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AT&T Cell Phones and Phone Plans for Seniors in 2023

Updated May 30, 2023

  • AT&T offers the Unlimited 55+ plan for older adults who live in Florida, starting at $40 per line.
  • AT&T’s plan designed just for seniors features unlimited talk, text, and data, service in Canada and Mexico, and texting in 120+ countries.
  • While AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plan is an excellent option for Florida residents, it isn’t available nationwide. Check out our list of the best cell phone plans for seniors so you don’t miss out on plans available in your area.

As the world’s largest telecommunications company1, AT&T is embracing our senior generation with cell phones that are easier to use and offering special plans that better fit older adults’ needs. We recently reviewed AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plan and found it ideal for older adults who want unlimited talk, text, and data, with costs starting at $40 per line for two lines. One important caveat: This plan is only available to Florida residents.

Unlike T-Mobile, which offers contract-free options with their senior plans, most AT&T plans do require a contract. However, if you’re an existing AT&T customer or you’re looking for a reasonably priced unlimited plan, AT&T might be the right fit. Plus, AT&T offers other plans with great features that aren’t exclusively for older adults. Another advantage is that only the account holder must be over the age of 55, allowing you to share the plan with your children or grandchildren. Let’s take a closer look at the pricing, overall value, and offerings from AT&T’s phone plans so you can stay connected with your loved ones!

FYI: It’s important to compare all of your options before signing on the dotted line. Check out our cell phone buyer’s guide for a full rundown on the top phones and plans to ensure you get the best deal.

At a Glance

  • Offers a 55+ plan
  • Offers AARP and veterans discounts
  • Requires contracts
  • Activation fees
  • Provides a large selection of phones
  • Free shipping on most devices
  • Offers in-store and online purchasing options
  • Select plans only available to Florida residents

The Fast Facts: AT&T Senior Phone Plans

Keep in mind that AT&T offers additional plans; these are just our top picks for older adults.

AT&T plan Monthly price (per line) Features Best for Restrictions
AT&T Lifeline2 Discount varies Not a plan, but a special wireless phone discount available to low-income households Those on a fixed income or government assistance Eligibility based on income, but those living on SSI or who use Medicaid may be eligible
AT&T Unlimited 55+ $40 to $60 per month per line (depending on the number of lines) Unlimited talk, text, and data in U.S., Canada, and Mexico

Free texting in 120+ countries

Compatible with smartphones and basic phones

Standard-definition streaming

Technology-savvy seniors who live in Florida Age 55+

Restricted to no more than two lines (wearables and hotspots not eligible)

Restricted to Florida residents

AT&T Unlimited Starter Plan $30 a month per line (depending on the number of lines) Unlimited talk, text, and data

Compatible with smartphones and basic phones

Standard-definition streaming

Tech-savvy seniors who want to stay connected and maintain multiple phone lines (at least four) Best price requires multiple phone lines

A Closer Look at AT&T’s Plans and Pricing

AT&T Unlimited 55+ Plan for Florida Residents

With rates per line ranging from $40 to $60 per month per line, AT&T offers this unlimited plan for the 55-and-over crowd that comes with (you guessed it) unlimited talk, text, and data. So you can check Facebook, search for local businesses, and receive pictures of the grandkids while you’re on vacation. The AT&T Unlimited 55+ plan is an excellent choice for older adults who use their phones frequently throughout the day. The Unlimited 55+ plan also features unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico. Plus, you’ll get free texting in over 120 countries — perfect for frequent travelers.

Buyer’s Tip:

Buyer’s Tip: AT&T offers perks like $250 in credits per line when you switch to AT&T and bring your own phone, up to $50 in savings on activation and upgrade fees, and 15 percent off accessories for AARP members.

While currently only available to Florida residents, we hope the plan will expand to other areas soon. Like other AT&T unlimited plans, consumers are rewarded for having multiple lines, so the more lines you have, the lower rates per line you’ll pay.

