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Glossary of Cell Phone Terms

Access Charge A monthly fee for having a working wireless phone. It usually includes airtime, but the fee is fixed whether the subscriber uses the airtime or not.

Additional Airtime Minutes purchased at the overage rate specified in the plan's terms, usually 35-45 cents a minute. Airtime is purchased after exhausting the included airtime provided each month.

Carrier The provider of the wireless service to the subscriber.

Cell Phone The device interfacing with a carrier's network to provide voice and/or data service to the subscriber

Coverage Map A carrier supplied diagram outlining the boundaries of a specific rate rate plan or the areas where the carrier provides service.

GSM Short for Global System for Mobile Communications. A digital technology used in the United States by Cingular and T-Mobile (among the major carriers). GSM is also the standard in Europe and much of the rest of the world. However, the frequencies used internationally are not the same as those used in the U.S., which makes the process of using one's phone overseas more complex.

Long Distance Calling to a party outside your local area; most plans today include free long distance. See roaming long distance.

Nationwide Plan A plan that bundles roaming and long distance-your included airtime minutes go with you even if you leave your home calling area.

Off-Peak Refers to the time period of lowest demand on the carrier's system. Generally corresponds to late nights and weekends.

Overage Rate A per minute rate to purchase additional airtime.

Peak Time Refers to the time period of greatest demand on the carrier's system. Generally corresponds to all periods except late nights and weekends.

Phone Design The form of the cell phone Open phones are usually candy bar shaped, and offer no protection for the keypad or display screen. Flip or Clamshell phones fold over on themselves to protect the display and keypad. Some offer an external display. Slider phones usually protect the keypad by having it slide out when needed. Finally, some phones are rotating or swivel in nature, which is helpful for orientation for taking pictures with a camera phone.

Rate Plan The terms of a subscriber's relationship with the wireless service provider

Roaming Using a wireless phone outside the subscriber's home calling area. This isn't as clean as it used to be, when the home calling area was the carrier's license area. Now, some carriers are including larger calling areas, up to, and including the whole country in some cases.

Roaming Long Distance A long distance call while roaming. These used to incur additional charges, but don't in most cases today. Note that all calls received by roaming will be long distance, even if you are standing next to the person who is calling you. This is because the call routes from the calling party to your home area and back to where you are using your phone. Therefore, you are paying long distance from your home area to your phone.

Wireline A landline phone or your home phone. Basically a phone tethered to an outlet by a wire. Includes cordless phones.