October 7, 2012 / IST / Science & Technology.

The first mobile telephone call was made on 17 June 1946 from a car in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, using the Bell System’s Mobile Telephone Service. This was followed in 1956 by the world’s first partly automatic car phone system, Mobile System A (MTA) in Sweden. The MTA phones were composed of vacuum tubes and relays, and had a weight of 88.2 pounds (40 kg).

John F. Mitchell, Motorola’s chief of portable communication products and Martin Cooper’s boss in 1973, played a key role in advancing the development of handheld mobile telephone equipment. Mitchellsuccessfully pushed Motorola to develop wireless communication products that would be small enough to use anywhere and participated in the design of the cellular phone. Martin Cooper, a Motorolaresearcher and executive, was the key researcher on Mitchell’s team that developed the first hand-held mobile telephone for use on a cellular network.  Using a somewhat heavy portable handset, Cooper made the first call on a handheld mobile phone on April 3, 1973 to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.

As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call. Remember that in 1973, there weren’t cordless telephones or cellular phones. I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life.
—Martin Cooper,

The new invention sold for $3,995 and weighed two pounds, leading to a nickname “the brick”.

The world’s first commercial automated cellular network was launched in Japan by NTT in 1979, initially in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. In 1981, this was followed by the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Several countries then followed in the early-to-mid 1980s including the UK, Mexico and Canada.

On 6 March 1983, the DynaTAc mobile phone launched on the first US 1G network by Ameritech. It cost $100m to develop, and took over a decade to hit the market. The phone had a talk time of just half an hour and took ten hours to charge. Consumer demand was strong despite the battery life, weight, and low talk time, and waiting lists were in the thousands.

In 1991, the second generation (2G) cellular technology was launched in Finland by Radiolinja on the GSM standard, which sparked competition in the sector as the new operators challenged the incumbent 1G network operators.

Ten years later, in 2001, the third generation (3G) was launched in Japan by NTT DoCoMo on the WCDMA standard. This was followed by 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G enhancements based on the high-speed packet access (HSPA) family, allowing UMTS networks to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.

By 2009, it had become clear that, at some point, 3G networks would be overwhelmed by the growth of bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming media. Consequently, the industry began looking to data-optimized 4th-generation technologies, with the promise of speed improvements up to 10-fold over existing 3G technologies. The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard (offered in the U.S. by Sprint) and the LTE standard, first offered in Scandinavia by TeliaSonera.

SIM card

GSM feature phones require a small microchip called a Subscriber Identity Module or SIM Card, to function. The SIM card is approximately the size of a small postage stamp and is usually placed underneath the battery in the rear of the unit. The SIM securely stores the service-subscriber key (IMSI) and the Ki used to identify and authenticate the user of the mobile phone. The SIM card allows users to change phones by simply removing the SIM card from one mobile phone and inserting it into another mobile phone or broadband telephony device.

The first SIM card was made in 1991 by Munich smart card maker Giesecke & Devrient for the Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja.

Short Message Service (SMS)

Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems, using standardized communications protocols that allow the exchange of short text messages between fixed line or mobile phone devices.

The first SMS text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in 1992 in the UK, while the first person-to-person SMS from phone to phone was sent in Finland in 1993.

The first mobile news service, delivered via SMS, was launched in Finland in 2000, and subsequently many organizations provided “on-demand” and “instant” news services by SMS.

Network Type

There are two types of network:

  • CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
  • GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications or Groupe Spécial Mobile)

Advantage and disadvantage of CDMA and GSM?

Advantages of CDMA include:

  • Increased cellular communications security.
  • Simultaneous conversations.
  • Increased efficiency, meaning that the carrier can serve more subscribers.
  • Smaller phones.
  • Low power requirements and little cell-to-cell coordination needed by operators.
  • Extended reach – beneficial to rural users situated far from cells.

Disadvantages of CDMA include:

  • Due to its proprietary nature, all of CDMA’s flaws are not known to the engineering community.
  • CDMA is relatively new, and the network is not as mature as GSM.
  • CDMA cannot offer international roaming, a large GSM advantage.

Advantages of GSM:

  • GSM is already used worldwide with over 450 million subscribers.
  • International roaming permits subscribers to use one phone throughout Western Europe. CDMA will work in Asia, but not France, Germany, the U.K. and other popular European destinations.
  • GSM is mature, having started in the mid-80s. This maturity means a more stable network with robust features. CDMA is still building its network.
  • GSM’s maturity means engineers cut their teeth on the technology, creating an unconscious preference.
  • The availability of Subscriber Identity Modules, which are smart cards that provide secure data encryption give GSM m-commerce advantages.

In brief, GSM is a “more elegant way to upgrade to 3G,” says Strategis Group senior wireless analyst Adam Guy.

Disadvantages of GSM:

  • Lack of access to burgeoning American market.