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Mobile wireless timelines

Find below mobile wireless timelines or mobile wireless history in brief. The information is not necessarily complete and/or accurate. I have planned to update this page regularly to reflect additional history points.

1941 ...      '78 ...      '88 ...      '95 ...      '98 ...      2000 ...      '02 ...      '04 ...      '07 ...

1877 - Heinrich Hertz (country) demonstrated that electric charge generates electromagtic waves which travel through air at the speed of light.
1896 - Guglielmo Marconi (country) came out with Wireless telegraph.
1898 - First commercial wireless telegram (where, by whom).
1901 - Marconi sent radio wave signal from Cornwell, England to (across atlantic) St. John's Newfoundland. Radio waves are at the lower end of EM waves (used radio frequencies start at 30kHz and goes till 30GHz - LF,MF,HF,VHF,UHF,SHF).
1906 - Reginald Fessenden (USA) transmitted human voice over radio using 100 kHz alternator (need more info).
1914 - Marconi transmitted (modulated) speech over 50 miles using the thermionic valve as a radio generator(need more info).
1920s - Police car radios and walkie-talkies in New York (need more info).
1941 - Hedy Lamarr (with George Antheil) (country) invented "spread spectrum". Spread spectrum deal with "spreading" a narrowband signal over wider band and recovering the same (basic concept used by US military later for anti-jam communications).
1946 - AT&T introduced First commercial car-borne telephony service in St.Louis, USA (single-cell). The service was approved by FCC (Federal Communications Commission).
1947 - AT&T introduced cellular concept for reusing frequencies.
1948 - Claude Shannon (USA) published a paper on "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" in The Bell System Technical Journal. The paper states well-known equation: Capacity = BW log2(1 + Signal/Noise ratio).
1956 - R. Price and P. E. Green patented (basic ideas of) RAKE receiver (#2982853). In simple words, RAKE receiver can identify common signals received from multiple components and join them to form original signal.
1970 - Under research project ALOHAnet (and leadership of Norman Abramson), University of Hawaii developed the world's first computer communications network using low-cost ham-like radios. 7 computers situated over 4 islands "wirelessly" connected to central computer on Oahu island. This turned out to be birth of Wireless LAN (WLAN).
1978 - AMPS (first generation wireless systems developed by Bell labs) trials were made in USA. AMPS stand for (Advanced Mobile Phone Service). AMPS operated in 800 MHz band and uses FDMA (to be confirmed).
1981 - NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephony) 1G wireless system introduced in Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Demark & Finland). It operated in 450 MHz band. NMT possibly the first wireless system spanning countries.
- Other 1G wireless systems developed in other countries were Radiocom 2000 in France, NETZ in Germany (need more info).
1982 - Confederation of European Posts and Telecommunications (CEPT) formed Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) to develop standard/common 2G systems that can be deployed in European countries.
1983 - AMPS deployed in USA
1985 - TACS (Total Access Communications System) deployed in England. TACS was similar to AMPS.
- Similar system (J-TACS) was deployed in Japan (to be confirmed).
- Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Klein Gilhousen and Dr. Andrew Viterbi (Qualcomm, USA founders) devised Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) techniques. Even before realisation of 2G systems, ITU started work on 3G systems under FPLMTS (Future Public Land Mobile Telecommunications Systems). FPLMTS was later changed to IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunication) in '97/'98. 2000 possibly indicating year 2000 or 2000 MHz band. ITU is International Telecommunication Union) (formerly T stood for Telegraph). When was ITU founded ?.
1986 - 900 MHz was agreed for GSM between European countries (need more info).
1987 - 13 countries signed Memorandum of Understanding for GSM deployment.
- GSM renamed to Global System for Mobile communications.
- Europe started RACE (Researc for Advanced Communications in Europe) project for 3G research.
1988 - ETSI (European Telecommunication Standardisation Institute) formed.
- First set of GSM specifications ready.
1989 - Decision made to add 1800 MHz band for GSM (known as DCS1800 or GSM1800).
- Qualcomm conducted first terrestrial demonstration. The results were better than GSM and other cellular technologies existing then.
1990 - IEEE 802.11 working group formed to define standards for WLANs.
1991 - First GSM call made by Radiolinja in Finland. Radiolinja, first officially opened GSM network !
