What To Look For

3G3G refers to a group of third-generation mobile IP telephony standards, based on work done by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). W-CDMA, also known as UMTS, tends to be predominant in countries where GSM networks are used (mainly in Europe), while in the US and Asia, plain CDMA (without the W-) reigns.

3G refers to a group of third-generation mobile IP telephony standards, based on work done by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). W-CDMA, also known as UMTS, tends to be predominant in countries where GSM networks are used (mainly in Europe), while in the US and Asia, plain CDMA (without the W-) reigns.

3G datacard
A PC Card incorporating a 3G SIM that provides a notebook computer with wide-area broadband-speed (up to 384Kbps) Internet connectivity. Available from O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone in the UK.

A proprietary mobile platform based around the RIM operating system and Blackberry smartphones. Designed primarily to deliver push email from corporate servers or Internet accounts to supported mobile devices. Blackberry technology is now available under licence on several third-party devices, and is likely to become more widespread in future.

A short-range wireless PAN technology designed primarily for cable replacement duties within a 10m range. Uses the 2.4GHz frequency band, along with several other technologies (802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Zigbee).

Convertible Tablet PC
A Tablet PC that looks like a conventional clamshell notebook PC, complete with screen and keyboard, but whose screen can be swivelled around and laid flat on the keyboard, with the display outermost, allowing the Tablet PC to be held in the crook of an arm or placed on a desk and used in pen-input mode.

General Packet Radio Services. A extension to the GSM mobile phone network standard adding packet-switched data capabilities. GPRS is considered a step towards 3G, and is sometimes referred to as '2.5G'. GPRS allows for intermittent data transfer, which is more appropriate for uses such as Web browsing, email access and instant-messaging. Although GPRS can theoretically deliver near-broadband speeds, with a limit of about 170Kbps, real-world speeds are closer to 30-70 Kbps. Speeds also decline quickly as distance to the base station increases. An update to GPRS called EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) can increase speeds significantly.

A generic name for a pocket computer, sometimes also referred to as a PDA. The most popular operating systems for handhelds are Windows Mobile and Palm OS. Most handhelds come with personal- and local-area wireless connectivity, and some also incorporate wide-area connectivity in the shape of a GSM/GPRS mobile phone (3G connectivity has yet to appear in a handheld).

High Speed Packet Downlink Access. HSDPA is an incremental upgrade to 3G (UMTS) networks that increases peak data rates and quality-of-service, and improves spectral efficiency -- similar to the way EDGE has done for GPRS. HSDPA offers peak downlink data rates of up to 14 Mbps -- dramatically more than the 384Kbps typical of today's 3G networks.

Local Area Network. A short-distance network used to link a group of computers together within a building. 10Base-T Ethernet is the most commonly used form of wired LAN, while 802.11b Wi-Fi is the commonest wireless LAN technology. LANs and wireless LANs provide low-cost, high-bandwidth networking capabilities within a small geographical area.

Mobile application gateway
Client/server middleware that integrates with email/groupware servers and other back-end enterprise applications and data stores to deliver application services to mobile devices with wireless Internet connectivity.

Mobile email
The delivery of email to a mobile device, which can take three forms: pull email requires the user to make a connection with the server and collect messages; push email is automatically sent from a server to a mobile device, with no intervention from the user; polled pull is a compromise between push and pull in which a device collects email according to a predefined schedule.

Mobile WiMax
WiMax, part of the IEEE's 802.16 standard, is a wide-area wireless networking technology that promises to deliver wireless broadband access over a significantly greater range than that of Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g) wireless LAN technology. Currently under development, 802.16e is a mobile version of the technology that will offer broadband Internet access to users on the move. A fixed-wireless version of WiMax, 802.16a, was finalised in January 2003.

Over The Air. A term used to describe communications using wide-area wireless networks such as 2.5G and 3G cellular networks. It can be used to refer to data exchange such as the sending and receiving of email, or the delivery of software or critical updates -- also known as provisioning.

Personal Area Network. A short-distance network used to connect devices together within a range of around 10 metres. The interesting PAN technologies are wireless, and are designed to replace cables such as serial, parallel and USB. The oldest wireless PAN technology is infrared, which requires line of sight; the current exemplar is Bluetooth, which uses the 2.4GHz band along with the up-and-coming Zibgee. A future PAN contender is ultrawideband.

Personal Digital Assistant. The original name for a pocket computer or handheld, more relevant to the days when such devices lacked wireless Internet connectivity and were mainly used as a portable, offline vehicle for PC-synchronised email and PIM (Personal Information Management) data.

Refers to wireless networking equipment that offers some of the functionality of the as-yet-unratified IEEE 802.11n standard -- notably the MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) smart-antenna technology. Data throughput is double that of today's 54Mbps 802.11g and 802.11a.

Pen-based input
Both handhelds and Tablet PCs accept input from a pen or stylus, but handheld screens are passive touch-sensitive displays that also respond to the touch of a finger, for example. These are suitable for simple point-and-click operations, or letter-by-letter handwriting recognition. A Tablet PC's screen has an active digitizer, which means that input can only be accepted from a special stylus. However a digitiser is faster and more accurate, and therefore suitable for 'proper' handwriting recognition.

Slate-style Tablet PC
A Tablet PC that lacks a built-in keyboard. Slate-style Tablet PCs are designed for use in environments where keyboards are inappropriate -- examples include forms-based data gathering where the screen can be tapped to make direct input, or situations where a notebook might be a barrier to communications, such as customer-facing interactions.

A voice-centric mobile device that looks like a mobile phone (usually a somewhat bulky one), but includes more data functionality than a regular mobile. Typically this can include PIM (calendar, diary and contact management) data, email and Web browsing, plus the ability to run third-party software. Popular smartphone operating systems are Windows Mobile, Palm OS 5 Garnet and Symbian (with the UIQ, Series 60 and Series 80 interfaces).

Wide Area Network. Take two LANs, hook them together, and you've got a WAN. Wide area networks can be made up of interconnected smaller networks spread throughout a building, a state or the entire globe. Typical wireless WANs include the 2G, 2.5G and 3G mobile phone networks.

A common umbrella term for 802.11 wireless LANs and a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, a manufacturer association that performs and certifies compatibility testing, and promotes the technology.

Wi-Fi hot spot
A Wi-Fi access point or area, generally for providing Internet connectivity. Hotspots are often located in train stations, airports, restaurants, cafes, libraries and other public places.

Wireless messaging gateway
Client/server middleware that integrates with email/groupware servers to deliver email and PIM data to mobile devices with wireless Internet connectivity.

A new wide-area wireless networking technology from xG Technology that is claimed to deliver bandwidth and range that outclasses 3G, making it a serious contender for future 4G networks.