Computers are wonders of modern technology. They’re able to perform billions of operations per second thanks to silicon wafers, which are perhaps even more of a marvel of technology. Despite this, modern devices would be severely hamstrung if they could not communicate with other computers. Digital communications are a cornerstone of the contemporary world.
A communication device is any electronic device capable of communicating with other electronic devices. In the vast majority of cases, this refers explicitly to electromagnetic communication. However, this is not a hard restriction, allowing, for example, devices that only communicate with other devices via audio. Most modern communications are digital. However, analog communication technologies are still used.
A typical example of a communication device would be a smartphone. These feature a broad array of communications technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC, as well as 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile data technologies. The definition of a communication device is not limited to wireless communication systems. Laptops and desktop computers are also communication devices.
Other Potential Definitions
In some cases, the term communication device might refer specifically to devices that enable direct and though not necessarily real-time person-to-person communication. In this case, some electronic devices with network connectivity may be excluded. For example, an e-reader may feature Wi-Fi connectivity to be able to download e-books.
As an e-reader, however, it would be unlikely to offer any messaging or calling functionality. Taken to its extreme, a flashlight could be considered a communication device, as toggling it on and off at precise intervals could be used to communicate via morse code. A pen is also a communication device as it enables written communication.
A communication device may also refer to specific sub-components in a device that provide the connectivity features. For example, a network add-in card in a desktop computer would be a communication device. It could be argued that this definition could be considered to include wireless antennae. However, it would be unclear if it’s only the antennae, the actual signal processor, or the combination of both that are the actual communications device.
A cable, for example, an ethernet or USB cable, wouldn’t be considered a communication device. However, the ethernet or USB ports could be, though, like the antennae, they may only count when included with the actual signal processor.
Typically it should be possible to identify which usage is intended from the context of the use.
One of the advantages of the term communication device is that it’s generic. This means that the term’s rules affect all communication devices and don’t need to be updated when a new device class is released. Or to consider an edge case with someone trying to outsmart the rules.
An example of this can be found on planes. Before take-off and landing, you may hear the instruction to turn off your communication devices. This instruction ensures no signal interference with the plane’s systems during the take-off and landing process. In such a case, the rule concisely covers any device. While they could specify smartphones, tablets, and laptops, you’d get people using their smartwatches. So the catch-all-term communication device is easier and more effective.
A communication device is a catch-all term with a few possible meanings. It generally refers to any electronic device that can communicate electronically with other devices. In some cases, a communication device may be more specifically used to refer to a device that enables direct but not necessarily real-time person-to-person communication.
Finally, it can also refer to the actual subcomponents of a device that provide communication functionality, such as a network card. As a catch-all term, it is helpful in rules where the commercial availability of new technologies may provide a loophole in rules that are more specific about allowed devices. It should be possible to tell from the context which meaning is intended.