Las Vegas, USA – Some readers will already know that Nokia started off as a paper mill in 1865, diversifying into rubber goods and cable manufacture over the course of a century. But we’re going to skip around 125 years of the history lesson and jump right to 1981 when the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) service was launched.
Spanning several Scandinavian countries, this was the original analogue, first generation service, but nonetheless it holds the record as the first international mobile network. Nokia responded to the oncoming mobile boom by introducing the world’s first car-phones, the Mobira Talkman range. Proper mobile phones didn’t exist at this point, remember – they had to have a permanent power source in the form of your car’s battery to function.
It wasn’t until 1987 that Nokia introduced the first handheld mobile phone for NMT networks, the Mobira Cityman. Well, technically it was handheld – the device weighed nearly a kilo and cost over EU4500. (The car-phones weighed 10 kilos, on the other hand, so this was positively tiny in comparison).
In 1991, the second generation of mobile networks arrived, in the form of GSM (Global System for Mobile communications). This offered the ability to carry data as well as voice, and much improved call-quality, stability and security. Nokia was closely involved in the development of the system and Finland’s prime minister made the world’s first GSM call – using prototype Nokia equipment.
The world’s first digital handheld mobile phone, the Nokia 1011, was launched in 1992. Perhaps it comes as a surprise, but it was only at this point that Nokia’s then-CEO Jorma Ollila decided to divest the rubber, cable and wood pulp aspects of the business – telecommunications and mobile were clearly where the action was!
Meanwhile, other regions were experimenting with their own standards – like TDMA, PCN and Japan Digital – in each case, Nokia was the first manufacturer to create handsets for these new networks.
At the end of the decade, in 1999, Nokia launched the world’s first Internet phone (well, WAP-enabled) with the Nokia 7110, heralding the beginning of the modern era of smartphones. It made the world’s first third-generation call in the same year using prototype WCDMA equipment, though it took three more years until 3G was available to regular users. Nokia launched its first 3G handset, the Nokia 6650 in 2002, to take advantage of what seemed – at that point – to be a brave new world of internet telephony. Later that year, the company shipped the Nokia 6200, the world’s first GSM/EDGE phone.
And so on to the fourth generation: LTE, which promises to offer download rates of up to 100mbps. Compare that to around 2mbps from today’s 3G devices! The technology’s being supervised by ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute), of which Nokia is an active member and is working hard to make the most of the new standard. It was Siemens Networks (now Nokia Siemens Networks) that demonstrated the first use of LTE back in 2006, after all.
We think our mobile phones today are pretty advanced, but if the last 30 years tells us anything, it’s that tomorrow’s devices will make them look like two tin cans and a piece of string.