LONDON — Britain’s first ever mobile phone call was made 30 years ago tomorrow, Jan. 1.
Michael Harrison, the son of Vodafone’s first chairmen Ernest, nipped out from a New Year’s Eve party to make the historic call, using the mother of all bricks: the Transportable Vodafone VT1.
“Hi Dad. It’s Mike,” he said. “This is the first-ever call made on a UK commercial mobile network.”
A few days later, a large crowd watched comedian Ernie Wise make the first public call. His conversation was equally as prosaic, as he chose to ring Vodafone’s headquarters.
The VT1 phone cost around £2,000 and weighed 5kg, and was the fully portable version of the more popular car phone, the VM1. Both were released in 1985.
Weighing in at 4.9kg, the “only mobile with 10 watts of RF power output” cost £1,475, around £4,000 in today’s money. The bulky base unit sat in the boot of a car and the phone was mounted on the dashboard or arm rest.
This more portable offering shaving .2 kg off the weight and could be used on the move. 10 hours of charging provided the caller with 30 minutes of call time.
2,000 phones had already been sold by the end of 1984, as the idea of making calls on the move fired the public’s imagination.
“The concept of being able to drive anywhere and make and receive calls wherever you were was just a revelation,” Vodafone’s first sales director Steve Phillips told Mashable. “However, we had no idea that it would transform everybody’s life.”
Phillips was head of a team of 12 salesmen tasked with selling 1,000 connections and phones between September and January 1985. He ended up shifting 2,000.
“We had no phones or network. We just had pictures,” he remembers. “We were selling to board members, CEOs, MDs and high net worth individuals, who were early adopters and considered low hanging fruit.”
There are now 83 million mobile phone subscriptions in the UK, according to Ofcom, with 93% of adults using one. Read more…