30 Years After Launch

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This year is the 30th anniversary of Telecom Australia's launch of the cellular mobile service in Australia. There has been a huge evolution in mobile services since then.

The Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) introduced a manually (operator) connected mobile service in Australia in 1950. As this service approached full capacity, Telecom launched a Public Automatic Mobile Telephone Service (PAMTS) in 1981. The PAMTS service had no future technology evolution, a 12 year life, and reached a peak of 14,000 customers.

By 1985 a small engineering team had developed a cellular mobile service concept based on the Analogue Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) standard. Development was accelerated and refined and the service was launched in 1987, arguably two and perhaps three years late.

This is the story of the development and launch of the service and the growth over the first four years to 1991.

Noting the experience of cellular operators in the USA, Canada and the UK, Telecom's mobile service concept was a "gold standard" for cellular services around the world, and the service achieved one of the fastest growth rates in its early years.

Within four years it was a cash flow powerhouse, and one of only three services within Telecom that were profitable; the others were the basic telephone service and directory publishing.

When transferred to Telstra in 1992 it was a strategically strong, highly profitable business prepared to defend against competition being introduced into the Australian telecommunications market, and was a foundation of Telstra's financial strength for the next 30 years.