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GSM hits 20th anniversary

First commercial GSM call was made 1st July 1991

GSM hits 20th anniversary
Finland’s former prime minister Harri Holkeri made the first ever commercial GSM call in 1991.

July 1st marked the 20th anniversary of the first ever Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) call on a commercial network, 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, which is today known as Nokia Siemens Networks, for the Finnish operator Radiolinja, now operating under the name Elisa.

GSM tehnology, which was adopted in 1987 as the European standard for digital mobile technology, is able to carry data as well as voice and allowed for high-quality voice calls, easy international roaming and support for new services such as text messaging.

"GSM was the first digital technology based on open standards and one that made the widespread adoption of mobile phones possible," said Pekka Soini, head of corporate development office at Nokia Siemens Networks.

GSM technology laid the foundations for the explosion in the use of mobile phones. Mobile subscribers reached over 500 million in the first decade GSM was introduced.

Now there are 838 GSM networks in 234 countries and independent territories around the world with more than 4.4 billion subscriptions.

GSM subscriptions are growing at a rate of 1 million new subscribers added every day, nearly 12 a second.

"GSM continues to evolve and will be here in the coming decades together with 3G and LTE as an essential building block of mobile broadband. We see continued GSM business opportunities in Single RAN Advanced capable hardware modernisations, high-quality voice capacity upgrades as well as smart device, machine-to-machine and high definition voice enhancements. The latest innovation announced in June this year, the Orthogonal Sub-Channel Dual Full Rate feature, is a software feature that allows up to 100% increase in voice capacity and significantly enhanced speech quality for GSM," said Soini.

The Nokia Siemens Networks technology directly supports 2.9 billion subscribers in 365 GSM networks in 143 countries and Nokia introduced its first digital handheld GSM phone, the Nokia 1011, in 1992.

"When we were building up the system and creating the first Nokia GSM phone that would make that first call very few of us dared to dream about the future," said Timo Ali-Vehmas, VP, compatibility & industry collaboration, Nokia. "None of us back then imagined the huge impact GSM would go on to have for the lives of billions of people around the world. Of course, none of this could have been possible without the pioneering work by so many bright minds in the industry over the last twenty years. That work continues today and it is terrific to see GSM continuing to evolve and renew in many exciting ways."

GSM technologies were standardised by 3GPP and now include EDGE, 3G and LTE.

Third generation 3G WCDMA networks have higher data speeds and more capacity for mobile broadband services than GSM.

LTE is already in commercial operation in over 20 networks worldwide and marks the next step in technology evolution and is driven by the growing need for increased data capacity for mobile broadband services

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