The history of mobile phones covers mobile communication devices that connect wirelessly to the public switched telephone network.
While the transmission of speech by radio has a long history, the first models that were wireless, mobile, and also capable of connecting to the standard telephone network are much more recent. The first such devices were barely portable compared to today’s compact hand-held devices, and their use was clumsy.
Along with the process of developing a more portable technology, and a better interconnections system, drastic changes have taken place in both the networking of wireless communication and the prevalence of its use, with smartphones becoming common globally and a growing proportion of Internet access now done via mobile broadband.
In 1949, AT&T commercialized Mobile Telephone Service. From its start in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1946, AT&T introduced Mobile Telephone Service to one hundred towns and highway corridors by 1948. Mobile Telephone Service was a rarity with only 5,000 customers placing about 30,000 calls each week. Calls were set up manually by an operator and the user had to depress a button on the handset to talk and release the button to listen. The call subscriber equipment weighed about 80 lb.
Subscriber growth and revenue generation were hampered by the constraints of the technology. Because only three radio channels were available, only three customers in any given city could make mobile telephone calls at one time. Mobile Telephone Service was expensive, costing 15 USD per month, plus 0.30 to 0.40 USD per local call, equivalent to about 176 USD per month and 3.50 to 4.75 per call in 2012 USD.
In the UK, there was also a vehicle-based system called “Post Office Radiophone Service,” which was launched around the city of Manchester in 1959, and although it required callers to speak to an operator, it was possible to be put through to any subscriber in Great Britain. The service was extended to London in 1965 and other major cities in 1972.
AT&T introduced the first major improvement to mobile telephony in 1965, giving the improved service the obvious name of Improved Mobile Telephone Service. IMTS used additional radio channels, allowing more simultaneous calls in a given geographic area, introduced customer dialing, eliminating manual call setup by an operator, and reduced the size and weight of the subscriber equipment.
Despite the capacity improvement offered by IMTS, demand outstripped capacity. In agreement with state regulatory agencies, AT&T limited the service to just 40,000 customerssystem wide. In New York City, for example, 2,000 customers shared just 12 radio channels and typically had to wait 30 minutes to place a call
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