GSM Celebrates 20 Years

ESPOO, Finland -- On July 1, 1991, the world’s first GSM call on a commercial network was made between Finland’s former prime minister Harri Holkeri and vice mayor of the city of Tampere Kaarina Suonio. The first GSM network was built by Telenokia and Siemens – today’s Nokia Siemens Networks – for the Finnish operator Radiolinja, now operating under the name Elisa.

During the call, Harri Holkeri and Kaarina Suonio discussed the benefits of the new, digital, GSM technology, including superior voice quality and security, and the fact that the phone’s identity is in the SIM card, making it easy for consumers to choose the product they like.

The Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) was adopted in 1987 as the European standard for digital mobile technology. This second generation mobile technology could carry data as well as voice traffic. GSM’s high-quality voice calls, easy international roaming and support for new services such as text messaging (SMS) laid the foundations for a worldwide boom in mobile phone use.

In the following years, the number of GSM subscribers grew beyond all predictions. It reached more than 500 million in the first decade to 2001. Today’s 838 GSM networks in 234 countries and independent territories around the world have more than 4.4 billion subscriptions. GSM is still growing fast, with 1 million new GSM subscriptions added every day. That’s a rate of nearly 12 a second.

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)

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