AT&T Unlimited Starter Plan for Non-Florida Residents Who Want an Unlimited Plan

Maybe the above plan sounds perfect, but there is just one little problem: You don’t live in Florida. If you don’t call the Sunshine State home, you can choose a basic unlimited plan and a senior-friendly smartphone. While this plan isn’t senior-specific, it still offers unlimited talk, text, and data at a reasonable price. Plus, you can apply an extra discount on the plan price if you are an AARP member or a veteran.

Savings Tip:

Savings Tip:  Enjoy an extra $10 off per line on up to two lines when you sign up for Autopay and paperless billing.

This plan is priced based on the number of lines on your account. For example, with five lines, you can get the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan for as low as $30 per month per line. Users will pay $65 per month for a single line before any discounts. Overall, this plan is best for seniors who use their phones frequently and want to share a phone plan with family and friends.

AT&T: One of our top-rated cell phone carriers

Looking for an affordable unlimited cell phone plan with nationwide availability? AT&T fits the bill.

4.5 of 5

See Pricing

How to Get the Best Deal With AT&T

We’re all about getting the best deal, so let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of your AT&T mobile plan.

  • As we mentioned above, AT&T gives perks like discounts and credits to AARP members. Not an AARP member? Head to our AARP guide to learn more.
  • If you’re a Florida resident, you could save up to $50 on activation fees and get 15 percent off eligible phone accessories from AT&T. Make sure to ask a representative about these perks.
  • Veterans and active military can receive 25 percent off AT&T’s unlimited wireless plan. Visit AT&T’s Signature Program page to see if you’re eligible for the discount.
  • Adding multiple lines to your account is a good way to save and add value to your plan. If you have an adult child or grandchild who would benefit from being on your phone plan, you’ll save money since the monthly rate is cheaper the more lines you have on your account.

The Best AT&T Cell Phones for Seniors

Some older adults prefer the simplicity of a flip phone, while others enjoy the convenience and accessibility of a smartphone. Either way, you’re in luck with AT&T. The company offers over 40 phones to choose from. We’ve selected two senior-friendly phones to recommend: the Sonim XP3plus and the iPhone 11.

Sonim XP3plus

Sonim XP3plus

The Sonim XP3plus is an IP68-certified durable flip phone suitable for seniors who want important features such as noise cancellation and long battery life. Some of our favorite features are its real-time text capabilities and M4/T4 hearing aid compatibility. The flip phone also has a mobile hotspot for up to 10 devices. We appreciate its compact design and ease of use for people who want to stay connected with the grandkids without too many advanced features.

Benefits for older adults:

  • Durable, rugged flip phone
  • IP68 certified with MIL-STD-810G durability
  • Comes with a three-year warranty
  • AltText and noise cancellation
  • Up to 21 hours of talk time

Head to our list of the best flip phones for seniors to check out some of our other favorite flip phones.

Apple iPhone 11

For older adults who are looking for a little more connectivity, the iPhone 11 is a great entry point into a smartphone. The iPhone 11 has a large, clear display; no small icons and hard-to-read text here! It is also equipped with an easy-to-use camera for taking high-quality pictures of your grandbabies or family vacations, featuring 64 GB of storage space. Plus, Apple products are popular in the world of smartphones, and this model is by far the most affordable at only $13.89 a month, and it’s the easiest to use. That’s why the Apple iPhone made it onto this year’s best cell phones for seniors list.

Apple iPhone 11

Benefits for older adults

  • Large display with the vibrant Apple retina LCD technology
  • Excellent camera for taking crisp, clear images
  • Water-resistant
  • Dust-resistant
  • Long battery life
  • Affordable price tag compared to other iPhone models
  • Great for users who are already familiar with Apple products

One important thing to note: Smartphones are usually priced in installments and added as an additional cost to your monthly bill. Be careful when choosing your plan, and make sure to find out if you are buying or renting the phone and how many installments are required. To learn more about iPhones, visit our list of the best iPhones for seniors.

FYI: Cell phone plans are just one thing older adults can get at a discounted rate. Check out our guide to the best AARP discounts for more ways to save.

How Does AT&T Compare to Other Phone Carriers?

AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ Plan is competitive with other options on the market in terms of price and features. However, as we’ve mentioned, it’s only available to Florida residents. If you’re looking for an unlimited plan that isn’t restricted by location, check out our T-Mobile review.

