Glossary of Terms

Balloon: an un-powered lighter-than-air vehicle. Balloons can derive their buoyancy from the confinement of hydrogen or helium. Balloons can be free (un-tethered and free to drift with the wind) or tethered to the ground

Balloon-borne Communications: wireless communications platform launched via military-grade stratospheric balloons

Stratospheric: relating to the layer of the earth’s atmosphere above the troposphere, extending to about 32 miles (50 km) above the earth’s surface.  The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth’s atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere.

High-altitude platform station (HAPS) : as defined by the ITU, HAPS is “a station on an object at an altitude of 20 to 50 km and at a specified, nominal, fixed point relative to the Earth.”

International Telecommunication Union (ITU): a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards. The ITU is also active in the areas of broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

FCC: Federal Communications Commission is an independent regulatory agency, administers spectrum for non-Federal use (i.e., state, local government, commercial, private internal business, and personal use)

NTIA: National Telecommunications and Information Administration is an operating unit of the Department of Commerce, administers spectrum for Federal use (e.g., use by the Army, the FAA, and the FBI). Within the FCC, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) provides advice on technical and policy issues pertaining to spectrum allocation and use.

Radio Frequency Spectrum: the part of the electromagnetic spectrum with frequencies from 30 Hz to 300 GHz. Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are widely used in modern technology, particularly in telecommunication. To prevent interference between different users, the generation and transmission of radio waves is strictly regulated by national laws, coordinated by an international body, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and in the U.S., by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Bands: Spectrum is divided into different frequency bands, and each band has been allocated for a specific application ranging from aeronautical and maritime communication to AM and FM radio stations. Demand for wireless broadband has soared due to technological innovation, such as 3G and 4G mobile services, and the rapid growth of wireless internet services. With the explosion of technologies requiring the use of the radio spectrum, spectrum managers are looking for ways to increase spectrum availability for broadband and maintain critical services.

Spectrum Leasing: part of the FCC’s secondary market initiatives designed to remove regulatory barriers and increase access to spectrum. Licensees that hold “exclusive use” licenses can lease spectrum to third parties using two different arrangements: 1) Spectrum Manager leasing and 2) De Facto Transfer leasing.

Licensed Spectrum: Licensed spectrum offers users protections against costly interference from others who may be operating within the same Radio Frequency (RF) bands. Because of these protections, acquiring licensed spectrum can be more expensive, however the security and interference-free aspects of licensed spectrum makes it perfect for critical infrastructure industries such as utilities, oil & gas pipelines, public safety, and transportation.

Unlicensed Spectrum: Unlicensed spectrum is accessible to any entity seeking to operate wireless communications. Think of your personal wireless systems at home—Wi-Fi, baby monitors, garage door openers, etc. Unlicensed spectrum may seem free, but the cost of interference for CII is quite costly. Communication drag or downtime can add considerable cost when applications and devices cannot be controlled in real-time.