Celebrating 40 years of mobile phones

As we celebrate 40 years of mobile phones, the potential for the future still looks spectacular, says telecoms expert Dr Mike Short.

It was back in April 1973 that Motorola employee Martin Cooper made a call in New York on a Motorola DynaTAC – widely regarded globally as the first public cellphone call. The device was nine inches tall, comprised 30 circuit boards, had a talk-time of 35 minutes, and took 10 hours to recharge.

Four decades on, a worldwide telecoms industry with annual revenues of £800 billion has grown rapidly based on wide choice, falling prices and an array of technologies, resulting in the average mobile being used to take photos, play music and games, send emails, download maps, watch video clips, all as well as talking and texting.

Dr Mike Short past President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), and mobile industry veteran, says the coming years will see mobile innovation continue to change our lives.

The increasing demand to connect people has led to a growth in devices for both work and leisure. Connected machines are also now becoming much more prevalent.

“With close to 7 billion customers today, we already expect this year globally more mobile devices (or subscriptions) than people” said Dr Mike Short.

“Since its first use 40 years ago, the mobile phone has completely changed our lives. The first decade was a research or a ‘demonstrator’ phase, rapidly followed by Analogue networks deployed over 10 years from the early 1980’s largely based on car phones and used in business in the developed world.

“This soon led to the digital decade, mainly between 1993 and 2003, when consumerisation and globalisation of mobile really took off. This led to a further data adoption phase with the arrival of 3G and during 2003 – 2013 access to the internet and the wider use of smartphones became a reality.

“I predict that the next decade will see much further use of data and next generation (4G) services, as well as enhanced capacity / coverage. This will be followed by more spectrum releases, and many more services, particularly video related.

“Based on current research, new services and innovation will surely follow. 5G is being researched right now for the early part of the next decade.

“Mobile phones and devices are more inclusive globally than almost all other consumer electronics products. Access to the internet through mobile is empowering billions of people – especially those in emerging nations who will access the internet for the first time through mobile.

“This is a welcome development that brings benefits of shared international innovation, connectivity, internet access and many new applications associated with people’s education, transport, and health requirements. The accelerating use of machine to machine communications will also continue to propel this growth of services into connected cars, smart meters and smart cities.

“Everyone now has the power to innovate in a digital world, thanks to the marriage between the two great innovation platforms of the 21st century: internet and mobile.

“This combination will drive digital innovation everywhere as these technologies become ever more pervasive and useful to all people.”

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