We’ve put together a list of common abbreviations that are commonly used in the world of finance and telecommunications, what they mean, and a few lines explaining them.
This is a list we will be constantly updating, so you can always refer to it if you find an abbreviation you do not understand
- Application to Person (A2P): this is a communication system where businesses communicate directly to users either via SMS or USSD. It is a popular, cost-effective way for businesses to reach their customers and advertise to new users.
- Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA): created by Qualcomm in 1995, CDMA was a rival cellular communication standard to the more internationally renowned GSM. Both were used to transmit data and voice communication. Unlike its rival standard, however, CDMA did not require sim cards as it was a handset-based standard.
- Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM): this is an international standard for digital cellular communication that was introduced by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. It is a digital cellular technology that is used to transmit data and voice communication.
- Home Location Register (HLR): it is a register containing data of subscribers on a network. Data stored on the home location register include the phone number, current location, IMSI, MSISDN, and more. The HLR is usually used to identify the last known location of a SIM and facilitate SMS to the SIM or device it is in.
- International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI): this is a unique number that identifies every user on a mobile network. It is usually 15 digits and used to search information on the user on the Home Location Register of the Visitor Location Register
- Mobile Network Operator (MNO): this refers to a telecommunications service provider that provides wireless data and voice communication services to its subscribers. Examples include MTN, Safaricom, Vodacom, Orange, etc.
- Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number (MSISDN): this is a unique series of numbers used to internationally identify a mobile subscriber. Typically, it takes the format of the country code + the mobile phone number.
- Peer to Peer (P2P): Peer-to-peer usually refers to a system of communication where one user’s device communicates directly with another user’s device. P2P networks are famous for being fast, decentralised, and resistant to failure.
- Subscriber Identification Module (SIM): This is a small, usually removable card/chip that contains the subscriber’s information including phone number, PIN, Identification number, and a few messages. The SIM card usually contains a chip that gets powered on once the phone is in a mobile device. Usually, you can swap your SIM card from one mobile phone to another without losing the information stored on it.
Fun fact: Sim cards used to be as big as the size of your credit cards
- Short Message Service Center (SMSC): this is the part of a mobile wireless network that handles short message services. Its functions include storing, forwarding, converting, and delivering SMS.
- Short Message Service (SMS): this is a popular communication method between mobile phones and most internet-enabled devices that allows them to send messages of 160 alpha-numeric characters from one device to another.
- Sim Tool Kit (STK): this is a set of applications that determine how a sim card can interact with the mobile network. Usually, STKs come as pre-loaded apps on the sim card. STKs allow users to have access to mobile network services and other utilities.
- Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD): This is an internal communication system that mobile network operators use to communicate with their users. Initially used for in-network queries like checking airtime balance, its use has now expanded into things like banking, agriculture, education, and more.
- Visitor Location Register (VLR): this is a server in a cellular network that supports users when they are outside the range of their own HLRs. VLRs are popular for allowing people to roam their numbers when in a different geographical location from their mobile network providers.