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.
 
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2010

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.

2010

In June, President Barack Obama signs a memorandum committing to freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for the wireless industry.

2010

FCC proposes National Broadband Plan, recommending 500MHz of spectrum be allocated for commercial use by 2020.

2010

After the devastating January earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a record-breaking $35 million is donated via text message.

2010

First 4G handset is introduced at International CTIA WIRELESS show.

2009

One billionth Wi-Fi chipset is sold.

2009

Palm Software Store (January), BlackBerry App World (April), Nokia Ovi Store (May), Palm App Catalog (June) and Windows Mobile Marketplace (July) app stores open.

2009

Wireless subscribers use more than 6.2 billion minutes per day and send and receive more than 5 billion SMS messages per day.

2009

There are more than 285.6 million U.S. wireless subscriber connections which is approximately 91% of the total U.S. population.

2008

October 13 marks the 25th anniversary of commercial wireless communications and the launch of the Wireless History Foundation.

2008

iTunes Application Store (July) and Android Market (October) open.

2008

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.

2007

iPhone launches, spurring dramatic handset innovation.

2006

Google announces on October 9 that it has bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

2006

Aircell successfully bids $31.3 million for FCC air-to-ground broadband frequency license.

2005

Wi-Fi chipset shipments top 100M annually.

2005

Subscribers use more than 1.5 trillion voice minutes and send and receive more than 81 billion SMS messages.

2005

Subscribership reaches nearly 208 million, which is approximately 69% of the total U.S. population.

2005

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.

2005

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.

2004

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.

2004

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association™ changes its name to CTIA-The Wireless Association®.

2003

With the Secondary Markets Order, the FCC creates a “secondary market” which permits licensees to lease any amount of their spectrum.

2002

Camera phones are first introduced in the U.S. market.

2001

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.

2001

The average wireless consumer uses his or her phone for 320 minutes per month.

2000

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association™ merges with the Wireless Data Forum to become the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association™.

2000

Digital wireless users outnumber analog subscribers.

2000

Wireless subscribership in America exceeds 100 million, totaling approximately 38% of the U.S. population.

1999

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.

1999

Wi-Fi® brand adopted for technology based upon IEEE 802.11 specifications for wireless local area networking.

1999

Wi-Fi Alliance® founded by six companies: 3Com, Aironet, Intersil, Lucent Technologies, Nokia and Symbol Technologies.

1998

The first “bucket” of minutes plan is offered.

1998

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

1997

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.

1997

The wireless industry unveils its “Safety – Your Most Important Call” to help educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

1997

Original version of the standard IEEE 802.11 for wireless local area networking is released.

1996

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 becomes law, in part designed to open other communications markets to competition.

1995

Sprint Spectrum launches the first PCS system in the United States in Washington, D.C.

1995

There are more than 33.8 million wireless subscribers, representing approximately 13% of the total U.S. population.

1994

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.

1993

Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) established for reliable transmission over the Internet in conjunction with the Transport Control Protocol (TCP)

1993

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.

1993

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.

1992

One-millionth host connected to the Internet, with the size now approximately doubling every year.

1992

World’s first commercial text message is sent by employees of Logica CMG.

1992

The number of cellular users passes the 10 million milestone.

1991

CTIA begins the Certification Seal program for cellular equipment.

1991

The industry Fraud Task Force is launched.

1990

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.

1990

Cellular subscribership surpasses 5 million.

1989

The Motorola MicroTAC is introduced, the smallest and lightest phone available at the time, weighing 12.3 ounces.

1989

The "technology wars" among competing digital cellular standards begin.

1988

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.

1987

One millionth cellular subscriber is added in October.

1986

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.

1986

In April, the FCC receives 8,471 applications for markets 166-180, and 25,018 for markets 181-240

1986

In March, the FCC receives 6,367 applications for markets 151 – 165

1986

In February, the FCC receives 8,007 applications for markets 121-135 and 7,436 applications for markets 136-150

1985

At year's end, there are 340,213 cell phone subscribers.

1985

The FCC releases the ISM band for unlicensed use, paving the way for wireless local area networking.

1984

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.

1984

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

1984

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is founded in May.

1984

In February 1984, cellular service launches in Indianapolis as the third U.S. market with coverage. 

1983

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.

1983

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.

1983

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.

1983

In January, TCP/IP is selected as the official protocol for the ARPANET

1982

In November, the FCC accepts 353 applications for markets 31 -60

1982

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

1982

AT&T settles its antitrust lawsuit with the U.S. Government, agreeing to divest itself of local phone service and its cellular licenses.

1981

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.

1977

FCC authorizes developmental cellular systems launch in Chicago and the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region.

1974

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.

1971

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.

1970

The FCC allocates 75 MHz for common carrier cellular systems out of the UHF spectrum

1968

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.  

1968

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – US (DARPA) selects BBN to develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), precursor of the modern Internet

1965

INTELSAT launches the Early Bird geostationary satellite.

1964

AT&T’s Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) eliminates the need for push-to-talk operation and offers automatic dialing 

1964

The International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (INTELSAT) is established. 

1962

The first communication satellite, Telstar, is launched into orbit.

1950

TD-2, the first terrestrial microwave telecommunication system, is installed to support 2400 telephone circuits.

1948

Claude Shannon publishes two benchmark papers on Information Theory, containing the basis for data compression (source encoding) and error detection and correction (channel encoding).

1947

Engineers at Bell Labs develop the concept of cellular technology.

1947

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.

1946

 

The first commercial mobile radiotelephone service is introduced in St. Louis

 

1927

 
First commercial radiotelephone service operated between Britain and the US

1896

Guglielmo Marconi develops the first wireless telegraph system