AT&T used to offer a Senior Nation plan, which was a talk-only plan for older adults who didn’t want data, but it was discontinued in 2020. If you’re looking for a call-only plan, consider Lively, another phone provider we’ve tested. This is one of the few carriers that still offer a call-only plan, and it costs just $19. 99 per month.

Final Thoughts on Pricing and Value for AT&T Phone Plans

AT&T offers solid options for seniors who want unlimited talk, text, and data, with the Unlimited 55+ plan starting at $40 per line for two lines (currently restricted to Florida residents). Those who want a smartphone and unlimited mobile data can also take advantage of an AARP discount. If you don’t live in Florida, AT&T has plenty of other unlimited plans that might suit your needs. Keep in mind that AT&T’s unlimited plans are priced based on the number of lines on the account, ranging anywhere from $30 to $85 per line. So the more lines you have, the more you’ll save. All in all, AT&T is a great option, as they offer a diverse range of cell phones and mobile plans for older adults to choose from.

Frequently Asked Questions About AT&T Phone Plans

  • Does AT&T offer a senior discount?

    AT&T doesn’t offer an official senior discount, but AARP members can receive 10 percent off their plan and veterans can get 25 percent off their monthly bill.

  • Does AT&T have senior-friendly phones?

    Though they aren’t specifically designed for seniors, AT&T has several phones that would work well for seniors. They offer flip phones, beginner-friendly smartphones, and high-tech devices for seniors who are great with technology.

  • Does AT&T offer a phone plan for seniors?

    Yes. Currently, AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plan is available to seniors residing in Florida.


  1. Forbes. (2019). The World’s Largest Telecom Companies 2019: AT&T, Verizon Hold On To Top Spots Amid 5G Buzz.

  2. FCC. (2020). Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers.

Written By

Taylor Shuman

Senior Tech Expert & Editor

As’s tech expert and editor, Taylor has years of experience reviewing products and services for seniors. She is passionate about breaking down stigmas related to seniors and technology. She loves finding innovative ways to teach seniors about products and… Learn More About Taylor Shuman

AT&T Cell Phones and Plans for Seniors in 2023

AT&T Senior Plans: Takeaways

  • For people 55 and over, AT&T offers unlimited talk, text, and data plans for $40 per month per line; however, only Florida residents are eligible for these plans.
  • For seniors who don’t live in Florida, we’d recommend an AT&T prepaid plan that provides unlimited talk and text from $25 per month.
  • If you’re looking for more affordable unlimited plans, then we recommend checking out T-Mobile’s 55+ plans, all of which are available nationwide.

FYI: If you don’t need data, then you can find a cellular plan from $10 per month. To compare providers, and to see just how low the prices go, check out our rundown of senior phone plans.

AT&T for Seniors Pros and Cons

AT&T Pros

  • Plans from $25.99 per month: Starting at under $25 per month, AT&T is one of the most affordable major wireless providers for seniors.
  • Advanced devices: Being one of the nation’s largest cellular providers, AT&T offers just about any type of cell phone, from advanced iPhones to simple flip phones.
  • Discounts for multiple lines: Nearly all of AT&T’s cellular plans come at discounted rates with each additional line of service you purchase.
  • No data throttling: Unlike popular providers such as Mint Mobile, AT&T won’t slow your data speeds after meeting usage thresholds.
  • Discounts for AARP members: Regardless of the state you live in, AARP members can get 10% off their monthly bill when signing up for AT&T’s Unlimited Elite plan. Florida AARP members can switch from another network and get $100 in statement credits.

AT&T Cons

  • Limited availability: AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plans are currently only available to those with a Florida billing address. Similar to Verizon, AT&T requires seniors living outside of Florida to select other more costly unlimited plans.
  • Higher up-front costs: While they come at lower monthly costs, AT&T’s prepaid plans must be paid in full at the onset, driving up your initial costs.
  • Activation fees: Though not listed in the monthly price, most of AT&T’s plans require hidden fees for activation. However, these fees can sometimes be waived for AARP members.

How To Shop with AT&T

AT&T’s website is a great place to get started in your search for a new phone or plan. You’ll find information on a variety of flip phones, smartphones, and different service plans online.

