Happy Birthday GSM: How does it feel to be 20 years old?

Of all the inventions that man has worked tirelessly to create, it’s GSM, or the Global System for Mobile Communications, that makes us shriek in absolute delight. The first GSM phone call, placed exactly 20 years today, occurred in Finland. The conversation was between former Prime Minister Harri Holkeri and Vice Mayor of the Finnish city of Tampere Kaarina Suonio and it can be viewed below. Why is GSM important? There are 4.4 billion people around the world, via 838 networks in 234 countries, using it to talk, text, and in some cases Facebook and Twitter each other. There’s also the SIM card, which allows anyone to use any compatible device on any GSM network; that’s a big deal. We take these things for granted today, but this was serious stuff back then, so serious in fact Finland was hoping their advances in GSM technology would lift them out of a recession that was plaguing the nation at the time. It did, does Nokia ring a bell?

“When we were building up the system and creating the first Nokia GSM phone that would make that first call very few of us dared to dream about the future,” said Timo Ali-Vehmas, Vice President of Compatibility & Industry Collaboration at Nokia. “None of us back then imagined the huge impact GSM would go on to have for the lives of billions of people around the world. Of course, none of this could have been possible without the pioneering work by so many bright minds in the industry over the last twenty years. That work continues today and it is terrific to see GSM continuing to evolve and renew in many exciting ways.”

With LTE we’re pushing 100 Mbps download speeds, but how fast will GSM networks go 20 years from now? Ericsson has already shown off 1 Gbps speeds in Sweden and they think such networks will launch in 2013. That’s only 2 years away!

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