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Recognising Second Generation Inventors (V)

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Still talking about GSM invention and its tremendous impact on global communication. GSM is not a creation of a single individual but collective efforts of personalities; mainly scientists, policy makers and business people. Part IV of this article, presented the famous roles, which successfully brought out GSM for public use globally. Important personalities across Europe, who played “the behind the scene roles” to fine-tune GSM, were Armin Silberhorn (Germany), Stephen Temple (UK), Philippe Dupuis (France), Renzo Failli (Italy) and Thomas Haug (Switzerland), respectively. GSM (Groupe Spécial Mobile) is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as phones and electronic tablets. As mentioned in the previous part of this article, Finland was the first country to use GSM in December 1991, which was followed by several other countries. As of 2014, GSM had become the global standard for mobile communications with over 90 per cent market share, operating in over 190 countries across all the continents.

GSM is a cellular network that allows cell phones connect to it by searching for cells in the immediate vicinity. There are five distinct cell sizes in a GSM network—macro, micro, pico, femto, and umbrella cells. The coverage area (20 to 35 km –diameter) of each cell varies according to the implementation environment. Macro cells can be regarded as cells where the base station antenna is installed on a mast or a building above average rooftop level. Micro cells are cells whose antenna height is under average rooftop level; they are typically used in urban areas. Pico cells are small cells whose coverage diameter is a few dozen meters; they are mainly used indoors. Femto cells are cells designed for use in residential or small business environments and connect to the service provider’s network via a broadband Internet connection. Umbrella cells are used to cover shadowed regions of smaller cells and fill in gaps in coverage between those cells.

Over the years from 1991 to date, users of GSM expanded exponentially to about 7 billion people Worldwide.  The use of GSM expansion continued alongside the improvement of the services being offered by GSM. Thus, the second generation (2G) networks were developed as a replacement for first generation (1G) analog cellular networks, and the GSM standard, originally described as a digital, circuit-switched network, was optimised for full duplex voice telephony. This expansion was achieved over time to include data communications, first by circuit-switched transport, then by packet data transport via GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, or EGPRS). Subsequently, the 3GPP developed third-generation (3G) UMTS standards, followed by fourth-generation (4G) LTE Advanced standards, which do not form part of the ETSI GSM standard.

As astonishing as GSM technology, which can best be described as the miracle of the 21st century in global communication, yet, it can’t provide satisfactory service without the two complementary items – cell phone and GSM service providers or operators.  One of the key features of GSM is the Subscriber Identity Module, commonly known as a SIM card. The SIM is a detachable smart card containing the user’s subscription information and phone book. This allows the user to retain his or her information after switching cell phones. Alternatively, the user can also change operators while retaining the cell phone simply by changing the SIM. Now who invented cell phone?

Wireless transmission of voice messages through radio started about 100 years ago. However, use of mobile devices to receive and transmit voice messages wirelessly and also capable of connecting to the standard telephone network, is a recent event. The first of such devices was barely portable compared to today’s compact hand-held devices, and their use was gauche. Early devices were bulky, consumed high power, and the network supported only a few simultaneous conversations. Modern cellular networks allow automatic and universal use of mobile phones for voice, images and Internet data communications.

Unlike GSM, mobile phones invention could be wholly credited to one single individual, Martin Cooper, an American Engineer, although, the advances in the development of mobile telephony started during the period of Second World War, in the 1940s when military made use of radiotelephony links. Hand-held radio transceivers were then available at the warfronts for wireless communication.  From the time Martin invented mobile phone, it has undergone series of improvements up to the first-generation (1G) analog cellular network, second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks, third-generation (3G) broadband data services to the state-of-the-art, fourth-generation (4G) native-IP networks.

Martin “Marty” Cooper was born on December 26, 1928 to Mary Cooper and Arthur Cooper during the Great Depression in Chicago, Illinois, USA. His parents; Arthur and Mary had emigrated to USA from Ukraine, former USSR (Russia). Martin is a pioneer in the wireless communications industry, especially in radio spectrum management, with 11 patents in the field to his credit. According to Wikipedia, Martin made the mobile invention while working as General Manager of Motorola in the 1970s, it was the first handheld cellular mobile phone (distinct from the car phone) in 1973 and led the team that developed it and brought it to market in 1983. For this reason, he is considered the “father of the cell phone” and is also cited as the first person in history to make a handheld cellular phone call in public. Martin made the first wireless mobile phone call on April 3, 1973. He took an early model of Motorola’s DynaTAC phone, which was a brick phone weighing 2.5 pounds, measuring nine inches long and five inches deep, and featuring about 20 minutes of battery life in the streets of New York City. He pressed the phone’s “off hook” button and he made a call to the landline of Bell Labs, where he was connected to his counterpart, Joel Engel. “Joel, this is Marty,” he gleefully said, “I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.” “As I walked down the street while talking on the phone,” Martin later admitted, “sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call,” Martin told Mail online of 5th April 2011, “remember that in 1973, there weren’t cordless telephones, let alone cellular phones (in America), I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life”. Then, it was an incredible scene beyond human comprehension. Thereafter, he allowed the reporters make their own calls too, using the mobile device for verification that the invention actually worked and they weren’t the victims of an elaborate hoax. What was his motivation? He was also quoted saying “People want to talk to other people – not a house, or an office, or a car. Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. It is that freedom we sought to vividly demonstrate in 1973”. From when they started, it took Motorola staggering 10 years before Motorola finally introduced the Dyna-TAC, the first commercially available mobile phone, into service in 1983. The device weighed 1lb and cost a staggering $3,500 (£2,170) at time of the release.

Martin Cooper’s role in conception and development of the first portable cellular phone impacted his choice to start and lead ArrayComm, a wireless technology and systems company founded in 1992. ArrayComm’s core adaptive antenna technology increases the capacity and coverage of any cellular system and significantly lowers costs while making cellular calls more reliable. The technology addresses what Cooper calls “the unfulfilled promise” of cellular, which should be, but still isn’t as reliable or affordable as wired telephone services. ArrayComm has also used its adaptive antenna technology to make the Internet more “personal” by creating the i-BURST Personal Broadband System, which delivers high-speed, mobile Internet access that consumers can afford. “It’s very exciting to be part of a movement toward making broadband available to people with the same freedom to be anywhere that they have for voice communications today,” Martin was quoted by an online publication “ThoughtCo” on 19th April 2017. He further said. “People rely heavily on the Internet for their work, entertainment, and communication, but they need to be unleashed”.

Martin is a co-founder of numerous communications companies with his wife and business partner Arlene Harris. He is co-founder and current chairman of Dyna LLC, in Del Mar, California. Cooper also sits on committees supporting the US, such as  Federal Communications Commission and the United States Department of Commerce.

To be continued next week



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