Both a long time and a short time, but 20 years ago on the 7th of September 1987 the GSM Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by 12 European nations on September the 7th. It took a bit after that but three and a half years later the first GSM network, today known as Elisa in Finland, opened its doors. Since then the mobile networks are constantly evolving and activities are still accelerating rather than slowing down.
For a long time, mobile networks were considered voice only networks and even SMS was only added to networks at the end of the 1990’s. Since then mobile data services have evolved in only a few years from speeds of a couple of bits per second to multi megabit 3.5G highspeed. Nevertheless, everything is still based on the GSM standards from back then, or 3GPP standards as they have been renamed to in the meantime.
The telecoms industry had a tremendous roller coaster ride during that time. For many people working in the industry the ride did not always go to the better side. After the .com burst at the beginning of this decade, tens of thousands of people in the telecom industry have lost their jobs. Today, unlike the IT industry which seems to have picked up steam again, the telecoms industry with some exceptions is still struggling and the turbulences are far from over. A challenging time for everyone in the industry which takes true determinism.
Looking at the user side it’s incredible to see the changes mobile networks have brought to the life of people in both rich and poor countries. Voice was the first revolution and today few people can still imagine a life without cell phones. Generation-C can probably not imagine it at all. After a number of iterations I can see mobile Internet access now also picking up with people around me and even some skeptics of yesterday are now using a Blackberry or HSDPA mobile data card in their notebook. Generation-C is next, pricing levels are close to become affordable for them!
Good sides, bad sides, but no matter happy birthday GSM!