- First GSM roaming call was made between Finnish Public Telephone and Vodafone, UK.
- Adaptation of GSM to DCS1800 complete.
1992 - First international roaming agreement signed between Finland PT and Vodafone, UK.
- GSM operations start in other European countries (need more info).
- Roughly 13 GSM networks in 7 countries.
- WARC-92 (World Administrative Radio Conference) meeting decided to use bands around 2GHz (1885-2025 and 2110-2200 MHz) for 3G/UMTS.
- TDMA based D-AMPS wireless system launched in USA, known as IS-136 or TDMA/136. TDMA/136 is also considered as 2G wireless system. TDMA/136 operate in 800 MHz to 2000MHz range.
1993 - DCs1800/GSM1800 started operations in UK.
- GSM network count by now is 32 networks in 18 countries.
- In USA, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) standardised CDMA work as IS-95, commercially known as cdmaOne. cdmaOne is also considered as 2G wirelss system. cdmaOne operate in similar bands as TDMA/136 i.e. 800 MHz to 2000MHz range.
- Another TDMA based 2G wireless system came into existence in Japan, known as Personal Digital Communications (PDC), operating in 800 to 1500 MHz band.
1994 - PDC commercially launched by NTT in Japan.
- GSM network count by now is 69 in 43 countries.
- GSM MoU membership count more than 100 operators.
1995 - Commercial cdmaOne operation started in USA, Korea, and Hong Kong. Korean companies Samsung and LG working on cdma got an opprtunity to become major players in global market due to early commencement on cdmaOne in Korea.
- GSM adapted to PCS1900 (1900 Mhz band).
- PCS1900 network launched in USA. Vice President Al Gore made first PCS1900/GSM call in USA (need to be confirmed).
- GSM MoU count goes to 156 from 86 countries.
- After RACE I, European countries continued to research upon 3G/UMTS radio access technologies under RACE II with projects like CODIT (Code Division Testbed), ATDMA (Advanced Time Division Multiple Access) from '92 to '95.
- Further ACTS (Advanced CommunicationTechnologies and Services) was launched. Under ACTS, FRAMES (Future Radio Wideband Multiple Access System) was set up to define radio access for 3G/UMTS.
1996 - GSM network count went to 167 networks in 94 countries.
- GSM MoU membership went to 200 operatores from 100 countries.
1997 - Triband handsets (supporting 3 of 800,900,1800,1900 bands) launched need more info).
- GSM enhanced for packet data with GPRS in ETSI GSM release 97.
- GPRS is considered as 2.5G wireless system.
- Other 2.5G wireless systems are IS-136+, cdmaOne B, GSM/HSCSD. HSCSD is circuit switched GSM system with multiple dedicated channels, providing higher, but in-efficient data rates. Similar techniques used in IS-136+, cdmaOne B.
- Various possible solutions for 3G radio access were presented to ETSI, 5 groups were formed to pursue radio access technologies - CDMA, WTDMA, TDMA/CDMA, OFDMA, and ODMA.
- ARIB (Association for Radio Industries and Businesses) in Japan selected WCDMA for 3G out of (WCDMA, WTDMA and OFDMA).
- 802.11 released, meant for data rate of 1 and 2 Mbps, 2.4 GHz (ISM) bands, Infrared signals using Frequency Hopping or Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum. ISM stand for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical band.
1998 - ETSI selected WCDMA for FDD and WTDMA/CDMA for TDD as radio access technology of 3G/UMTS.
- ETSI (Europe), ARIB (Japan), TTA (Telecommunications Technology Association, Korea), TTC (Japan), and T1P1 (USA) formed 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for joint effort in deciding and standardising 3G technology.
- More than 10 terrestrial radio access technologies were submitted to ITU by various regional standardisation organisations. This resulted in number of 3G standards !
- While search for 3G technology was in progress, GSM/GPRS was enhanced with higher order modulation (EDGE) schemes to provide data rates close to targeted 3G speeds !
- Qualcomm demonstrated high speed downlink rates of 2 Mbps based on cdma technology. This was later to be called cdma2000.
1999 - Nokia claimed to have made first WCDMA voice call from its test network in Finland using a WCDMA terminal, WCDMA base station subsystem and GSM Mobile switching centers connected to the PSTN.
- 802.11a amended 802.11; it uses for 5 GHz (UNII) band, 52-subcarrier OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) with maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. UNII stand for Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure band.
- 802.11b amended 802.11; it extends 802.11 to support upto 11 Mbps speed, operating in same 2.4 GHz ISM band. 802.11b is possibly first popular WLAN standard. It can achieve a data rate of 1 Mbps even at a distance of 100 ft (in an indoor scenario). WLAN typically cover a distance of 10 km2 (radius of ~1.5 km).