For heavy data users, there are unlimited plans starting at $30 per month per line, featuring 5G access, standard definition streaming, and unlimited talk, text, and data (when you get four lines).

There are also several affordable prepaid phone plans offered by AT&T for those who don’t spend a great deal of time on cellular usage. I’d recommend looking into their $25 per month for 8GB of data monthly prepaid phone plan with unlimited talk and text, and data.

AT&T, like Verizon and T-Mobile, offers plans tailored to older adults; however, with AT&T, these plans cannot be purchased online. You’ll need to visit the AT&T store in person and present proof of age to secure the offer.

Once the purchase is made, you may find detailed instructions on the website’s support page to help activate plans and unlock the phones. Alternately, the company has a toll-free number for wireless support.

AT&T Plans for Seniors

Plan Monthly Price (per line) Scam and Fraud Blocking Unlimited Talk, Text and Data 5G Access Streaming Quality Additional Features Best Suited For
AT&T Prepaid 8GB $25 Yes Data limited to 8GB per month Yes High Definition
  • Talk, text, and data usage in Mexico and Canada
  • Unused data rolls over to the next month
  • Users who don’t rely on data usage
  • Users who don’t mind paying $300 up-front
AT&T Unlimited 55+ $40 (when you get 2 lines) Yes Yes Yes Standard Definition
  • Compatible with smartphones and basic phones – not tablets
  • For adults who are 55 or older
  • Must be a resident of Florida
  • Heavy data users
  • Free texting to 120+ countries
  • Florida AARP members save up to $45 on activation fees and get 15% off eligible accessories
AT&T Unlimited Starter $35 (when you get 4 lines) Yes Yes Yes Standard Definition
  • Compatible with smartphones and basic phones
  • 6 months of free gaming streaming (Stadia Pro)
  • Spam and fraud call blocking
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Older adults who are comfortable watching online videos, video-chatting and the like, and also want to share data with loved ones
AT&T Mobile Share Plus 9GB $45 – $70 No No No Standard Definition
  • Unlimited talk, text & 9GB data
  • Rollover data
  • Mobile hotspot
  • No annual contract, no credit check
  • Older adults who are comfortable with limited data and would like to share the data with partner or caregiver

In addition to these plans, there is also AT&T Lifeline, a federal program that is perfect for older adults who have a fixed income or are dependent on government programs. Qualifying households get at a minimum of $7.25 per month discount on their phone bill, which can add up to significant savings over the course of a year.

Savings Tip: AT&T offers 10% discounts to AARP members and approximately 25% discount on unlimited plans for veterans. An additional $20 discount is applicable on choosing AutoPay and paperless billing.

AT&T Devices

AT&T retails almost every kind of phone there is, from the latest from Apple and Samsung to basic flip phones. Many of the devices can either be bought for a one-time-fee or via an installment plan, where the associated cost is added to your monthly cellular bill and is typically paid off within 30 months. Users may subscribe to AT&T wireless service by buying a new phone or exchanging the old phone for a discount on a newer model.

Here’s a selection of AT&T’s cell phones that are perfectly geared towards the needs of older adults:


Sonim XP5s

The average American is said to drop their phone at least four times a week. Fortunately, the SONIM XP5s is drop-proof, in addition to having oversized buttons and keys. Retailing at $339.99, it has AT&T’s Enhanced Push-to-Talk (EPTT) capabilities that makes for more simplified calling. This rugged phone is perfect for older users who use their device primarily for making calls and texting, and it can be used with any of AT&T’s plans. Additionally, it has a 3-year warranty and oversized buttons and keys for older adults with dexterity or vision impairments.

Cingular Flip IV

The AT&T Cingular Flip IV has compatibility with YouTube, Facebook, and Google Maps.

