14 Oct Happy 25th birthday, Mr. Cell Phone
Washington, D.C. – CTIA – The Wireless Association, is commemorating a major industry and technology milestone this month – the 25th anniversary of the first commercial cellular call in the United States.
Today, there are now more than 262 million wireless subscribers in the United States – 83 percent of the total U.S. population – and 3.3 billion active cell phones worldwide, making it one of the fastest global dispersions of any technology in history.
The first commercial cellular call was placed on October 13, 1983 to the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell in Germany from the president of Ameritech Mobile Communications at a ceremony held outside of Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. This transatlantic conversation launched the nation’s first citywide commercial cellular system. Weighing nearly two pounds and 13 inches long, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X used on that historic day had only 30 minutes of talk time, a far cry from the sleek, thin multi-purpose wireless handsets of today.
Ubiquitous throughout the world, the cell phones of 2008 are used for much more than just voice communication, as these versatile and powerful all-purpose mobile computers are invaluable tools used every day in Americans’ personal and professional lives. Mobile devices provide access to business and entertainment data, allowing users to email, text message, internet browse, take pictures and video, listen to music, play games, find directions, and much more. Consumers’ preference of phone model and design has even become a personal statement about their status and social identity.
“Wireless technology is the printing press of the 21st century,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA – The Wireless Association. “What started as a simple call has transformed into a cultural phenomena of instant communication and broader and equal access to the world at our fingertips. From the `brick’ phone of the 80’s, to today’s 3G broadband world, wireless has evolved from mere voice communication to a new era of data transmission and democratizing communications that are transforming our commerce and culture along the way.”
Cell phone technology has come a long way in 25 years. By the end of 2007, one in six households (16 percent) was wireless-only. Even with a landline telephone in the home, 13 percent of households received all or almost all calls on their wireless phones last year. Today, cell phone usage continues to skyrocket on multiple fronts, according to CTIA:
- Plenty of Time to Chat: In the first six months of 2008 (Jan. 1 – June 30) U.S. consumers talked on average a total of 187 billion minutes each month. That is more than 6 billion minutes each day, and amounts to nearly 13 hours (766 minutes) per customer each month.
- Text is the New Talk: More than 384 billion text messages were reported by carriers this year between Jan. 1 – June 30, versus 295 billion voice calls. That is 22 billion more text messages than for all of 2007. Text messaging is doubling every year.
- Subscriptions Soaring: The wireless industry saw almost 20 million new subscribers in just the last 12-month period (July 2007 – June 2008). There are 2,869 times more subscribers today than in January 1985.
- Monthly Bill Decreasing: Consumers are benefiting from an ultra-competitive market. During the last 21 years, the average wireless subscriber’s local monthly bill has decreased by 50 percent, dropping from nearly $100 per month in 1987 to less than $49 in June 2008. Beyond voice communication, consumers’ plans today also include text and photo messages, web browsing and access to video games and music for one low monthly rate.
- Robust Marketplace: Today, more than 150 wireless companies offer wireless service in the U.S. Wireless service revenues reached $138.9 billion at the end of 2007.
The next 25 years
In the short 25 years since its cellular service was launched in the United States, broadband wireless has become increasingly essential and in many cases, an indispensable communications avenue. It continues to transform lives one community and one customer at a time, much like the first commercial cell phone call placed at Soldier Field 25 years ago. American communities of all sizes, from rural settings such as Wilson County, Texas and its new, high-speed wireless broadband service, to densely populated urban areas, are enjoying the vast benefits provided by wireless communication. In fact, more than 64 million Americans are using devices deploying high speed 3G (Third Generation) technology.
“Wireless technology is providing unparalleled and affordable communication benefits and services for Americans in all walks of life,” added Largent. “Consumer demand for innovative and dynamic services continues to grow, and the wireless industry is constantly evolving to satisfy that growing appetite.”
Today’s teens – the first generation born into a wireless society – will largely drive the next wave of innovation of the cell phone. According to the CTIA- Harris Interactive “Teenagers: A Generation Unplugged” online survey released in September 2008, teens envision future wireless devices that better fit their lifestyle. Teens also have set high goals for the mobile industry and are looking to mobility to fundamentally reshape the future. Among their preferences, they want phones to guarantee secured data access to the user only (80 percent), provide accessibility to personal health records (66 percent), present opportunities to be educated anywhere in the world (66 percent) and bring users closer to global issues impacting their world (63 percent).
“Mobile devices in the future will be more flexible and have more sophisticated features, the interaction between the device and the user will be even more personal and interactive, and ultra-fast mobile data service will pave the way for even more fantastic and useful applications,” commented Largent. “Without a doubt, we’ll have plenty of new achievements to celebrate in 2033 on the 50th anniversary of the first commercial cell phone call.”