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A communications system refers to

a collection of individual communications networks, transmission systems, relay stations, tributary stations, and data terminal equipment (DTE) usually capable of interconnection and interoperation to form an integrated whole. The components of a communications system serve a common purpose, are technically compatible, use common procedures, respond to controls, and operate in unison.[1]
[a]n assembly of equipment, methods and procedures and, if necessary, personnel, organized to accomplish information transfer functions.
1. A communication system provides communication between its users and may embrace transmission systems, switching systems and user systems.
2. A communication system may also include storage or processing functions in support of information transfer.[2]


s refers to

[c]ommunications networks and information services that enable joint and multinational warfighting capabilities.[3]

U.S. government[]

A communications system is

[a] mix of telecommunications and/or automated information systems used to originate, control, process, encrypt, and transmit or receive information. Such a system generally consists of the following connected or connectable devices:
(1) Automated information equipment (AIS) on which information is originated;
(2) A central controller of, principally, access rights and information distribution;
(3) A telecommunications processor which prepares information for transmission; and
(4) National-level devices, which encrypt information (COMSEC/CRYPTO/CCI) prior to its transmission via Diplomatic Telecommunications Service (DTS) or commercial carrier.[4]


Communications systems use two types of media to transmit signals: over-the-air systems, such as radio transmissions; and conductors, such as copper wire and coaxial or fiber optic cables. In general, over-the-air systems (e.g., cordless telephones) can be intercepted and systems that use conductors can be tapped. Some conductor-based transmission systems (e.g., fiber optic cable) require sophisticated resources to tap, while others require minimal resources (taps of copper wires from wire closets). Whatever the form of transmission, it is not necessarily easy to render intercepted or monitored signals intelligible.


  1. ATIS Telecom Glossary 2007 (full-text).
  2. NATO Standardization Agency, NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions 2-C-11 (2008) (full-text).
  3. Electronic Warfare, at GL-5.
  4. 12 FAM 090 (full-text).


See also[]