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How far we’ve come: celebrating the 25th anniversary of 2G

Network

Posted on April 27, 2018

3 min read

Time flies when you’re having fun. Today is the 25 year anniversary of the Global System for Mobiles network, otherwise known as GSM or 2G.

On 27 April 1993, Telstra was the first telecommunications provider in Australia to launch GSM, which was the second generation of mobile technology after analog. At the time, just making a phone call on the move was a novelty and it took some time to convince the Australian public that digital technology was here to stay.

But 2G made the mobile phone accessible to the mass market and Australians embraced the new ‘digital’ world. With promises of more consistent and clearer voice, increased talk time and greater security from eavesdropping (a big selling point in the media and political landscape of the early 90s), the technology quickly gained popularity.

By 1995, our GSM network had 100,000 customers, in 1996 that had risen to 300,000 and at the beginning of 2003 there were over 5.4 million customers using the network1.

Our mobile network and telecommunications more broadly has come a long way since that launch. Technology evolved and customers moved onto our 3G and 4G services that offer faster speeds and experiences one could only have dreamed about in 1993.

We’re now preparing for the launch of 5G in 2019, which will see even faster speeds, ultra low latency, and connection IoT devices on a mass scale.

We closed our 2G service in December 2016. At that time, 2G accounted for less than 1 per cent of our mobile network traffic. From launch to closure, 2G helped Australians make more than 87 billion phone calls and send billions of text messages over the network.

1993:

  • At launch, 55 per cent of the population had 2G coverage, which included all mainland capitals except for Darwin. At that time 85 per cent of the population had 1G coverage
  • At launch, there were only 635,000 analogue mobile phones in Australia, with less than 4 per cent of people having one
  • By December 1993, there were 660 base stations around Australia
  • 2G could handle 20,000 simultaneous calls and connected 53 million calls a month

Today:

  • Telstra’s 3G and 4G coverage combined reaches 99.4 per cent of the population. It covers 2.5 million square kilometres of the Australian landmass, including hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of regional and rural Australia not served by any other carrier
  • There are more than 17 million mobile devices on Telstra’s mobile network
  • Telstra has more than 9,200 sites across the network around Australia
  • Telstra’s mobile network connects 460 million calls, sends 47 million text messages, and carries more than 45 petabytes of data each month
  • 1. AMTA: Ten years of GSM in Australia