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Telecom jargon buster

Tilly Michell

May 3, 2024

5 min

Telecom is full of acronyms, buzzwords, and abbreviations that can be alienating for industry newcomers. At Gigs, we’re committed to untangling jargon and making the world of connectivity a more accessible place. In this glossary, we’ll define common telecom terms. So you can tell your MNOs from your MVNOs without breaking a sweat. 

Access Point Name (APN)

An Access Point Name (APN) is a gateway between a mobile network - GSM, GPRS, 3G, 4G, 5G - and the internet. APNs are used to connect devices, such as smartphones, to mobile data through the carrier. 

All devices must be configured with an APN to connect to the carrier (e.g. AT&T). The carrier uses the APN to determine the network path for the device. That includes, for example, the IP address that is assigned to the device, whether or not the device should be connected to a private network, and what security settings should be applied. 

Band (radio frequency band)

Radio frequency bands, or spectrum, enable wireless communication between network towers and devices such as smartphones, routers, and wearable tech. Different bands have varying characteristics. Lower frequency bands offer better coverage but lower data speeds, while higher frequency bands provide higher data speeds but shorter range. 

Carriers strategically buy different bands in government auctions to balance coverage and capacity based on user demands and geographic considerations. 5G networks use higher frequency wave bands to deliver ultra-fast data speeds and low latency.

Bring your own device (BYOD)

Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to subscribers who use their own device with a subscription rather than buying or leasing a device in addition to their plan. 

Business support systems (BSS)

Business support systems (BSS) is a collective term for the software that enables the business management and customer-facing side of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Some of the services offered by BSS include billing, order management, customer relationship management (CRM), and customer analytics. These services are built into Gigs. 

Capped/uncapped plans

If a subscriber’s plan is capped, their service will cut off once they reach the end of their plan allowance. If the plan is uncapped, the service will not be cut off although may throttle.  


Carriers, also known as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) or just “networks”, are telecom service providers that buy radio spectrum licenses at government auctions. In turn, they own, or own licenses for, the physical infrastructure that enables wireless services, e.g. cell towers. Examples of carriers in the US include AT&T and Verizon. As well as selling direct to users, carriers sell wholesale connectivity to other telecom companies, i.e. mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).     

Data speed

Data speed refers to the upload and download speed of wireless data, typically quoted in kilobits per second (kbps) or megabits per second (mbps). If data speed is slow, users' experience of streaming and sending files will be affected. 


An embedded SIM, or eSIM for short, is a type of SIM card that is built into a device, as opposed to a removable plastic SIM card. Modern devices allow users to install several SIM profiles on the eSIM and, if they choose, use more than one phone number and data plan on the same device. This can be useful when traveling abroad or when using one device for both work and personal purposes. 

SIM profiles, colloquially called eSIMs, can be downloaded online, and are installed on the eSIM and activated in minutes, allowing virtual mobile network operators (MVNOs) to onboard new customers easily.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a US government agency that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. 

Integrated Circuit Card ID (ICCID)

An Integrated Circuit Card ID (ICCID) is a 19- or 20-digit number used by the network to identify a SIM card. Each SIM card has a unique ICCID and this identifier can be found in your device settings when a SIM card is installed or inserted. 

International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI)

An International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is a unique, 15-digit number given to each mobile device. An IMEI can be used to find out more about a device’s features. For example, whether it is eSIM-compatible or not. 

Mobile Country Code (MCC)

Mobile Country Codes (MCCs) are used in wireless telephone networks (GSM, CDMA, UMTS, etc.) in order to identify the country which a mobile subscriber belongs to.

Mobile Network Code (MNC)

Mobile Network Codes (MNCs) are unique identifiers that are assigned to carriers such as AT&T.   

Mobile network operator (MNO)

Mobile network operators (MNOs), also known as carriers or just “networks”, are companies that own, or at least own licenses for, the network infrastructure that enables wireless connectivity, e.g. cell towers and radio spectrum licenses. Examples of MNOs include AT&T and Verizon. 

MNOs sell wireless connectivity to end-users. They also sell wholesale connectivity to other telecom companies, i.e. mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).  

Mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA)

Mobile virtual network aggregators (MVNAs) buy wholesale mobile and data services from carriers and sell them to other telecom companies. Because MVNAs buy these services in bulk, they can sell them for a better price than smaller companies would get by going direct to a carrier. 

Historically, the only way to purchase wholesale connectivity was directly from an carrier or via an MVNA. But establishing a relationship with these suppliers can take months and contract terms can be unfavorable. What’s more, integration with legacy carrier/MVNA systems requires dedicated in-house telecom engineering and support teams, which takes months and a significant upfront investment.  