- IEEE 802.16 working group was established to prepare standard for broadband wireless metropolitan area networks (WirelessMAN). Aim was ro provide technology similar to WLAN, but in an outdoor scenario operating in LOS (line of sight) frequencies of 10-66 GHz range. WMAN supposed to cover a distance of 100 km2 (radius of ~5.5 km).
2000 - Commercial GPRS networks launched.
- Responsibilities related to 2G/3G standards transferred from ETSI to 3GPP.
- 3GPP Release 99 standards published containing 3G/UMTS specifications and EDGE/EGPRS enhancements to GSM/GPRS.
- TTA (Korea) published IS-156 standard, commercially known as cdma2000 1x EV-DO Rev A giving DL speeds of 3 Mbps.
- 3GPP2 formed to continue 3G work on cdma2000 based systems and also published cdma2000 based standards (timeline to be confirmed).
- WARC-2000 identifies additional bands for 3G: earlier 2G bands - 800/900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and new 3G 2.5GHz bands.
- SK Telecom of South Korea launched first commercial cdma2000 network. (need to be confirmed).
2001 - 3GPP Rel 4 ready (R99 also called R3,likewise 96-R1,97-R2).
- Focus shifted from release based compliance to feature phase based compliance).
- Ericsson/Vodafone made 1st WCDMA voice call over commercial network.
- NTT DoCoMo launched 1st commercial WCDMA network.
- IEEE 802.16 WG approved first set of 802.16 standard.
- An industry body was formed which named this technology WiMAX (Worldwide interoperatability for Microwave Access) and named itself WiMAX Forum.
2002 - Dual mode phones (GSM/GPRS/EDGE + UMTS) introduced.
- 3GPP Rel 5 (HSDPA,IMS) ready.
- SK Telecom in Korea launched first commercial cdma2000 1xEV-DO.
- IEEE 802.16 WG published 802.16 standard - 802.16-2001. Operating in 10-66 GHz band, 802.16 radio access technology supported data rates upto 268 Mbps. 802.16 standards provided specification for radio access part only (unlike 3gpp which specify overall radio access , core network architecture and their interfaces along with conformance scenarios). Remaining job for WiMAX was done by WiMAX Forum: it provided network or interoperatablity architecture and conformance standards. Note that WiMAX Forum and IEEE are independent bodies.
- Another 802.16 task group was formed to amend (enhance) 802.16 for support of "better mobility" (similar to cellular mobility). This task group came out with an amendment in 2005, commericially known as "Mobile WiMAX".
2003 - Cingular announces 1st commercial EDGE network.
- 802.11g amendment published. It uses OFDM and support a data rate of upto 54 Mbps. It is compatible to 802.11b, operate in same 2.4GHz ISM band and became very popular even before the standard was published !. Various other amendments came for 802.11 (till 802.11z in 2010), refer IEEE 802 site for more details on current and future amendments.
- 802.16 was amended with 802.16a to support Non-LOS (NLOS) frequencies 2-11 GHz.
2004 - 3GPP Rel 6 (HSUPA) ready.
- LTE standardisation inaugurated in Toronto (Nov).
- Next version of 802.16 was published as 802.16-2004 (after being amended as 802.16d). It included amendments a/b/c. With the addition of 3 new PHY specifications (Single Carrier PHY, 256 point FFT OFDM PHY, and 2048 point FFT OFDM PHY) and MAC layer, 802.16-2004 covered 2-66 GHz range. Targeted data rates of 802.16-2004 was 100 Mbps. 802.16-2004 supported Adaptive Antenna System (MIMO), Adaptive Modulation. In addition to Point-to-MultiPoint networking, it it also specfies Mesh networking. Commercial name for 802.16-2004 is "Fixed WiMAX" (as there was least support for mobility).
2005 - 3GPP Rel 7 (HSPA+,MultiMedia Telephony) ready.
2006 - Approved in 2005, 802.16e-2005 amendment to 802.16-2004 was published. This amendment introduced new PHY known as Scalable OFDMA (in which by keeping subcarrier separation constant, it is possible to scale the system based on number of subcarriers), handover mechnisms, power management techniques. Supported data rates were in the range of 1-10 Mbps. This radio technology is commercially known as "Mobile WiMAX".
2007 - WRC-07 identifies additional 3 bands between 450 MHz till 2.4 GHz and another one in 3.5 GHz. This might be of concern as mobile devices then be required to support wide range of frequencies for it to be useful world wide ! Most popular 3G band is 2 GHz.
2008 - 3GPP Rel 8 (LTE, SAE) ready.
2009 - 3GPP Rel 9 ready.
2011 - 3GPP Rel 10 (LTE advanced) to be ready.

References: UMTS by Sanchez and Thioune, UMTS history from, GSM history at emory,edu, GSM history from, Early GSM functionalities, 3GPP release descriptions/features, WCDMA for UMTS by Holma and Toskala, 3G tutorial from NMS communications,, WiMAX Handbook (edited) by Ahson and Ilyas, Wiki page on 802.11, IEEE 802 page.

Copyright © Samir Amberkar 2010-11§ §