Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

What Is a Cell Phone, Who Invented It?

What Is a Cell Phone, Who Invented It?

Cellular telephone is a type of short-wave analog or digital telecommunication in which a subscriber has a wireless connection from a mobile telephone to a relatively nearby transmitter. The transmitter’s span of coverage is called a cell. As the cellular telephone user moves from one cell or area of coverage to another, the telephone is effectively passed on to the local cell transmitter. Cell phones can now be used to transmit SMS messages, e-mails, and hear enchanting music.

A handheld mobile radio telephone service was envisioned in the early stages of radio engineering. In 1917, Finnish inventor Eric Tigerstedt filed a patent for a “pocket-size folding telephone with a very thin carbon microphone”. Early predecessors of cellular phones included analog radio communications from ships and trains. The race to create truly portable telephone devices began after World War II, with developments taking place in many countries.

Dr. John F. Mitchelland Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, is considered the inventor of the first modern portable handset. Cooper made the first call on a portable cell phone in April 1973. He made the call to his rival, Joel Engel, Bell Labs head of research. Bell laboratories introduced the idea of cellular communications in 1947 with the police car technology.

However, Motorola was the first to incorporate the technology into a portable device that was designed for using outside an automobile. By 1977, AT&T and Bell Labs had constructed a prototype cellular system. A year later, public trials of the new system were started in Chicago, with over 2000 trial customers.

The advances in mobile telephony have been traced in successive “generations”, starting with the early “0G” (zeroth generation) services, such as Bell System’s Mobile Telephone Service and its successor, the Improved Mobile Telephone Service. These “0G” systems were not cellular, supported few simultaneous calls, and were very expensive.

The first commercial automated cellular network was launched in Japan by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in 1979. This was followed in 1981 by the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Several other countries then followed in the early to mid-1980s. These first-generation (1G) systems could support far more simultaneous calls, but still used analog technology.

In 1991, the second-generation (2G) digital cellular technology was launched in Finland by Radiolinja on the GSM standard. This sparked competition in the sector as the new operators challenged the incumbent 1G network operators.

Ten years later, in 2001, the third generation (3G) was launched in Japan by NTT DoCoMo on the WCDMA standard. This was followed by 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G enhancements based on the high-speed packet access (HSPA) family, allowing UMTS networks to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.

By 2009, it had become clear that, at some point, 3G networks would be overwhelmed by the growth of bandwidth-intensive applications, such as streaming media. Consequently, the industry began looking to data-optimized fourth-generation technologies, with the promise of speed improvements up to ten-fold over existing 3G technologies. The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard, offered in North America by Sprint, and the LTE standard, first offered in Scandinavia by TeliaSonera.

Content for this question contributed by Ian Winn, resident of Pacific Palisades, city of Los Angeles County, California, USA