At $62.99, this lightweight device is ideal for the older adult’s everyday communication needs. What’s more, users can watch YouTube, get directions from Google Maps, and execute tasks via voice commands using the phone’s integrated Google Assistant. With long-lasting battery life, the AT&T Cingular Flip IV’s large keypad and navigation keys also make it really easy to operate, even for those struggling with arthritis and vision impairment. What’s more, it is completely hearing aid compatible, which is great for 50% of those older than 75 who have hearing loss.

iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS

If you’re an older adult who enjoys user-friendly features, the iPhone XS Max is a great upgrade. With a large 6.5-inch retina display and advanced security features such as Face ID to unlock important applications and pay with Apple Pay, this device is a keeper. It’s also a great phone for taking photos of the family and grandkids, with impressive 12MP dual rear cameras and 7MP in the front. Plus, if your grandkid grabs your phone or accidentally drops it in water, this phone is fully water, splash, and dust-resistant. You can pay $31.95 per month for this device through an AT&T installment plan.

Additionally, thanks to its fast charge feature, users don’t have to constantly worry about their device running out of power. All of these advanced features might seem intimidating, especially for those uninitiated to the world of smartphones, but my favorite thing about the iPhone XS Max is how intuitive its controls are. Learning the ins and outs of this device is a breeze.

Note: If the older user is comfortable with their existing device, they can switch to AT&T’s wireless service on the same phone and get a $250 reward card and a waiver on the activation fee.

AT&T Benefits for Seniors

Here are some other benefits of an AT&T plan for seniors.

  • Mobile Security and Call Protect app: This free app helps users avoid spam and fraud calls. It also enables safe browsing, identity monitoring, and more. It’s available with the AT&T Unlimited 55 & Over plan, amongst others.
  • Mobile Protection:At just $15 per month for each mobile number that’s enrolled, AT&T offers same-day device replacement and setup for lost, stolen, and broken phones. There is a cheaper mobile insurance option ($8 per month) without the same day replacement feature, and a more expensive one ($40 per month) that covers up to 4 devices. I would really recommend going for the mid-range plan for greater value and peace of mind
  • HBO Max: Available on select premium wireless plans is free access to the HBO Max entertainment channel. Especially if you go for one of the higher-priced plans, this is a great way to take advantage of your video streaming capabilities.

Bottom Line

When it comes to finding cellular solutions that are suited to older adults in North America, AT&T really takes the cake. Granted, AT&T’s plans are a bit on the pricier end of the spectrum, especially compared to Consumer Cellular whose basic plans start at just $15 per month. Still, AT&T’s plans targeted at older folks are still about $10 cheaper than that of most competitors.

AT&T’s speed, coverage area, and reliability more than make up for this premium. I will admit though that it was a little disappointing that a mobile emergency response device that AT&T had launched in 2013, called EverThere, was conspicuously absent from the list of devices being sold on the website. So if you’re looking for a phone with medical alert capabilities, I’d recommend checking out the Jitterbug Smart3 from Lively.

On the flip side, it’s quite refreshing to note that AT&T is one of the only players to still offer ‘no-frills’ call-only cell phone plans; for older adults who do not wish to use expensive (and sometimes frustrating to use) smartphones.

To learn more about our favorite phones and plans for seniors, check out our helpful guides:

  • Senior Cell Phone Discounts
  • Easiest Phones for Seniors
  • Jitterbug Flip Review
  • Cricket Wireless Review
  • Consumer Cellular Phones and Plans for Seniors


  • Does AT&T offer a plan with just talk minutes?

    AT&T no longer offers plans with purely talk minutes. Their most affordable plans provide a minimum of 8GB of monthly data, as well as unlimited talk and texting.

  • With AT&T wireless, can I keep my existing cell phone?

    With AT&T, you may keep your current device, even if it’s from another service provider, as long as it uses a SIM card. In exchange, typically, you get a free $250 reward card and the activation fee is also waived.

  • How does AT&T verify the age of the applicant?

    To qualify for one of the age-specific plans, you need to go to an AT&T store with some form of identification in order to verify your eligibility.

  • Do both phone line users need to be over 55?

    Only the account holder needs to be over the age of 55. The user of the other line can be younger.

  • How many lines can I add on an AT&T 55+ plan?

    With AT&T, you may have up to two phone lines on the 55+ plan. You pay $40 per month for 2 lines.