Gigs offers a better solution. Our telecom as a service platform enables you to launch a wireless service fast, pay as you earn, and get a positive return on investment from day one. 

Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a company that sells wireless services to end users. However, unlike carriers, MVNOs do not own the wireless network infrastructure. Instead, MVNOs buy wholesale network services - call, text, and data - from carriers or from third parties. Examples of MVNOs include Mint Mobile and Ting. 

As the industry modernizes, and telecom as a service (TaaS) abstracts the operational complexity of launching and operating an MVNO, more companies are benefiting from running their own wireless service and earning recurring revenue from their users. Examples include wearable tech companies, fintechs, and even celebrities like Ryan Renolds

Mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE)

Mobile virtual network enablers (MVNEs) supply MVNOs with the operational and business software needed to launch a wireless service. These services include SIM provisioning and configuration, technical network support, customer billing, customer relationship management, and more. 

Traditional MVNEs tend to work in silos, with specialized providers offering specific services. This, combined with a lack of industry standardization, can lead to complex integrations that cost MVNOs millions of dollars to build and maintain.  

Modern telecom APIs have reduced this complexity by enabling data to flow smoothly between MVNE systems. Gigs goes a step further. Our end-to-end platform enables businesses to manage everything - from wholesale connectivity to SIM provisioning, billing, customer relationship management, and more -  through a single API.  

Operating support system (OSS)

Operating support system (OSS) is an umbrella term for the software that MVNOs use to manage their connectivity solution. OSS takes care of the operational side of network connectivity, including security, inventory, and performance management.

Pay as you go (PAYG) 

Pay as you go (PAYG) is a type of wireless plan where the user is not tied into a long term contract. Also known as a prepaid plan. 

Postpaid and prepaid plans

Postpaid is a type of mobile data plan where the user pays after using a service for a set period of time, e.g. “Use for 30 days, pay at the end”.

Prepaid is a type of mobile data plan where the user pays before starting their plan, e.g. “Pay today, use for the next 30 days”. This type of plan is also called “pay as you go”. Gigs facilitates prepaid plans.


​​Traditionally, roaming refers to a user traveling outside of their home country and continuing to use their mobile services. Wireless providers are able to offer roaming to their customers by purchasing services from networks in other countries. However, this kind of roaming can be expensive for the user, and costs can be unpredictable.  

As well as providing everything MVNOs need to launch competitive local plans, Gigs powers an alternative to data roaming. We enable MVNOs to sell international data plans to users before they travel. By purchasing a travel plan, users can access high-speed data on international networks without the high costs.   

Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)

SIMs enable a device to be recognized on the network and connect to it. In order to connect a device, the user must first obtain a SIM. 

The microchip on the SIM card stores important data including:

  1. The Integrated Circuit Card ID (ICCID): A unique identifier used by the mobile network to identify the SIM card.

  2. International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI): A unique identifier used by the mobile network to identify and authenticate the subscriber.

  3. Personal Identification Number (PIN): A security code used to authenticate the user and protect access to the SIM card.

Historically, all SIMs were on plastic cards that had to be manually inserted into a device. Nowadays, many new devices have embedded hardware to support SIM cards (known as eSIMs) on which users can install and activate multiple digital SIM profiles. For example, users can install travel SIMs to access data when going abroad, or use separate phone numbers for taking work and personal calls.

Telecom as a service (TaaS)

Telecom as a service (TaaS) is how modern businesses launch mobile services. By leveraging TaaS, businesses can access all the necessary components of a wireless service via API. That includes wholesale connectivity, SIM provisioning, subscription management, billing and taxes, customer support, usage analytics, and more. They can pay for these services on a per subscription basis, rather than making large upfront investments and taking on risk. 

In the past, businesses had to solicit multiple partners (MNOs, MVNAs, MVNEs) for each component of their wireless service. Negotiating contracts and building integrations between each component took months, required dedicated telecom engineers and support teams, and cost millions. 

TaaS abstracts this complexity, providing fast setup, seamless integration, and a pay-as-you-earn pricing model. Put another way, TaaS is doing for telecom what payment APIs did for payment acceptance in the early 00’s. 

Video Management (formally Stream Saver)

Video Management, formally known as Stream Saver, is an AT&T feature which allows users to stream video in standard definition (SD), with a max speed cap at 1.5Mbps. This speed is perfect for streaming video on a smartphone and may help control data usage.

Congratulations on reaching the end of this glossary, we hope you’ve found it useful. Whilst telecom can seem complex, you don’t need to be an expert to launch your own mobile service. Gigs makes it easy for businesses to start selling wireless subscriptions with talk, text and data on the world’s best networks. Our end-to-end platform provides everything you need to offer world-class services to subscribers, from wholesale connectivity to billing and customer engagement, in one place. 

To learn more, get in touch with our team. 

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