Ericsson: 50 Years of Mobile Phones

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These days many people accept mobile phones as a fact of life, but most of us still think of them as being somehow a “new” thing, and the truly wise among us might be able to dredge up memories of purse-sized portable phones from (gasp!) the early 1990s.

So did you know Ericsson introduced fully automatic mobile phones 50 years ago?

Ericsson’s early system, called Mobile Telephony A (or MTA) was built for the Swedish Telecommunications Administration and debuted in 1956. It operated in the 160 MHz band and used pulse signaling to support about 100 users per base station. Although the system did push the definition of “portable:” the devices weighed more than 40 kg (almost 90 pounds) and was intended to be permanently installed in (say) a vehicle’s trunk. Only a few hundred subscribers used the system, mostly doctors, lawyers, and other salaried professionals in Stockholm and Gothenburg. But it behaved just like a normal phone: users picked up the receiver and dialed a number to make a call.

Ericsson President and CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg says: “Today, mobile communication is part of everyday life for nearly a third of the world’s population. Back in the days of our founder, Lars Magnus Ericsson, people were already saying that communication is a fundamental human need. Here at Ericsson, we are proud of our leadership of the industry and that we have developed attractive and easy-to-use mobile services for billions of users worldwide.”

Hey, they’ve come a long way: Ericsson itself started out as a telegraph repair shop in 1876, and now they’re experts at getting product placement in James Bond movies.

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