Thirty years since the UK's first mobile phone call

It's been 30 years since the UK's first mobile phone call was placed using the Vodafone network and a very heavy handset. How times have changed.

The first mobiles were not small. For obvious reasons we called them bricks. (David Parry/PA Wire)

In today's world, we are so used to being able to communicate with our loved ones and our colleagues on an all-but-instant basis that it is hard to imagine a world without constant communications - and yet that world of the telephone landline and the fax machine was only 30 years ago.

The first official mobile phone call in the UK was made in 1985 on a Vodafone device by the comedian Ernie Wise. Not surprisingly, the first mobile to be used was a hefty beast weighing in at a shade under 5kgs and measuring 25cm tall.

It needed a lot of power: it took some 10 hours to charge and in return gave you a paltry 30 minutes of phone time.

Today a mobile costs, on average, around £312 while in 1985 prices started at £1,650. After adjustment for 30 years of inflation that would be around £4,600 in today's money.

Of course although voice calls were there at the start, the rise of other technology tools such as cloud services, unified communications, secure remote working, and 4G have helped drive productivity gains, cost savings, and differentiate services for mobile.


Thirty years ago, the first customer to use a mobile phone was Roger Southam who had just set up his property investment and management firm Chainbow.

"Before mobile, time away from the office on site visits and viewing properties meant you were completely out of touch," says Southam. "Being away from your desk meant being away from your desk phone, typewriter, and letters." Maintaining productivity was a major issues, he says, and as a consequence he spent a lot of time travelling to nearby phone boxes to update colleagues.

"Having a mobile meant being able to make a call anytime, anywhere," he says. "It gave me at least an additional full working day a week of productive time."

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