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Mobile Phones: Jargon Explained


Second Generation Mobile Phone System. See GSM


See Third Generation Mobile Phone System.


Device designed to radiate and receive electromagnetic energy.




See Aerial


Air-conditioned weather-proof enclosure housing transmitters and receivers.




The area of geographic coverage from a mobile phone transmitter.



Dish Antenna

Dish antenna transmit and receive a highly focussed radio wave in one direction and are used for point to point communication links.


Dish Antenna

Face Mount

Antenna fixed directly to brick work or other material of an existing structure.


Face Mount


Co-axial cable which connects an antenna to a base station transmitter or receiver.

Frequency, Wavelength and Velocity

Wavelength is the distance in meters between any two 'similar' points on a radio wave. This portion of the wave is referred to as one complete cycle. Wavelength is given the symbol ''

Frequency 'f' is the number of complete cycles passing a fixed point in one second. If one cycle passes a fixed point in one second this corresponds to a frequency of 1 Hertz (Hz).

In free space the velocity of an electromagnetic wave (such as a radio wave) is approximately 3 x 108 ms-1. This is the speed of light (since light is also an EM wave) and is usually given the symbol 'c'.

The relationship between 'c' (velocity), 'f' (frequency) and '' of an EM wave is given by the equation:-

c = f or = c/f

A lower frequency wave will have a long wavelength, while a high frequency wave corresponds to a short wavelength.


Global system for Mobile Communications or Groupe Speciale Mobile.

The international, pan-European operating standard for the current generation of digital cellular mobile communications. It enables mobile phones to be used across national boundaries.

Ofcom publishes details of the technical requirements for GSM technology operating in the UK in the form of UK Interface Requirement [IR2014] [link to relevant area of Ofcom site]

GSM systems are operated by O2 and Vodafone at 900 and 1800 MHz, and by Tmobile and Orange at 1800 MHz.


A macrocell provides the main radio coverage infrastructure for a mobile network. The antennas for macrocells are mounted on ground-based masts, rooftops and other existing structures, at a height that provides a clear view over the surrounding buildings and terrain. Macrocells provide radio coverage over varying distances dependent upon frequency capacity and clutter. Macrocell base stations have power outputs of typically tens of watts.

Macrocell images


Ground-based structure, which supports antennas at a height where they can satisfactorily send and receive radio waves. A mast is typically 15m high, and of steel lattice or tubular steel monopole construction, although other designs, including disguised structures, are available. Masts play no part in the transmission of the radio waves.




Microcells provide infill radio coverage and additional capacity where there are high numbers of users within urban and suburban macrocells. The antennas for microcells are mounted at street level (i.e. below the surrounding buildings and terrain) typically on the external walls of existing structures, lamp-posts and other street furniture. Microcell antennas are smaller than macrocell antennas and when mounted on existing structures can often be disguised as building features. Microcells provide radio coverage over distances up to, typically, between 300m and 1000m. Microcell base stations have lower output powers than macrocells, typically a few watts.



Picocells provide more localised coverage than microcells, inside buildings where coverage is poor or there are high numbers of users.


Pole Mount

Small diameter pole fixed to an existing structure or roof, which supports one or two antenna and/or dish antenna at a height where it can satisfactorily send and receive radio waves. Pole mounts play no part in the transmission of the radio waves.

Pole Mount

Radio Base Station

A base station is a macrocell, microcell or picocell site and consists of transmitters and receivers in a cabin or cabinet connected to antennas by feeders.


Second Generation


Sectored Antenna

Antenna which transmits or receives higher signal levels in one particular horizontal directional. Several sectors are required, (typically three or six) to provide 360 degree coverage.


Stub Mast

Roof-mounted mast structure, which supports multiple antennas at a height where they can satisfactorily send and receive radio waves. A stub mast is typically 4m - 6m high and of steel lattice construction. Stub masts play no part in the transmission of the radio waves.


Third Generation

Third generation mobile communications systems have high-speed data capabilities and will offer advanced services to users on the move. These services operate at 2200 MHz.(2.2 GHz) The third generation technology used in the UK is called UMTS.


Electronic equipment that generates radio frequency electromagnetic energy and is connected to an antenna via a feeder cable


Universal Mobile Telecommunication System.

The type of technology used in the UK for the next evolution (see Third Generation) of mobile phone technology and expected to result in widespread use of video phones and access to multimedia information.

Ofcom publishes details of the technical requirements for UMTS technology operating in the UK in the form of UK Interface Requirement [IR2019] [link to relevant area of Ofcom site]


See Frequency

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