Capacity: Ability of telecommunications infrastructure to carry information. The measurement unit depends on the facility. A data line’s capacity might be measured in bits per second, while the capacity of a piece of equipment might be measured in numbers of ports.

CapEx: See Capital Expenditure.

Capital Expenditure (CapEx): Business expense to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as buildings, machinery and in this case telecommunications equipment; also called capital spending or capital expense.

CATV: See Community Antenna Television.

CDMA: See Code-Division Multiple Access.

Census Block: The smallest level of geography designated by the U.S. Census Bureau, which may approximate actual city street blocks in urban areas. In rural districts, census blocks may span larger geographical areas to cover a more dispersed population.
Most of the National Broadband Map data is based on census blocks. Some of it is based on postal codes.

Central Office (CO): A telephone company facility in a locality to which subscriber home and business lines are connected on what is called a local loop. The central office has switching equipment that can switch calls locally or to long-distance carrier phone offices. In other countries, the term public exchange is often used.

Churn: The number of subscribers who leave a service provider over a given period of time, usually expressed as a percentage of total customers.
open access networks are interested in service provider (i.e. movement from one service provider to another) and network (i.e. movement off the network) churn.

CLEC: See Competitive Local Exchange Carrier.

Cloud: Some refer to the entire Internet as a cloud - the idea being that all the information is just out there and it does not matter where. More commonly now, cloud computing refers to services such as Amazon's S3 where users pay a fee to store information on Amazon's servers without ever really knowing the physical location. As we gain access to faster Internet connections (particularly on the upstream) cloud services may offer cheaper means of accomplishing tasks and more reliable back ups.

CO: See central office

Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA): Any of several protocols used in so-called second-generation (2G) and third-generation (3G) wireless communications.
As the term implies, CDMA is a form of multiplexing, which allows numerous signals to occupy a single transmission channel, optimizing the use of available bandwidth. The technology is used in ultra-high-frequency (UHF) cellular telephone systems in the 800-MHz and 1.9-GHz bands.

Community Antenna Television (CATV): Early cable television systems were called community antenna television, or CATV, because by nature of their design they used a single antenna for multiple viewers. This was usually done to bring television signals into basins or other areas obstructed from receiving over the air signals.
Sometimes the accronym will be spelled CaTV which is a degeneration of the original term and accronym that stands for "Cable Television".

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC): The term and concept coined by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for any new local phone company that was formed to compete with the ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier).

Conduit: A reinforced tube through which cabling runs. Conduit is useful both to protect fiber-optic cables in the ground and because one can place the conduit underground when convenient and later "blow" or "pull" the fiber cabling through the conduit.

Coverage: In wireless communications, refers to the geographic area in which one can obtain service.

CPE: See Customer Premises Equipment.

Customer Access Point (CAP): The splice location where a subscriber's drop enters the network. Some projects call the CAP a subscriber splice box (SSB).

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE): The family of devices used at the customer's location to access network services. Some CPE - like the AP - are usually provided by the network owner or service provider. Other CPE - like telephones and computers - are usually provided by the customer.

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