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30 years on the road of mobilization: a historical outline


At the origins of mobile communications
Leaving the car
GSM strides across Europe
Brief history of cellular communications

Last year, mobile cellular communication celebrated its 30th anniversary. The first mobile portable cell phone call is believed to have been made on April 3, 1973 by Martin Cooper, general manager of Motorola’s communications systems division. The current president, CEO and co-founder of ArrayComm Inc. called 1 from a street in New York to rival AT&T’s Bell Labs, ushering in a new era of personal wireless communications.

Then, in fact, a fundamental technological and economic breakthrough took place in telephone communications a person was no longer “tied” to the phone in the office, at home and in the car (at that time there were 14-kilogram telephone equipment in the cars).

At the origins of mobile communications

The idea of ​​the first mobile phone dates back to shortly after the end of World War II. As conceived by the developers from AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, such a device should have been located in a car. There is nothing surprising here there would hardly be many who want to carry a two-pound device on themselves.

According to some sources, the first session of mobile radiotelephone communication took place more than half a century ago on December 3, 1950 in the Swedish city of Liding. It was then that the engineer-inventor Sture Lauhren picked up the phone, the base of which was located on the two rear seats of the car.

The world’s first commercial mobile radiotelephone system was launched by the Swedish company Televerket in 1956. Known as MTA (MobilTelefonsystem A mobile telephony system A), it was the first automatic system that provided radio communication in a vehicle without the help of a human operator. (Recall that at that time there were quite a few non-automatic mobile telephony systems in the world, which began to develop from about the middle of 1940s).

Televerket’s plans were to create a unified national mobile radiotelephone system, but this project required very serious investments. Therefore, it was decided to limit the development of systems located only in cars and other vehicles. However, coverage of all highways seemed unrealistic.

First of all, it was proposed to install base stations where the demand for mobile telephony services was obvious in large cities and along the main transport arteries.

In the 1950s, the size and weight of mobile communication systems did not allow them to “get out” of the car

The growth of the mobile telephony market was constrained by the complexity and cost of equipment. It “pulled” half the cost of a good car. Large dimensions and weight the radio communication set together with the transmitter weighed about 40 kg, high power consumption and other factors “by default” made such a service an elite one.

Advanced MTB communication system, which came in 1965 to replace the MTA, was created on the basis of transistors, not radio tubes. This made it possible to reduce the weight of radio devices to almost 10 kg. However, this did not solve the main problem. Mobile wireless communication was available only in transport.

There is no need to talk about the “mass character” of the then radio communications from Televerket by that time (1967-68) in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, where the base stations were located, there were only about 500 subscribers. At that time, the cost of each subscriber for mobile services was about $5,000 per year. In addition, the connection was designed for no more than 6 simultaneous connections.

Getting out of the car

Further miniaturization of “portable” telephones made it possible to significantly reduce their weight and size, but still did not allow “getting out” of the car.

The first handsets of the NMT-450 standard (Nordisk MobilTelefon Scandinavian mobile telephony), were offered by one of the fathers of mobile communications. The devices of Stockholm Technical School graduate Esten Myakitolo can already be called mobile. However, they were not intended to be worn by humans.

Later (in the mid-1980s) phones appeared for the emerging NMT-900 networks (for example, Ericsson Hotline, Curt and Mobira Cityman) they turned out to be much lighter and more compact than the NMT-450 standard handsets.

Success in this direction was most accompanied by the American company Motorola. Back in 1967, she introduced the first walkie-talkies to the Chicago police. But after some time, Martin Cooper realized that he could create a relatively small mobile phone, and made his intention a reality.

30-year-old field test completed successfully the base station, mounted on top of the 50-story Alliance Capital Building in New York (Burlington Consolidated Tower), was able to serve up to 30 subscribers, connecting them to landlines. Starting in 1974, the US Federal Communications Commission began to allocate frequencies for private companies.

The first portable cell phone was the size and weight of an iron (or “brick with buttons”

Then, as now, New Yorkers are hard to impress. However, in those years, a person walking down the street and talking on the phone at the same time made an indelible impression on others.

