First UK Mobile Phone Call

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First UK Mobile Phone Call

London The 1st of January 1985 AD

Mobiles are such an everyday part of our lives now that it is hard to think of being without one: but the technology is relatively recent – it was only 1985 when what would become Vodaphone launched its network, quickly followed by Cellnet (which evolved into O2).
As is the way of such things, the launch required a celebrity. Reg Varney of On the Buses fame had made the first withdrawal from a cash-machine in the UK; Ernie Wise had the honour of making the first commercial mobile phone call here. On January 1 1985 Wise for whatever reason dressed in a costume straight out of a Dickens novel, made a call - in front of crowds of reporters and photographers - from St Katherine’s Dock in London to Newbury where the company was headquartered.
When the service was launched Vodaphone predicted the eventual market would be 2 million; Cellnet was more conservative, expecting half that. Perhaps they figured only the fittest would be able to carry the brick-sized (and weighted) portables as they tended to be called then; or more realistically, that given the price (£2k or so) they would be restricted to yuppies, who did indeed snap them up, loving the exclusivity for a while of shouting: “I’m on the phone,” in trains and on the streets. Now it is rare for someone not to have a mobile.

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