Orbitel 901 GSM handset

Calling the changes: 20 years of the GSM handset

Approval for the first GSM mobile handset was given 20 years ago tomorrow, a major step in bringing to market the technology that went on to revolutionise personal communications.

On Tuesday 26 May 1992 the Orbitel 901 received Interim Type Approval (ITA)  to connect to nascent GSM networks. The device was from a manufacturer at that time co-owned by Vodafone and Ericsson.

The approval sparked controversy when Motorola – which received ITA for its GSM products over a week later on 3 June – alleged that the Orbitel did not complete all the tests defined by GSM network operators, or against a procedure ratified by the European Commission (EC).

“This was all at a time when some GSM networks had been built, but beyond test devices, no GSM customer equipment was available to customers that could compete with the patchwork quilt of incompatible Analogue mobile networks at the time,” says IET president Mike Short, in his latest blog posting marking the GSM anniversary. “It was also a period of instability as some of the test equipment did not work consistently, the testing procedures were not fully accepted across Europe - and roaming had not even started.”

Further glories fell to the Oritel 901 later in the year when in December it took receipt of the first commercial SMS text message sent over the Vodafone GSM network by Neil Papworth of Sema Group from his office PC to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone, recalls gsmhistory.com.

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