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A beginner's guide to telecom jargon, part 5

CNET tackles one of the most overly used and overly hyped buzzwords: cloud.

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 about.

This week, I attempt to explain one of technology's favorite buzzwords, no small feat given its broad use and different interpretations applied to it.

So for some light reading, here are a few terms telecom experts throw around with the assumption that everyone understands them.

Cloud: It's increasingly become one of the most oft-used words among technology circles. At its most basic level, it means any service delivered through an Internet connection. That's an insanely broad definition that applies to everything from's customer management software to Gmail.

Cloud signifies something cool and cutting edge, which is why so many companies have glommed on to the term, regardless of whether its applicable.

It's increasingly relevant in the telecom world, with Sprint Nextel saying this week that it plans to offer cloud services starting in the fourth quarter. Sprint, like Verizon and AT&T, are looking to offer services such as data center access, web hosting, security software and mobile applications through a cloud model.

What this means for business customers is they no longer need to spend money to invest in their own IT infrastructure--no more heavy racks of equipment and tangles of wires. All of those things that used to be stored in at the company's office can now be handled at Sprint's facilities, with all of the services delivered over an Internet connection.

The carriers are moving into this a little late, so they're playing catch-up with the likes of, Microsoft and Google, which already offer their over version of cloud services. The carriers argue their network infrastructure gives them a leg up in the competition.

Legacy: This refers to any old business a company is trying to forget. In Verizon Communications' case, it's the landline business (read: plain old telephone service). When you've got a shiny new--and profitable--wireless business, it's hard to work up any real warm and fuzzy feelings for the fixed-line business, which continues to shed customers. Besides your parents, do you know any one with a home phone line?

So it's no wonder that Verizon is attempting to renegotiate its contract with workers who manage and operate the landline networks. The unions representing those workers argue the company as a whole remains profitable, rejected calls for a chance, and called for a strike.

Legacy doesn't just mean landline. Sprint likely views its Nextel iDEN network as legacy infrastructure it wishes it can scrap now, instead of in 2013.

Overage: Anyone who has spent an excessive amount of time on the phone probably knows what this means. It's the fee that's charged when you go over your limit on any cellphone service, whether that's calling minutes and text messages.

Increasingly, overage charges are being applied to data services. With AT&T and Verizon Wireless both requiring caps, going over their limits mean extra money out of your pocket. More recently, T-Mobile confirmed that it would be charging fees on its low-end 200 megabyte data plan.

QR: Short for quick-response codes, they're the funky block-shaped symbols that have been popping up at restaurants, billboards and posters. The symbols can be scanned by smartphones equipped with cameras, taking the user to a website or providing a coupon.

They were invented as a way for people to quickly access more information about a product, retail location or subject.

I figured they were largely ignored (I've used it sparingly, and mostly because I wanted to try the gimmick out), but apparently people do use them. Go figure.