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Ship to Phone Communications 1949

The webpage of g1jwg at


"The first UK public mobile radiotelephone service was instigated in February 1949 on an experimental basis and then opened for full service in July 1949 and provided connection to the UK telephone system for ships in the Thames estuary

It had 6 channels 157/161.5Mhz 157.1/161.5Mhz 157.2/161.6Mhz 157.3/161.7Mhz 157.4/161.8Mhz 157.5/161.9Mhz and it was an AM system."

It looks like the Duke of Edinburgh had a radio telephone in 1953 sometime

83. The Duke had an early version of a mobile telephone, made by Pye Telecommunications of Cambridge, fitted to his car in 1953. He installed an improved version provided by the AA (of which he was President at the time).


But it didn't appear on his suppliers list till 1957


I wonder if he was impressed by this 1959 GPO demo when he had already had one in his car for 7 years !


Ohh - to answer my own question, the BBC got the date wrong !

The BT archive says 1955 dollis hill demo not 1959 !

Dollis hill

Experimental Radiophone service in South Lancashire:—

Calls in Service area 2s. 6d. for 3 minutes

From 1st September, 1960: 1s. 3d. for 3 minutes

Calls to or from places outside Service area

Trunk charge plus radio fee of 2s. for 3 minutes

From 1st September, 1960: Trunk charge plus radio fee of 1s. for 3 minutes


Experimental Radiophone Service

HC Deb 06 July 1960 vol 626 c446 446

36. Mr. Mason asked the Postmaster-General how many vehicles have been fitted with a telephone instrument; if he is satisfied with the progress of this service; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Pike I think the hon. Member has in mind the experimental radiophone service in South Lancashire. Fifty-four vehicles are now fitted with these telephones. The service is growing, but not as rapidly as I should like. Nor is it as yet economic. As to our future plans, I would refer the hon. Member to the detailed information which the Postmaster-General is circulating in today's OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Mason Is not the hon. Lady aware that it is not growing because it is not a satisfactory service? Is she not aware that a customer has to pay £200 for a set, it costs £30 in licence fees, and 10d. per minute to use, and that there is no privacy, no secrecy in using this telephone instrument? It is commonplace to listen in on cotton deals, sales of machinery, and private and intimate personal conversations. If the hon. Lady does not do something about ensuring secrecy on these telephone instruments, then telephone tapping in this service may even become a business.

Miss Pike This new service is having teething troubles, but my right hon. Friend is looking at it carefully.

Car Radiophone Service, London

HC Deb 31 July 1963 vol 682 c111W111W

Mr. Mason asked the Postmaster-General what moneys he intends spending on the radio base stations for a car radio phone service in London; what demand has been made for such a service; whether he has received any encouragement from the service he established in the Manchester area; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Bevins I expect the base stations for the London car radiophone service to cost about £20,000 and the number of installations to be about 3,000 when the service is fully developed. Demand for the South Lancashire service has been disappointing but my estimate of demand for the London service has been based on inquiries of potential customers, and I am satisfied that it is a reasonable one.

From a telephone Directory

Put your car on the phone
1973 mobile phone prices

paraphrase from "The mobile phone book" by Ericsson isbn 0952403102 1994

....The next step was to settle the matter of standards, a decision had to be made in concert with British Telecom. BT first favoured a system devised by Siemens, but Racal said "No we want AMPS"...

...Racal wanted AMPS with 25Khz rather than the US 30Khz channel spacing, It realised that the cost of entry (from a mobile phone users point of view), would be critical to the success of the business, and a major part of that cost would be the price of the mobile... It reasoned that having US volumes to get prices down would be important.

So BT abandoned the German idea, and took up a french idea - But it really was no more than an idea, with very little substance, and Racal said again "we want modified AMPS"

Still BT would not give in. Its next proposal was the Nordic 450 standard, proven in use since 1981. But, thought Racal, NMT would never handle the volumes that that AMPS would, and volume would be important to justify the the cost of infrastructure as well as for the mobile station prices...

Racal also thought there was a security problem with NMT, which could make certain types of fraud possible.

So Yet again Vodafone said "We want modified AMPS", and finally the parties agreed.

Today (1994), cellnet agrees that the choice of a 'country cousin' of AMPS was a remarkable piece of insight and vision

Ericsson won the "turnkey" contract to Racal Vodafone, beating Motorola and AT&T, because of its large capacity fully proven AXE digital switch according to the Ericsson book.

BT placed its order with Motorola....with smaller switches optimised for typical US towns.....So BT had some difficulties when ... the systems were loaded up

"Sorry to burst the celebrity bubble of Ernie Wise making the first cellular call on 1st January 1985 - As Beta testers we were using them from December 24th 1984 as part of the final test regime for the first Cellnet site on the Post office (BT) Tower."

