The Siemens GSM P1: 19 Years and Counting

I've recently had the chance to put my hands on a Siemens P1, one of the first GSM phones from back in 1992, sold to end customers about one year after the official launch of the first GSM networks on the 1st of July 1991 as reported in two previous posts here and here. Two things fascinate me about this phone:

Siemens-p1 First, its (comparatively) enormous size. It's already portable, but bulky and heavy and the antenna with its metallic socket alone weighs more than my current smart phone.

This is where we have come from in modern digital mobile communication, 19 years ago, bulky and supporting a data rate for voice communication of roughly 20 kbit/s (including the coding overhead). And it came at a cost of well over 1500 Euros, which 20 years ago was an even higher price than it sounds today.

Today, mobile devices are a fraction of the size and cost, voice telephony is but one of many applications now integrated and data rates have soared beyond 100 MBit/s with the latest LTE chips. In other words, a speed-up factor of 5000. Compare that to cars for example and how many cars from back then are still on the road. Quite a number of them. In other words, the life cycle of cars is an order of a magnitude longer than that of mobile phones. More true today than ever.

And the second thing that fascinates me about the P1 is that the phone still works today (starting with software version 18.6.1993). It's a bit picky about SIM cards but I managed to find one that works with it. Another nice thing is the start-up time, well, or rather the absence of it. You hit the power button and it is on. Instantly. Not everything went in the right direction in the last 19 years…

Other GSM phone manufactuers of the day that could deliver something in 1992: Orbitel, Motorola, Panasonic and Nokia. A bit later, in 1993 more companies could finally deliver soemthing. Names like Alcatel, AEG and PKI are mentioned here. Interesting how few of them have survived over time and who dominates the market today.

3 thoughts on “The Siemens GSM P1: 19 Years and Counting”

Comments are closed.