Global Mobile Communication is 20 years old

Twenty years ago tomorrow, an historic agreement was signed in Copenhagen by 15 telecommunications operators from 13 countries* that led to the development of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), and a mobile communications industry that today serves more than 2.5 billion people across 218 countries and territories.

The ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ agreement of 7th September 1987 laid the foundation for the first Europe-wide digital cellular system, which soon became the world’s first global mobile system as used by more than 700 mobile operators and served by thousands of suppliers today. The agreement also triggered a technology evolution path that continues today with the roll-out of more than 120 mobile broadband networks in 61 countries.

“The 1987 agreement is widely regarded as the foundation of today’s global mobile phone industry and the birth of one of the greatest technological achievements of our age,” said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, the global trade association for mobile operators. “The early vision of our industry created international cooperation on an unprecedented scale that has led to a socio-economic revolution benefiting people, businesses and countries throughout the world.”

“GSM is the single most important agreement in the history of telecommunications,” said Sir Christopher Gent, one of the original signatories of the agreement and former CEO of Vodafone and today Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline plc. “With 2.5 billion users around the world today, it has done more to bridge the digital divide than any other innovation, and is a tremendous example of global cooperation.”

Speaking on behalf of the largest mobile operator in the world today with 332 million users, Wang Jianzhou, Chief Executive Officer of China Mobile, said: “The unprecedented economies of scale achieved by GSM has made mobile telephony affordable for ordinary people and helped China Mobile provide coverage across our vast country, achieving major social and economic benefits. Moreover, GSM is a robust and capable platform on which we are building the mobile multimedia services of the future.”

Today, the GSM family of technologies makes up 85% of the global mobile services market, which accounts for about 1.6% of global GDP. Each year, mobile users purchase more than one billion new handsets, make more than 7 trillion minutes of calls and send about 2.5 trillion text messages.**

From basic mobile voice services, that have enabled people to connect to others for the first time in their lives, to the evolution of mobile multimedia, including internet access, information and entertainment services, the industry continues to innovate at a breathtaking pace. The arrival of mobile broadband, combined with the convergence of the mobile, entertainment, computing and financial service industries, is today forging new opportunities and services that will see the industry continue to evolve long into the future.

The GSMA, which also celebrates the 20th anniversary of its foundation through the agreement, plans to celebrate this historic landmark with a unique documentary film travelogue, the Mobile World, commissioned to explore the diversity of mobile use and innovation globally. A film crew is currently travelling across 20 countries of the world from South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda to China, Japan, India, South Korea, Europe and the US, to capture on film, the myriad of mobile services that are changing, enhancing and saving lives on a daily basis. The film is produced in partnership with TelecomTV and sponsored by Ericsson.

The Mobile World will be previewed for the first time at the GSMA’s forthcoming Mobile Asia Congress (Macau, 11-15 November 2007). More information about the film, including a short trailer, and twenty photographs depicting mobile use around the world can be found at:

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Notes to Editors
*The original ‘MoU’ agreement signed on 7th September 1987 by France, Italy, Germany, UK, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, and on the 10th September 1987 by Spain.

**Sources: Wireless Intelligence, GSMA, Gartner and Informa. The minutes of use figure includes inbound voice calls. More statistics are available on a separate fact sheet.

About the GSMA:
The GSMA is the global trade association representing more than 700 GSM mobile phone operators across 218 countries and territories of the world. In addition, more than 200 manufacturers and suppliers support the Association’s initiatives as key partners.

The primary goals of the GSMA are to ensure mobile phones and wireless services work globally and are easily accessible, enhancing their value to individual customers and national economies, while creating new business opportunities for operators and their suppliers. The Association’s members serve more than two billion customers – 82% of the world’s mobile phone users.

For more information about the GSMA please contact:
Mark Smith or David Pringle
Email: [email protected]