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Definition: signal


(1) (Signal) An encrypted instant messaging system from the Signal Technology Foundation introduced in 2014. Signal uses the cellular service and telephone numbers just like standard SMS and MMS text messaging. See text messaging vs. instant messaging.

(2) A pulse or frequency of electricity or light. A signal can be transmitted in a wire, by fiber or wireless. The term is generic and may refer to virtually anything generated and transmitted, including data, control signals and the pulses in an electronic circuit. The term is often used with another word, such as "carrier signal," "data signal" or "control signal." See signal-to-noise ratio and control signal.

Signal vs. Signaling
A "signal" can refer to data or a control signal, but "signaling" refers to transmitting only control signals. It is very common to hear the term in the telecom industry, where "signaling" means setting up and breaking down a call, but does not refer to the actual pulses or frequencies of the data (voice, text, etc.) itself (see SS7 and signaling).