Digital Archives Project
The goal of the WHF Digital Archives project is to collect, preserve, and provide access to documents and records that chronicle the development of the wireless industry. Archival records are the products of everyday activity of individuals, companies, and other institutions or organizations. If you have materials that capture the story of wireless, please consider contributing them to this effort. For additional information, visit our Digital Archives Project page.
Wireless History Timeline
The wireless industry is built on the cumulative contributions of men and women who have seen the possibilities and shared the excitement of mobility. For a brief history of the wireless industry, click through the timeline intervals below.
Were you involved in an important event in wireless history? WHF encourages you to preserve your individual wireless story.
In October, the Inaugural Wireless Hall of Fame dinner is held in San Francisco to induct new members and recognize previous inductees for their substantial contributions to the wireless industry.
In June, President Barack Obama signs a memorandum committing to freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for the wireless industry.
FCC proposes National Broadband Plan, recommending 500MHz of spectrum be allocated for commercial use by 2020.
After the devastating January earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a record-breaking $35 million is donated via text message.
First 4G handset is introduced at International CTIA WIRELESS show.
One billionth Wi-Fi chipset is sold.
Palm Software Store (January), BlackBerry App World (April), Nokia Ovi Store (May), Palm App Catalog (June) and Windows Mobile Marketplace (July) app stores open.
Wireless subscribers use more than 6.2 billion minutes per day and send and receive more than 5 billion SMS messages per day.
There are more than 285.6 million U.S. wireless subscriber connections which is approximately 91% of the total U.S. population.
October 13 marks the 25th anniversary of commercial wireless communications and the launch of the Wireless History Foundation.
iTunes Application Store (July) and Android Market (October) open.
There are more than 270 million wireless subscribers who use more than 2.2 trillion minutes; more than 1 trillion SMS messages are sent and received in the U.S.
iPhone launches, spurring dramatic handset innovation.
Google announces on October 9 that it has bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.
Aircell successfully bids $31.3 million for FCC air-to-ground broadband frequency license.
Wi-Fi chipset shipments top 100M annually.
Subscribers use more than 1.5 trillion voice minutes and send and receive more than 81 billion SMS messages.
Subscribership reaches nearly 208 million, which is approximately 69% of the total U.S. population.
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 enables Digital TV Transition and directs auctioning of 700 MHz of spectrum licenses. Auction concludes March, 2006, raising almost $19 billion for the U.S. Treasury.
Spurred by the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the wireless industry, together with the American Red Cross, develops the national Text 2Help Initiative, which allows customers to donate $5 via text message in the event of a major disaster.
Congress enacts the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, creating the Spectrum Relocation Fund to recover the costs associated with relocating radio communication systems from certain bands.
The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association™ changes its name to CTIA-The Wireless Association®.
With the Secondary Markets Order, the FCC creates a “secondary market” which permits licensees to lease any amount of their spectrum.
Camera phones are first introduced in the U.S. market.
November 8, FCC votes to raise CMRS spectrum limits for individual carriers from 45 MHz to 55 MHz, and subsequently eliminate cap in January 2003.
The average wireless consumer uses his or her phone for 320 minutes per month.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association™ merges with the Wireless Data Forum to become the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association™.
Digital wireless users outnumber analog subscribers.
Wireless subscribership in America exceeds 100 million, totaling approximately 38% of the U.S. population.
With the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999, Congress designates 911 as the universal emergency number of wireline and wireless service and promotes the use of technologies that help public safety service providers locate wireless 911 callers.
Wi-Fi® brand adopted for technology based upon IEEE 802.11 specifications for wireless local area networking.
Wi-Fi Alliance® founded by six companies: 3Com, Aironet, Intersil, Lucent Technologies, Nokia and Symbol Technologies.
The first “bucket” of minutes plan is offered.
Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba announce they will join to develop Bluetooth for wireless data exchange between handheld computers or cellular phones and stationary computers
Balanced Budget Act of 1997 calls for auctioning additional commercial spectrum by Sept, 2002. Advanced Wireless services (AWS-1) auction concludes Sept. 18, 2006, raising nearly $14 billion for U.S. Treasury.
The wireless industry unveils its “Safety – Your Most Important Call” to help educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
Original version of the standard IEEE 802.11 for wireless local area networking is released.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 becomes law, in part designed to open other communications markets to competition.
Sprint Spectrum launches the first PCS system in the United States in Washington, D.C.
There are more than 33.8 million wireless subscribers, representing approximately 13% of the total U.S. population.
FCC begins licensing Personal Communication Services (PCS) spectrum (1.7 to 2.3 GHz). The license auction raises $7.7 billion for the U.S. Treasury.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) established for reliable transmission over the Internet in conjunction with the Transport Control Protocol (TCP)
The first smart phone (IBM’s Simon) is released to the public and offers consumers a calendar, address book, calculator, email, faxing services and games.
