Some background info on the First GSM Call on July 1st 1991

As reported in the press and here yesterday, it's been 20 years since the first GSM call was made in a commercial network. July 1st 1991, what's behind the date? According to this book on the history of GSM in Germany, published in 1994 (!), the date was set already in the mid 1980's as the official launch date in all European countries (see page 274). But as always ever since, networks are launched without really having mobile devices to use them. Let me quote from that page (translated from German):

"The fathers [of GSM] had agreed in the concert of the post ministers in the middle of the 1980 on 1. July 1991 [as the launch date]. A glittering celebration, moved by the thought of European harmonization should have been celebrated in all of Europe. But it didn't work out. The launch date burst like a big and colorful soap bubble. It burst among other reasons because many other nations [other than Germany] were not in a hurry to launch their GSM networks for a variety of reasons. In Germany, however, things were prepared for a timely launch. But even here nothing happened on 1st July 1991. Only a full year later could the age of GSM finally begin."

The book doesn't reveal whether a similar network launch like in Finland was done on that day as the text deals more with the availability of mobile phones that are actually sold to customers rather than making the first phone call with a pre-commercial device. From my point of view this does not in any way lessen what happened on the 1st July 1991, as a phone call is a phone call, no matter what the device was it was done with. So I come back with my question from the previous post: Where does that cable lead to from the headset the prime minister of Finland had in his hand? How big was that box?

So why where there no devices for the full launch in 1991? Now that's another interesting story and it involves network manufacturers, handset manufacturers, a company called Rhode & Schwarz and the threat of an interim type approval. But that's a story for another day 🙂