It took Martin Cooper 10 years to bring this “brick-like” phone to the market, which weighed more than 1 kg. Such a long period, apparently, was due to the lack of suitable microprocessors for cell phones, which appeared only at the beginning of 1980s. During this time, the mass of the phone, which was put into commercial operation by Motorola in 1983, has almost halved. The cost of this one of the world’s first DynaTAC mobile phones without a display and any additional features was $3,500. In the same year, in Chicago, after a series of successful field tests, the AMPS standard network was deployed. It took another 7 years for the number of mobile users in the US to reach 1 million

GSM marches across Europe

Simultaneously with the successes in America, the idea of ​​a pan-European cellular network was floating on another continent. As a result, many local “standards” have emerged. Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and Saudi Arabia promoted NMT, the UK had its own TAGS system, Germany C-Netz, France Radiocom 2000, and Italy RTMI/RTMS.

“Confusion and vacillation” around a single standard began to fade away only after the organization of the GSM group (Groupe Speciale Mobile) in 1982. It included representatives of 24 Western European countries.

Somewhat later, in 1986, the digital standard GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) was proposed. It took several more years to implement it, and in 1990 the Finnish Radtolinia launched the world’s first GSM network. A year later, similar networks appeared in other Scandinavian countries.

Over time, the services of GSM operators and subscriber terminals gradually decreased in price. This led to an expansion of the subscriber base and the availability of such services in general. Only in the first year of the existence of GSM networks in Scandinavia, more than 1 million people connected to them. Phones quickly improved, their size and weight decreased, and their capabilities expanded.

It is now known that the number of cellular subscribers in the world exceeds the number of fixed telephone lines. Now handsets with a color display, equipped with an unthinkable set of additional functions at the time, weigh less than 100 grams.

According to Nokia forecasts, half of the world’s population (about 4 billion people) by 2015 will use the services of mobile operators. Now 1.3 billion people are subscribers of these networks.

By 2008, the number of mobile phone subscribers is expected to reach two billion. At the same time, the number of users of cellular networks using only the GSM standard has already exceeded 1 billion. At the same time, more than 80% of all mobile phones around the world use this standard.

Brief history of cellular communication
in the Americas

Cell phone background

1921 The Detroit Michigan Police Department (USA) has begun using mobile radios in vehicles. The system operated at a frequency of about 2 MHz. The channels soon became crowded.

1940 New frequencies between 30 and 40 MHz are available for radio use. This was the impetus for the active deployment of police radio systems. Shortly thereafter, the need for this form of communication was also found among other user groups. Individuals, companies and the public sector have begun to buy and use their own mobile devices.

1945 The first public radiotelephone system in the United States was inaugurated in St. Louis, Missouri. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated 6 channels for this purpose, separated from each other by 60 kHz, in the 150 MHz band. However, mobile communication equipment was not perfect enough to avoid radio wave interference.

1947 35 44 MHz mobile phone system launched on the New York Freeway in Boston. Communication was of poor quality, and phones only worked in push-to-talk mode.

1949 The FCC has authorized the use of separate radio channels by private telephone companies, known as “Radio Common Carriers” (ROC). These operators did not provide radiotelephone services, but only switched radiotelephones with the public telephone network.

1955 The number of channels in the 150 MHz band has been increased to 11 (for this, the interfrequency interval has been reduced to 30 kHz).

1956 12 channels have been added in the 450 MHz band. All systems worked in manual mode each incoming and outgoing call from a mobile device was made with the participation of a person telephone operator.

1964 A new system (150 MHz) has been developed with automatic selection of a free channel for each call. Since then, the need for the “push-to-talk” mode has disappeared, and the subscriber has got rid of the need to hold down the button of the device at the moment of voice transmission. Also, the operator was no longer needed, and users got the opportunity to independently dial the subscriber’s phone number.

1969 Automatic channel selection is also available in the 450 MHz band. IMTS (Improved Mobile Telephone System) has become the standard for mobile telephone services in the United States.

Advanced systems (cellular concept)

As early as 1947, it became clear that small cells with frequency reuse could significantly increase channel capacity. Thus, the basic concept of cellular communications was developed. However, the technology itself did not yet exist.

1953 AT&T has filed a broadband mobile phone system operating in the 800 MHz band with the FCC.

1970 The FCC has announced a proposed 75 MHz spectrum allocation in the 800 MHz band. She also called on communication equipment manufacturers to make their proposals aimed at providing mobile radio communications.

