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ANNIVERSARY: My very own 15 years of GSM and UMTS
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 01.02.08 - 14:16:53 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 24773x
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Wow, as time goes by. This year, we are not only celebrating 10 years of the::unwired (together with its forerunners) and I'm celebrating 15 years of personal Internet use (I got my first Internet access from my University back in summer 1993) but today I'm also celebrating my very own 15 years of GSM. On February 1st 1993 I bought my first GSM mobile phone (at Hoyer's Telefonzelle) and signed my first GSM contract with D1 from DeTeMobil (today better known as T-Mobile). And imagine that - at the end of April 1993, DeTeMobil counted 130,000 subscribers (only).
It was the time when we had two GSM networks in Germany only: D1 (from DeTeMobil aka Deutsche Telekom, today T-Mobile) and D2 Privat (from Mannesmann Mobilfunk today Vodafone Germany) and the German GSM networks only offered voice service. No data, no SMS (not to talk about MMS) and UMTS was so far away, you haven't thought about a following technology or standard.

On the photo bellow my first mobile phone, an Orbitel TPU 900:

Unfortunately, my Orbitel TPU 900 was stolen years after out of my car, therefore I don't have an original photo of it anymore.

Anyway, just months after the Orbitel, I've upgraded to two handheld mobile phones - both classics today - the Motorola 3200 and the Nokia 1011:

While the Motorola 3200 hasn't had a function called SMS, the Nokia 1011 had this feature already but to be honest, that days I hadn't had a single clue what SMS is about and well, it was released (here in Germany) 3 years later.
Before SMS was launched, D1 DeTeMobil launched its Mailbox (which was and still is called Mobilbox) and this was quite cool. Your own answering machine in the network and in the early days, it hasn't had a short code but the Mobilbox was reachable through a fixed line number in Hannover.
And I remember well the first international roaming agreements which allowed you to take your mobile phone into holidays. In the early 90's, I was quite often in Austria for skiing and snowboarding and in the beginning, Austria hadn't had a GSM network but its old "D-Network" was an analogue network which wasn't compatible with the German "D-Network". I was quite annoyed that I wasn't able to use my mobile phone over there but also this changed fast (today Austria is one of the most competitive GSM/UMTS markets in the world).

As time went by, the GSM networks also launched its first data services, circuit switched data with 9.6 Kbps which was super fast these days - in the early 90's of the last century and this was the time when I thought about combining my two passions: Internet and mobile phones. So I made my first mobile data experiences with my Nokia 2110 and the Nokia PCMCIA Data Card which connected the 2110 with a Notebook, this was something in 1995 if I remember right. It was about the same time when D2 Privat (today Vodafone Germany) launched its D2 Privat CompuServe forum.
Years later, in 1998, I thought about making me even more mobile since Laptops were still somewhat heavy these days and this was the time when I bought my first Windows CE H/PC (a Sharp Mobilon 4500), which I've imported from the U.S. since Windows CE devices weren't available in Europe that days.
When I got it, I had a couple of Ericsson mobile phones which had inbuilt CSD modems with IrDA support (best known is the Ericsson SH888 and the Ericsson GF788 with attachable IrDA modem) but you had to tweak the Windows CE Registry to make it working (read this old article here over at the Pocket PC Magazine which refers to my first Windows CE site).
And yes - this was - more or less - the official start where my two passion (Windows CE - today known as Windows Mobile and GSM - today known as GSM and UMTS) became one.

I don't know anymore how much mobile phones I had the past 15 years - might be 100 or so but it's amazing to see how the mobile phone industry developed during the past 15 years I'm in this business, how the design changed and how small mobile phones became over the years (bellow a small selection of my 15 years of mobile phone history):

Oh, and last but not least I want to mention, that I still have my very old D1 contract, with the MSISDN from 15 years ago. Hey T-Mobile and Talkline (which is the service provider which has the contract today, even if I originally signed it with unicom which was overtaken later by Talkline) - isn't that a reason to reduce my monthly fee?

Anyway - today - 15 years later I'm not using GSM networks too much anymore, only if the area I'm isn't covered by UMTS. And with UMTS, we even got faster Internet, with speeds up to 384 Kbps which is so yesterday already, thanks to HSDPA where we have 1.8 Mps or 3.6 Mbps already, with some areas up to 7.2 Mbps (which is even faster than my DSL line at home).

Much things happened within the past 15 years but I don't want to look back but forward. Happy anniversary anyway. :-)

Cheers ~ Arne

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