Early Mobile Networks

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by ConnectIrmeli

If you want to make a few calls when you’re on the move nowadays, you can get yourself a package that will give you a free phone, with unlimited calls and texts, as part of an affordable monthly payment plan. Back then, you had to be pretty well heeled in order to be able to afford to make just one call on a mobile phone!

The world’s first fully automatic mobile telephone system, memorably dubbed MTA (Mobile Telephone system A), was developed by Ericsson and was made available in Sweden in 1956. This was the first system that was able to operate without the need for a technician plugging things in at the transmitter base, but due to the valves it employed in its electronics, it was very energy inefficient and was extremely heavy. The invention of transistors in the early sixties paved the way for a lighter, less power-hungry model, the MTB. The MTB network had managed to get 600 well-heeled Swedes to subscribe to it by the time it was closed down in 1983, and as such could be considered much more successful than its predecessor.

In 1971, the American telecommunications giant AT&T submitted a proposal for a cellular mobile telecommunications network called the Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS), to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After years of hearings, the network was given the go ahead in 1982, and the AMPS network was allocated frequencies between 824 and 894 MHz. The AMPs network was upgraded from the old analogue technology in 1990 and is still in use today in upgraded form.

Among the first truly successful commercial mobile phone networks to be available to the civilian population, dubbed ARP, was set up in Finland in 1971.

ARP is often thought of to as being a zero generation (0G) cellular network, in that the technology was more advanced than early systems such as MTB or RAT, but not as advanced as some of the formats that were to follow, such as AMPS, which are considered to be of the first generation of cell phone technology as we now know it.

A fully automatic mobile phone network for civil use, named the Altay system, was set up in Moscow in 1963. By the 1970s, coverage had been expanded to incorporate over 30 cities in the USSR, and is still in use in some regions as a trunking system. A portable automatic mobile phone system, going by the name of RAT, was introduced in Bulgaria in 1966, and could serve up to six users per base station.

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