1971 AT&T responded to the FCC call with a technical report demonstrating the feasibility of a “cellular system”. It was the only system approved by the FCC of all those submitted for consideration.

1974 The FCC has made a decision to allocate 40 MHz of spectrum for mobile phone services and related applications to enable the deployment of so-called “cellular systems”. Western Electric was prohibited from making cellular terminal equipment because it already offered networking equipment, and could not sell both classes of systems at the same time due to antitrust restrictions from regulators.

1975 AT&T has applied for permission to operate a trial cellular system in Chicago.

1977 AT&T received this license in March. Bell Telephone has developed and put into operation a pilot cellular communication system.

1978 Equipment testing phase started in the middle of the year; At the end of the year, the service testing phase began. For testing, 21,000 mobile devices were purchased from three suppliers. The system served about 2 thousand users participating in the experiment.

1981 The FCC has issued rules for using the cellular standard. Western Electric companies were allowed to produce cellular terminals and network equipment.

Compiled from ATT Cellular Telephone Equipment Installation Course

Vitaly Solonin / CNews. ru

1 The mobile phone weighed more than a kilogram, for which it was called an iron/brick with buttons.
The receiving station was on the roof of one of the New York skyscrapers. It could only support 30 communication channels. In addition, calls from a single mobile phone could only be made to ordinary “landline” numbers.

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Published in 2004

63 years of mobile communications! — A life full of impressions

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  • 04/05/2020

Yesterday, many publications and blogs published articles that mobile communications turned 47 years old (April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper made the first call on a mobile phone from the streets of New York), but at that moment mobile communications worked in the USSR for ten years now (!). True, it did not work for everyone. I have in my hand the handset of the Altai mobile phone.

In fact, the first communication systems in cars appeared much earlier. Already in 1901, Guglielmo Marconi installed a transceiver on a steam car, and in 19In 33, police cars in the United States began to be equipped with walkie-talkies. In 1946, a mobile communication network was launched in America with manual frequency channel selection and communication through an operator. Communication worked in half-duplex mode, as in walkie-talkies.

In 1957, Soviet engineer L. I. Kupriyanovich created a prototype of the LK-1 mobile phone, which, unfortunately, did not go into serial production, but his Radiophone can be considered the first mobile phone.

Work on the automatic mobile communication system “Altai” began at 1958 year. Telephones and base stations were created at the Voronezh Research Institute of Communications (VNIIS). Antennas have been developed at the Moscow State Specialized Design Institute (GSPI). Enterprises from Leningrad, Belarus and Moldova also took part in the project.

The Altai system made it possible to use the phone in the car in the same way as a regular phone – you just had to pick up the receiver and dial the number. Communication worked in duplex mode, as in conventional phones.

Altai was mobile communication, but not cellular – there was only one base station for the whole city. In Moscow, it was first located on a high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya embankment, and before the Olympics on 1980 years was moved to the Ostankino tower.

Initially, Altai operated at a frequency of 150 MHz and had 16 channels. In the whole city, only 16 subscribers could talk on a mobile phone at the same time.

In 1970, Altai worked in 30 cities, and by the mid-70s already in 114 cities of the Soviet Union.

Later, new radio channels were allocated (22 “trunks” of 8 channels each) in the 330 MHz band, this allowed 176 subscribers to talk at the same time.

The mobile phone consisted of several blocks. A block with a handset and dialing buttons was installed between the front seats.

In the trunk – a radio transmitter unit, on the roof of the car – an antenna.

In total, by the beginning of the 80s, the Altai system had about 25 thousand subscribers throughout the country. Mostly they were members of the government and officials.

All these dates (both 63 and 47 years) mark only the first calls for prototypes, but not mass products. The real cell phone is “only” 37 years old: on March 6, 1983, the world’s first commercial portable cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, was released. The phone cost $3995, weighed 794 grams and measured 33 x 4.4 x 8.9 cm. McKinsey concluded that in 2000 the market will be about 900,000 mobile phones and AT&T considered the mobile phone business not promising enough. Analysts were wrong 800 times, in 200 there were 738 million mobile subscribers.