Congress adopts Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which establishes national framework for wireless regulation and authorizes FCC to auction spectrum for the first time.
One-millionth host connected to the Internet, with the size now approximately doubling every year.
World’s first commercial text message is sent by employees of Logica CMG.
The number of cellular users passes the 10 million milestone.
CTIA begins the Certification Seal program for cellular equipment.
The industry Fraud Task Force is launched.
Fleet Call, announces plans to build digital market-wide systems, functionally equivalent to cellular but on adjacent frequencies formerly reserved for private radio systems, in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, LA, New York and San Francisco and asks the FCC for rule waivers.
Cellular subscribership surpasses 5 million.
The Motorola MicroTAC is introduced, the smallest and lightest phone available at the time, weighing 12.3 ounces.
The "technology wars" among competing digital cellular standards begin.
FCC’s Auxiliary Cellular Services Order adopts technical flexibility rules for cellular radio without mandating specific standards, which promotes the introduction of advanced cellular technologies by the industry.
One millionth cellular subscriber is added in October.
In May, the FCC accepts 37,650 applications for markets 241 – 305. At some point during this year, the shelves in the FCC filing room allegedly collapse due to the weight of the 100,000 applications in storage.
In April, the FCC receives 8,471 applications for markets 166-180, and 25,018 for markets 181-240
In March, the FCC receives 6,367 applications for markets 151 – 165
In February, the FCC receives 8,007 applications for markets 121-135 and 7,436 applications for markets 136-150
At year's end, there are 340,213 cell phone subscribers.
The FCC releases the ISM band for unlicensed use, paving the way for wireless local area networking.
The divestiture of AT&T is finalized, with cellular operations going to the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies. AT&T National AMPS company is divided among the RBOCS.
In July, the FCC is inundated with 5,182 applications for markets 91-120, after having received only 1,110 applications for the 90 largest markets in the country
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is founded in May.
In February 1984, cellular service launches in Indianapolis as the third U.S. market with coverage.
On October 13, the first commercial cellular system begins operating in Chicago. In December 1983, the second system is activated in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. corridor.
In March, the FCC accepts 567 applications for markets 61-90. The FCC states this is too many applications to handle effectively by comparative hearings, and in October issues a rulemaking seeking authority to award licenses by lottery.
Motorola introduces the DynaTAC mobile telephone unit, the first truly “mobile” radiotelephone. The phone, dubbed the “brick,” had one hour of talk time and eight hours of standby.
In January, TCP/IP is selected as the official protocol for the ARPANET
In November, the FCC accepts 353 applications for markets 31 -60
In June, the FCC accepts 190 applications for the 30 largest market in the United States. Only three applications were received for Boston, the smallest number for the major markets
AT&T settles its antitrust lawsuit with the U.S. Government, agreeing to divest itself of local phone service and its cellular licenses.
FCC issues Cellular Communications Systems Order, determining the cellular industry should have two carriers per market and creates cellular “A” and “B” licenses for each area of the country.
FCC authorizes developmental cellular systems launch in Chicago and the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region.
The FCC revises it cellular allocation from 75 MHz to 40 MHz, restricts eligibility to wireline carriers, and adopts a one system per market policy because of its belief that technical complexity and expense would make competing systems in a market unviable. The FCC also decides to license developmental systems.
The FCC modifies its 1970 decision to allow non-wireline carriers (non-telephone companies) as well as wireline (telephone) carriers to access the 75 MHz allocated for common carrier radio cellular systems.
The FCC allocates 75 MHz for common carrier cellular systems out of the UHF spectrum
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opens Docket 18262 to set aside sufficient spectrum to meet the demand for land mobile communications. Congestion on the frequencies then available was approaching unacceptable levels, with a waiting period of several years in some markets to get a mobile phone.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – US (DARPA) selects BBN to develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), precursor of the modern Internet
INTELSAT launches the Early Bird geostationary satellite.
AT&T’s Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) eliminates the need for push-to-talk operation and offers automatic dialing
The International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (INTELSAT) is established.
The first communication satellite, Telstar, is launched into orbit.
Claude Shannon publishes two benchmark papers on Information Theory, containing the basis for data compression (source encoding) and error detection and correction (channel encoding).
Engineers at Bell Labs develop the concept of cellular technology.
The transistor is invented by scientists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley who later share the Nobel Prize. The transistor replaces vacuum tubes, serving as the foundation for the development of modern electronics and makes possible the marriage of computers and communications.
The first commercial mobile radiotelephone service is introduced in St. Louis
First commercial radiotelephone service operated between Britain and the US