The mobile phone turns 30 in Australia

The mobile phone turns 30 in Australia

It is 30 years to the day since the first mobile phone call was made in Australia.

On August 9 1981, the first mobile phone call was made in Australia on Telecom's '007' public mobile network. 

The call was made on a $5000 car phone system that weighed in at 14 kilograms with a headset that measured 45cm; a far cry from today's pocket-sized smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II. It was capable of storing 16 numbers and alerted owners of incoming calls with a honking horn or flashing headlights.

It was a defining moment in Australia's history that went on to change the way we work, live and play. 

A vintage mobile phone ad from the early 1980s.

Initially limited to greater Melbourne, the mobile network launched in Sydney in December 1981, followed by Brisbane in 1983. The rest of Australia's capital cities had to wait until 1985. Approximately 1300 customers in Sydney and Melbourne used the mobile network in its first year.

Naturally, the first batch of mobile phones were limited to making phone calls and network coverage was just three base stations in Melbourne and five in Sydney - today there are more than 7,400 mobile network base stations across Australia.

“Back in 1981 I never imagined there would be more mobile devices in Australia than people,” said Telstra’s Executive Director of Networks and Access Technologies, Mike Wright, who helped to install  the first mobile network exchange in Brisbane.

“...[The 007 Network] was the foundation of Australia’s modern mobile phone industry. In just 30 years we’re now building a 4G network, that’s five generations of mobile evolution so far in my career.”

To commemorate this 30 year milestone, Telstra has released some consumer survey findings that show how Australians use their mobiles to connect. It found:               

  • 50 per cent of Australians feel panic stricken within five minutes when they think they lost their mobile phone; 25 per cent panic after less than a minute.
  • Nearly one third of Gen Y checks their mobile phones in the mornings before they use the bathroom, have breakfast, or go online.
  • Nearly half of Australians rank mobile phones as the innovation they value the most, more than the desktop computer, laptop or oven microwave.

Do you remember your first mobile phone? Which model was it, and what sort of features did it have? Let us know in the comments section below.

Further reading:

Top 10 retro tech advertisements of all time

Vintage Tech: Looking back at the Palm Pilot

In Pictures: vintage tech for eccentric millionaires

Photos: here's what an NBN-install might look like in your street

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