Research Notes

Strand Consult celebrates the 25th anniversary of GSM mobile technology

How would the world look like if we had not had the mobile revolution?
More than 5.6 billion people in the world use a mobile phone.  Teenagers who grew up with mobile phones cannot imagine how their parents lived in the dark ages without mobile phones and personal computers. Today many people consider mobile technology as a natural thing, something that you use without thinking.
It is important to reflect on life before the GSM standard. Before the digital mobile technology came along, there were a number of analog solutions. In Europe and the Nordic countries people used the NMT 450 analog technology.

Twenty-five year ago on 7 September 1987, the GSM vision was launched when a group of operators from 13 countries signed a memorandum of understanding in Copenhagen. There were 15 representatives in total: France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland the United Kingdom, and two independent operators, Cellnet and Racal-Vodafone.

The Copenhagen agreement created the framework for Europe’s response to the mobile technology race, which at the time was a competition between the Americans, Japanese and Europeans. The objectives were many, but one of them was to ensure that Europe and European technology were the foundation for the next generation of mobile telephony.

Many of the leading mobile technology companies have their origin in the Nordics. Nokia and Ericsson are leading lights. The question is whether the Nordic region will play a key role in mobile technology in the future.  Although the chances of a new Nordic behemoth, for example a new Nokia or Ericsson is limited, we believe that the heroes of the future will come from small innovative companies that will join together in large networks, so their services and products can enter the global economy.

In addition to the shift in power, there is also a shift in consciousness.  People no longer focus on the region or nation where a company comes from, except if it comes from China.

It is almost impossible to quantify the advances made to our society by the GSM agreement in Copenhagen 25 years ago.  Few of us imagined how much modern mobile communications would change our lives for the better.  Indeed mobile technology has transformed in a number of areas such as economy, growth, employment and innovation, creating no less than a revolution.

The list of benefits from the GMS standard is long, but how about the fun? Here are some observations from a humorous angle.Who would be the world’s richest man today if Carlos Slim had not invested in mobile telephony in Latin America?  What would have happened to all the other wealthy people if they had no mobile technology to invest in?

What would all the Apple fans have done for an icon if there were no iPhones?
How would the world look like if Motorola, Nokia, RIM and other mobile technology companies never had their ups and down?
How else might we have learned about all the stupid and embarrassing stuff that celebrities do, if we had no SMS or MMS which later ended up in the press?
How else would have so many corrupt politicians and officials have made fortunes if not by issuing mobile licenses?
How many journalists would be out of a job if they did not have mobile technology to write about?
With all the court cases about mobile patents, how else would judges, lawyers, and patent experts have a made a living with the advances in mobile technology and its intellectual property spinoffs?
What would it have meant for the camera industry had there been no mobile technology?  Would Kodak and Agfa still be dominant players?  Would there be a market for digital cameras?
What would it be like to ride in a train or bus or be in public place if there were not cell phones ringing?  How much more cumbersome would it be if we still had to use phone booths?
How many romantic relationship would never have blossomed because shy men and women could not flirt with SMS? There is no shortage of changes that mobile technology has brought to our lives. The fact is that modern mobile commutation is here to stay thanks to the GSM agreement signed 25 years ago

We at Strand Consult can only say congratulations, and thank you, to the vision of founders of the GSM standard.  Given the excitement of the last 25 years we look forward to the next 25, and hope in that in 2037 we will write yet another note of congratulation on the 50 years of GSM technology.  

For the last 17 years, Strand Consult has helped companies navigate in a complex industry. When we look back on the years in which we have been active in this industry, it has been an exciting time, and the challenges that the telecom sector is facing today are more significant and complex than those they faced in 1987.  We can see with the increasing scale and complexity of the reports we publish that mobile technology makes great demands on people every day in companies worldwide.  Strand Consult makes predictions about the mobile future, and for the last 12 years, we have been right. You can read our predictions here.

You can rely on Strand Consult to continue to provide strategic knowledge of high quality for those who believe that knowledge is prerequisite for to navigate successfully in an industry where prices are falling and the challenges for a profitable business are increasingly difficult.
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