30 years of GSM: Mannesmann and Telekom celebrate anniversary at D.Net.

30 Jahre GSM: Mannesmann und Telekom feiern Jubiläum im D-Netz
Photo: Vodafone

The GSM, D or 2G network standard celebrates its 30th anniversary today and continues to form the basis for some of the core functions of the digital mobile network. The first two providers in Germany were Deutsche Telekom and Mannesmann Mobilfunk, later followed by E-Plus at E-Netz. Since then a lot has happened.

The background to the name is Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSM), which was founded in Europe in 1982, with the goal of creating a unified mobile digital radio system. The standard-based GSM and D-network have opened the door to mobile communications for the masses. Analog Network A in the 1950s and 1970s was for heads of state and the wealthy in particular, and in Network B from 1972 to 1994 there was a subscriber limit initially of 16,000 and later to 27,000. The contracts were passed like taxi licenses, Philip Cindera, head of corporate communications at Deutsche Telekom, recalls in a current podcast on GSM’s 30th anniversary. The last analog mobile network was the C-Netz 1G alias operated by German company DeTeMobil (formerly Deutsche Bundespost TELEKOM) from 1985 to 2000.

SMS came with D network.

With GSM and D-Netz, the mobile phone, only and only in German-speaking countries called cellular, reached the masses and subsequently made possible not only pure telephone communication but also SMS, whose position in today’s networks takes a messenger with a much greater range of functions. As Vodafone explains in today’s review, the first-ever text message from a computer was sent to a Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis in 1992. The message: “Happy Birthday.” In the record 2012, nearly 60 billion text messages were sent across all German networks.

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500 grams of mobile for 3000 German marks

Although D-Netz served as the door opener for the masses, cell phones and contracts were still very expensive. At Mannesmann Mobilfunk, customers had to pay a monthly base fee of DM 78 plus the minute rate of DM 1.44 during the day. And many of the “mobile phones” on offer at the time for 3000 DM were not really portable either. Weighing over 500g and running times of just 2 hours were the daily order. In 1997, Vodafone’s prepaid ‘CallYa’ offering made mobile communication accessible to a wider audience.

Cell phones over time
Mobile phones over time (Photo: Vodafone)

100 billion mark for 3G

Since then, a lot has changed on the web and in the number of users. 2G in July and August 2000 was followed by the legendary auction of UMTS licenses, which paid nearly 100 billion DM into the coffers of the then Finance Minister, Hans Eichel. The 3G network made mobile internet possible for the first time, although 2G was already capable of transmitting data, bringing multimedia features such as music and photos to the phone. A big advance in video followed a few years later with LTE (4G). In the summer of 2021, Telekom and Vodafone discontinued 3G networks and reallocated frequencies to new standards. At the end of 2021, O2 was discontinued.

Although criticism is not always justified, today’s mobile networks achieve significantly higher coverage than they did in the 1990s. In June 1992, Mannesmann Mobilfunk counted the first 100 cell phone stations, today there are 25,500, which reaches more than 99 percent of the population. At the end of 1998, Deutsche Telekom had about 5.5 million customers and 1,000 mobile sites; Today, there are 53.2 million mobile customers and more than 34,000 websites.

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GSM is still active

In the era of 5G and 6G research, GSM is not over yet, and phone calls and SMS messages continue to work over 2G, for example, if a modern mobile phone is not available. Emergency call systems such as the eCall car emergency call still use 2G.

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