Exactly 30 years ago, July 1st 1991 history was made in Finland. Former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri made the first official GSM call.

Development of European standard for digital cellular voice telecommunications had been a discussion topic since 1980. In 1982 an official GSM (originally Groupe Special Mobile, later known as Global System for Mobile Communications) work committee was organized and five years later, 13 European countries signed a memorandum of understanding to develop and deploy a common cellular telephone system across Europe.

The world’s first official GSM call was made by the former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri on July 1st, 1991.

This historic call was made from Esplanade park in Helsinki. Holkeri called Kaarina Suonio, the Deputy Mayor of Tampere. The Park was filled with spectators, listeners of the call and of course, all the media.

Historic day indeed, with few fun facts:

  1. The first call was made with Nokia 6050 car phone. It was not wireless; however, it was transportable with its black box. The phone worked in the GSM network.
  2. 1991 was a historic moment, but there were no phones for sale until the following summer 1992 when Nokia released the same 6050 model used by Harri Holkeri to the public.
  3. This call from 30 years ago has definitely been historic and it lifted Finland from the depression. However, Holkeri was not the first one to call. 1st of July was anticipated to be huge, like it was, and everyone wanted it to go as perfectly as possible. Before Harri’s call, Pekka Lonka, engineer at Nokia called Marjo Jousi, a secretary at Nokia to test the lines.

Finland and Nokia made history on this day and it indeed lifted Finland from the depression. Nokia released its first wireless cell phone in November 1992. The Nokia 1011 model was smaller, less heavy, and easier to transport than the car phone used in 1991.

Unfortunately, the “first” test call between Pekka and Marjo was not recorded, but you can listen to the official first GSM call from 30 years ago between Harri and Kaarina at Yle.fi.