"I recall taking myself to first Wrotham Hill , then Detling Hill to determine the max range of this first cellsite that was 'top hating' London with the first TACS cells using the GO-Phone 2000 badged NEC 'Banana phone' with the first two allocated phone numbers to BT Securicor 0860 326000 and 326002. We have come a long way in 25 years...." John

"Ernie Wise and Beta testers! The BT Cellnet system was switched on in the autumn of 84 for one week to cover Maggie hosting a G7 summit in central London before its true launch in Jan 85. I was there had a motorola carphone in my car on the Monday morning and had arranged 12 appointments to pre-sell them to existing radiophone(system 4) users. I made the first commercial call and sold the first commercial phone at 7.00 am. " Stuart 28/05/2012

September 1984

JUNE 1984 The London Economic Summit - info from Bill Douse

Cellnet was requested by the government to provide a mobile phone network for the Global Economic Summit being held in London in June 1984. This was outsourced to Motorola who were Cellnet’s chosen cellular equipment provider and my fellow technician and I were tasked with supervising the Motorola technical staff on site. 6 radio sites were built providing some level of coverage from Gatwick and Heathrow airports to Central London where a site was installed in BT Tower. This network operated for 2 weeks and was the first Cellular Network in the UK. The “Air Interface”, i.e. the signalling between network and mobile phone, operated to the US AMPS specification although utilising the frequencies allocated TACS in the UK. Around 30 car-installed mobile telephones were utilised together with 10 Motorola 8000X hand portable telephones (the archetypal “Brick”).

The radio sites for the Economic Summit were:

BT Tower

Skyport ATE (Heathrow)

Westel House, 32-38 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, London, W5 2BS

Beulah Hill (South London)

Margery Hill (South of the M25 - a portakabin in field

Crawley ATE (Gatwick Airport) Kilnmead,CRAWLEY.RH10 8BH

For the Economic Summit the intention was to install the switching equipment in the building leased as Cellnet’s headquarters (a former dairy) in Goswell Road near the City of London. Unfortunately, the refurbishment fell behind schedule so the Motorola EMX 250 was installed in a portakabin in the back yard.

On Christmas morning 1984 Noel Edmonds hosted a Christmas special from BT Tower and a hand-held Motorola 8000X was demonstrated as both the originator and receiver of a call with another party in Hyde Park.

early coverage map

01495 1984 code booklet

1985 January

The networks themselves were small; Vodafone had just a dozen masts covering London and the M4 corridor while Cellnet launched with 10 cellsites, the BT Tower had been used for the June 1984 Global economic summit", but was not in use by the commercial launch of the network in 1985 as the antennas were too high and interfered with other sites.

1985 Jan 31st new scientist article showed...


"In June 1982 the UK Government announced the terms and conditions for two competing national cellular radio network"

The decision in the UK to adopt the TACS system ....criteria of most contending systems such as NMT,MATS-E, C-900 and NAMTS"

"The choice of the UK system was announced in Feb 1983"

"Initially coverage of London was seen as the most important factor and the Cellnet Network commenced commercial operation in early January of 1985 with 15 base stations serving the London area. By mid March of 1985 the network has a total of 27 base stations serving the London area and in addition service is also provided in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool"

"In the centre of London cells of typically 2 km radius are employed with medium sized cells (typically 4 km radius) on the outskirts of London"

"It was expected that some 1000 subscribers would be registered at the end of the first month of service but this milestone was in fact reached after the first three weeks of service. After some two and a half months of service the total number of subscribers is over 3000. This is resulting in some 3000 calls being generated on the network during the busy hour and channel capacity has already been increased on some sites."

1986 Feb and June predicted

Vodafone coverage from leather wallet,Cellnet From BT Telecom Diamond road Atlas

Autumn 1986 Cellnet used at Cowes Week

Cellnet is used by competitors and journalists at Cowes Week

1986 Now you can dial 999 form your mobile

1986 October - UK now has 100,000 TACS subs

1987 March Cellnet has 65,000 subs and Vodafone has 75,000 subs after 2 years

1987 (end) by December there are 250,000 TACS subs in the UK

Map taken from Egon Ronay's 1987 Guide

1988 Tomorrows World Competition

From BT Journal Vol 8 Number 1

Motorola has won an order worth £16 million to supply Cellnet with specially developed transceiver and switching equipment to operate on the new frequencies which will be freed for cellular communications within London by the Department of Trade and Industry towards the end of the Year.


1989 from Motorola Annual report

The cellular systems business continued to grow rapidly, and several joint ventures were established.

In the United Kingdom, Cellnet awarded Motorola an order valued at about $150 million for analog cellular network expansion.


According to The Mobile Revolution: The Making of Mobile Services Worldwide By Dan Steinbock

ISBN-10: 0749448504

Vodafone at 8, with 690,000 :Cellnet was ranked number 11 in world with 535,000 mobiles

Cellnet number 11 in world in 1991

Pre 1993

30,000 voice channels

800 cellular radio stations

over 400 field engineers

over 98% population

1000 test calls on Cellnet and other network per year

1993 (end)

£30 million network development

1060 cell sites by the end of year

250 will be commissioned in 1993 39 in and around M25

32 new sites in Scotland

1994 Feb

According to Ericsson book . In Feb 1994 there were around 2 million TACS subs in uk, divided evenly between vodafone and cellnet 1-2-1 having 40 k subs, and vodafone 13k gsm subs

1994 China (from


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Ericsson has won a GBP27 mil contract for expansion of the B-network mobile telephone network in Shanghai, China. The contract calls for the installation and supply of CMS 8810 ETACS network equipment. The expansion will raise capacity of the network to over 50k subscribers.

When international calls barred due to cloning

At the end of March 1996, Cellnet - the company jointly owned by BT and Securicor - had almost 2.4 million customers (up 655,000 in the year) and the number grew by about three per cent a month.

Mobile customers are also benefiting from substantial price cuts of up to 30 per cent which became effective in March. Prices of digital calls were reduced, off peak time was increased and per second billing was launched.

June 2002 (from

In Malaysia, Celcom had 2.04 mil GSM and 156,059 ETACS subscribers