The history of Norwegian telecom is in many ways identical to the history of Telenor. During the course of its 150-year long history, the name has seen several changes. These changes represent the different phases of Norwegian telecom history. The public company that started out in 1855 as the ‘The Royal Electric Telegraph’ is what we now know as Telenor. The company has gone from being a governmental institution, focused on telegraphy, to become a global shareholding company offering some of the most advanced telecommunication technologies and services in the world.
A Pioneer in Mobile Communications
Norwegian Telecom has long been a pioneer within mobile communication services. Today, Telenor is in the forefront of efforts to develop the mobile technologies of the future. By 2008, UMTS – known as 3G (Third generation) mobile system – will have been in operation for several years. UMTS and EDGE have given millions of people access to vital information, health and bank services, education and business opportunities. In 2007, Telenor was granted a license to develop 4G (Fourth Generation) mobile broadband services.
The very first mobile service
As early as 1966, the first manual mobile operating system was in use. The majority of the country did not have coverage, but within the first decade, 10,000 subscribers were registered. This operating system is known as OLT (Public Land Mobile Telephony). One of the drawbacks with this system was that anyone could listen in. OLT was abandoned in 1990 and no new concessions were granted after 1989.
The First Generation (1G): NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephony)
Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) was first introduced in 1981. NMT was one of the world’s most advanced mobile systems. For the first time mobile subscribers in eastern Norway could make direct calls to more than 60 countries around the world. By 1985, NMT-450 covered the whole of Norway.
Norwegian Telecom cooperated with the other Nordic countries to establish the common standard that resulted in NMT. Other countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia also adopted this operating system. This service was popular, but limited capacity resulted in an almost constant overload. Considerable resources were used to upgrade and extend the coverage.
Telenor launched WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) in 1999 and was one of the first mobile operators in the world to offer the service. WAP gave people access to the Internet directly from their mobile phones. This standard linked GSM and the Internet. WAP gives access to information and Internet services, such as news and entertainment, banking and share trading.
The Second Generation (2G): GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
GSM is the result of cooperation between several European countries and the system was brought into use by USA and by several countries in Asia. Telenor was an important contributor in the development of the GSM-standard.
GSM was officially opened for service in 1993. During the second half of 1994, Telenor Mobile GSM network was sufficiently developed to offer good coverage. In August, Telenor fully launched the marketing of the GSM service.
Norway – a world leader
Norway became the world leader in terms of number of mobile phones per person. Towards the end of 1995, 23.2% of all Norwegians owned a mobile telephone. In 1996, Telenor was the leading supplier of GSM-services in Norway. In 1999, Norway recorded the second highest penetration of mobile phone subscriptions in the world. The use of SMS (Short Message Service) increased rapidly in the GSM network. Young people in particular accounted for the increase in traffic.
Upgraded GSM allowed for access to the Internet
GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) was launched in 2001 and was an upgrade of the GSM network. GPRS allowed the user to get access to the Internet and pay only for the amounts of data transferred.
EDGE - moving towards 3G technology
EDGE formed part of the Telenor commitment to 3G technology. In 2004, Telenor upgraded the GSM network with the so-called EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) technology. This enabled the company to offer its mobile customers improved quality, increased capacity and larger bandwidth in the existing GSM network. With EDGE the data transfer rate was three times what was possible before the GSM technology was submitted.
In 2006, EDGE was introduced in the market. The mobile network secured 3G services across the whole country.
The Third Generation (3G) network: UMTS
With UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), Norway received its 3G (third generation) network. In 1999, Telenor was granted a test licence for UMTS and initiated strategies for the next generation mobile system. Telenor considered it important to be in the forefront of UMTS developments in order to maintain a leading position in the mobile sector.
The commercial launch of UMTS in Norway and Sweden took place in 2004.
Almost 170,000 people had coverage where they lived. By the end of 2004, the coverage extended to all built-up areas in Norway.
UMTS: A mobile broadband network
UMTS is a broadband network that gives access to services such as the Internet and directly transmitted TV broadcasts. The network provided an upgraded access to Internet services offered through mobile terminals. Live video and sound were some of the new features provided through the 3G solution. In 2007, Telenor, Norway is granted a license in the 2.6 GHz band for 4G (Fourth Generation) mobile broadband.