8 Network Terms Explained

A primer on wireless terminology.

By on May 22, 2014

With competition for consumers’ attention and loyalty, wireless companies and tech news media outlets often offer up buzzwords about network technology that sound important, but go unexplained.

One of the most commonly used terms, 4G LTE, stands for “Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution.” Years ago, this term introduced Americans to the high-speed wireless service that has revolutionized mobile phones by enabling super-fast connections that help deliver high-speed data services such as video on demand and instant turn-by-turn directions.

With that foundation, let’s begin to lift the veil around other commonly-used network jargon.

1. Spectrum: Radio frequencies travel over the air via spectrum, providing invisible pathways for wireless signals – everything from commercial radio programs and cellphone calls to data transmissions and the signal that allows you to change the channels on your TV with your remote control from your couch.

2. AWS (or AWS-1) means “Advanced Wireless Services” and is the name of one of the wireless telecommunications spectrum bands used by Verizon Wireless to deliver mobile data services, video and messaging over the air. Verizon Wireless uses AWS spectrum to supplement its existing 4G LTE service, which also uses the 700 MHz spectrum band originally deployed in 2010 when the company first introduced one of the world’s first commercial LTE networks – the largest in the U.S.  

3. Carrier aggregation allows a wireless provider to operate two spectrum bands as one so that smartphones, tablets and other devices can take advantage of airwaves on either band at the same time. By combining the spectrum of Verizon Wireless’ 700 MHz and AWS bands as well as any future spectrum as one asset, carrier aggregation increases the network’s ability to provide consistent performance along with increased capacity.

4. LTE Advanced is a combination of more than 15 network enhancements and performance features that are designed to create greater performance and capacity on 4G LTE networks in the future. Two of the more important features are carrier aggregation and heterogeneous networks. Engineers at Verizon Wireless today are beginning the work of deploying these capabilities around the U.S. 

5. Heterogenuous network describes the complex interoperation among macrocell, small cell, and in some cases WiFi network elements used together to provide a mosaic of coverage, with handoff capability between the different network elements.

6. DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems, sometimes pronounced “dass” as in “pass”) are networks of cables and antennas that can be installed in high-traffic areas – stadiums, convention or shopping centers, office buildings, train stations, airline terminals, and even dense, outdoor urban areas such as midtown Manhattan – to create additional capacity when many users are accessing the wireless network at peak times. Verizon Wireless installs many DAS systems to provide additional capacity where it is needed, including one for fans at Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. this past January.

7. Small cells: Small cells are like mini cell towers, smaller scale units generally deployed on lamp posts, utility poles and building walls to relay cell phone signals through fiber optic cables. Small cells are used primarily to enhance localized capacity and coverage where there is concentrated traffic, such as in a business district, shopping mall or a college campus.

8. XLTE: XLTE is Verizon Wireless’ deployment of 4G LTE over its AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) spectrum on its 4G LTE network. XLTE helps double the bandwidth of the Verizon 4G LTE network in cities coast to coast, delivering faster peak data speeds to XLTE-Ready devices and expanding the overall capacity of the network. XLTE enables a more mobile lifestyle, staying ahead of customer demand for the capability to access the Verizon Wireless data network -- to watch video, access the Internet, connect to social media, and more. 

Is there a wireless term that’s making you scratch your head? Share them on Twitter with @VZWnews and @VZWtom, or check out a glossary of wireless terms on our LTE Info page.

Tags: wireless technology, 4G LTE, AWS spectrum, AWS, DAS