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History of Mobile Cellular Communication

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Cellular mobile phones are often regarded as a fairly recent innovation, however, they have been freely available in the UK for 30 years.

The first type of mobile phone was large and cumbersome and similar in size to a large briefcase. These phones were analogue based and in the early days not overly reliable, due to the two existing network operators needing to install an effective infrastructure of network coverage quickly.

With the launch of the second generation (2G), consumer popularity rose steadily. Mobile phones became smaller and easier to handle. Network coverage improved greatly and it became more reliable.

During the period between December 1999 to December 2000 a total of 46,000 new users a day joined the UK mobile phone network. 5.1 million phones were bought in the UK during the 2000 Christmas period.

Number of Mobile Connections
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Mobile Phone Usage

In its report, 'The Communications Market Report 2015' Ofcom provides the following information.

There are 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK, and 61 percent of UK adults use their mobile phones for internet access.

At the end of 2014 15% of adults live in a home that has a mobile phone but no landline. 

Smartphone ownership rose to 66% in Q1 2015.

Tablet ownership rose to 54% of UK households and 28% of individuals own an e-reader.

The number of SMS and MMS messages sent 2014 was 110 billion, a fall of 20 billion as a result of increasing smartphone take up and access to alternative communication methods such as email, instant messaging and social networking sites.


There are approximately 52,500 base station sites in the UK.

UK Economy and GDP Associated with The Mobile Phone Industry

The continual increase in demand for mobile communications has contributed significantly to the welfare of the UK economy. In 2003 the number of employees dependent on the mobile phone sector rose to around 197,000. The industry contributes £15 billion a year to government finances*.

1993/4 £1.3 billion
1997/8 £4.6 billion
1998/9 £5.2 billion
2003 £22.0 billion*

The UK is one of the most advanced telecommunications markets in Europe and provides the lowest prices for mobile phone usage. With the speed of new technology within the telecoms industry, the swift introduction of the new third generation (3G) over the next few years will be key to maintaining the UK's competitive edge.

* O2 May 2004 report: "The Contribution of Mobile Phones to the UK Economy"


89.9 Million Mobile Subscriptions

Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61% of UK adults used their mobile phone for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households. Operators are working with Ofcom to extend the benefits of mobile communications as widely as possible; 99.7% of UK premises (homes and businesses) had outdoor 2G coverage from at least one operator; 3G coverage is slightly lower at 99.3% and 4G has reached 89.5%.

Smartphone ownership 

Two thirds of all adults (66%) now own a smartphone, this is on a par with laptop ownership. The proportion of adults that accessed the internet on a mobile handset increased to 61%. Over half of households (54%) had a tablet computer. Twenty eight percent of individuals now own an e-reader.