GSM Standard Has Its 20th Anniversary Today

Posted by at 10:31 am on July 1, 2011

Today GSM has hit the 20-year milestone. Nokia Siemens Networks noted that the first call (below) on a real, live network took place on a network set up by Nokia and Siemens on July 1, 1991 between Finland’s then-prime minister Harri Holkeri and Tampere’s vice mayor of the time, Kaarina Suonio. The standard had been set up in 1987 but had only been in testing until that day.

The technology was a major leap over analog phone call technology of the time, such as AMPS. Going digital reduced the chances of making a call on the fringes of a network but produced much higher call quality. Having the basics of a data signal also made roaming easier, since networks could identify themselves and swap SIM cards, and made possible text messaging.

GSM has had to compete with CDMA but ultimately became the dominant format for phone calls in the world. About 4.4 billion subscriptions are active and are still growing at about one million new users each day.

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