Happy Birthday: GSM turns 20 today

By on July 1, 2011, 2:30 PM

Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile, (GSM) is a standard that describes technologies for 2G cellular networks. On July 1, 1991, Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri made the world's first GSM call (see the video below) to Kaarina Suonio (mayor in city of Tampere). Today, the technology is thus 20 years old.

Early European analog cellular networks employed technologies and protocols that varied from country to country, preventing interoperability of subscriber equipment and increasing complexity for equipment manufacturers. GSM was adopted in 1987 as the European standard for digital mobile technology when 15 representatives from 13 European countries signed a memorandum of understanding to develop and deploy a common cellular telephone system across the continent. Phase I of the GSM specification was published in 1990.

GSM was developed as a replacement for first generation analog cellular networks. The GSM standard originally described a digital circuit switched network optimized for full duplex voice telephony, but was expanded over time to include first circuit switched data transport, then packet data transport via GPRS. Packet data transmission speeds were later increased via EDGE. The GSM standard is succeeded by the 3G UMTS standard developed by the 3GPP. GSM networks are currently evolving further as they begin to incorporate 4G LTE Advanced standards.

GSM's high-quality voice calls, easy international roaming and support for services like text messaging (SMS) laid the foundations for a worldwide boom in mobile phone use. The GSM Association, which owns the GSM trademark, estimates that technologies defined in the GSM standard serve 80 percent of the global mobile market, encompassing more than 1.5 billion people across more than 212 countries and territories. In other words, GSM is the most ubiquitous standard for cellular networks.

User Comments: 5

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Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My first mobile phone was a Motorola GSM. It was so big i had to carry it around in its own bag.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Earlier on we had AIMS based mobiles here, and they came with one big shoulder bag to lug them around, which meant, people who could afford a secretary to do so would buy it. Anyway, later on when GSM became much more common and mobile sets became 'more reasonable' in sizes, I decided to have one and it was guess what ........... a Nokia.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've always liked the Nokia phones, having something that's made a little closer to home. It's a shame they've been sort of squeezed out with all the new 'smart' phones.

Everyone had Nokia phones when i was coming through school; i had the 5110, then the 3210 (loved that one), and then the 3310 which i still have in my draw to this day.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

My first GSM phone was a Nokia. I think the model number was 1610 and it used an NiMH battery which was heavy and didn't last long. However, it was much lighter than our previous analog phone which was the size of a small army field radio and was pretty heavy to lug around .

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

GSM is the World Phone capability - - ie: large portion of the world uses this technology over the U.S. domestic CDMA and TDMA services. If your device is

not locked to a provider, then ANY SIM card can be used and away you go!

It was a delight to use my GSM in Europe and watch the Welcome messages arrive as we travelled in the EU Zone

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