A beginner's guide to telecom jargon, part 7

A look at chipsets, Enhanced 911, and why breaking up is hard to do (for companies).

The mobile world moves at a breakneck pace, and it's difficult to keep up--even without the technical jargon most industry insiders throw around. And they do love to toss those terms around.

This week, I explain what the difference between a computer chip and chipset is, the difference between regular and Enhanced 911, and why for companies, breaking up is hard to do.

So for some light reading, here are a few terms (and definitions) commonly used by telecommunications experts who assume everyone understands them.

Breakup Fee: OK, so this isn't exactly a telecom term, but it's particularly relevant when you look at the ongoing drama between AT&T and T-Mobile USA. A breakup fee is a standard mechanism in any transaction. It's designed to protect the seller in case the buyer walks away, giving the seller a little something for the hassle.

In the case of T-Mobile and its parent, Deutsche Telekom AG, that "little something" is a fee of $6 billion--$3 billion in cash and the rest in services and a roaming agreement--if the deal falls apart. That may very well happen with the Department of Justice suing to block the merger.

Reuters came out with a report that said AT&T might get out of paying the fee , but Deutsche Telekom came back and said the breakup fee was on .

Chipset: A group of specialized chips that connects the processor with external devices such as a graphics processor. On computers, a chipset handles the input/output function with a central processing unit. That's different from the term standard chip, which is more general and covers any number of things, including graphics processors.

In the telecommunications world, chipsets have become increasingly important, because they integrate the processing functions of a computer with a cellular connection, all of which goes into smartphones and tablets. Qualcomm's SnapDragon chipsets, for example, handle both the network connection and the processing power. They're also referred to as a system on a chip.

Nvidia, meanwhile, also has a mobile chipset business, called Tegra. Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said he expects it to become an important business for the company, with the market increasing tenfold by 2015 .

Enhanced 911: As it pertains to cellphones, Enhanced 911, or E911, is a requirement that all handsets must allow operators and emergency services to locate the phone. The rule was put in place because mobile phones don't always stay in one place, like landlines do.

As CNET Senior Writer Marquerite Reardon writes , 10 years ago E911 didn't exist. Now every phone sold has the location capability.

RFID: An acronym for radio frequency identification tag--small tags that can transmit data about an object or product across radio waves. They're ideal for keeping track of inventory or the status of a device, and they work better than the traditional bar code system. For the Big Brother conspiracy theorists out there, the technology can be used to track people too.

RFIDs can also be used to monitor the pressure in your tires, though McAfee said in a report that those same tags may also be used to collect your location data with a nearby reader.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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