Carl-Gösta Åsdal, chief engineer of Televerket’s radio division, became a key player when in 1964 he took over as chairman of the agency’s working group on future telephone systems. This involved responsibility for a major investigation, the Terrestrial Mobile Telephony Inquiry, which submitted a substantial report in August 1967.

This report summarized experiences of mobile telephony from around the world. There had still not been any large-scale trials of automatically connected mobile calls. In the US, the launch of what was to be called the IMTS mobile telephone system was extended only gradually after its premiere in 1964 and potential subscribers could sometimes expect to wait several years for a subscription.

In Sweden, the inquiry’s report recommended that Televerket create three new services:

1. A new, automatic mobile telephone service with national coverage 

2. A new paging system also with national coverage 

3. A joint terrestrial mobile radio infrastructure, for enterprises and the public sector.

A wish list of features had been drawn up for the new mobile system. One was that using a mobile telephone would basically be the same as using an ordinary phone. But Mäkitalo and his team soon saw that the arguments behind the inquiry did not make sense.

For example, it was suggested that calls to vehicles would primarily be to “predetermined localities” because the vehicles belonged to companies and “they often follow familiar routes.” The vehicles were expected to remain mainly in “geographically restricted areas” and this would “make it unnecessary to use even a basic dialing system to call a vehicle. A-subscribers can be expected to know which dialing code area the recipient will be in.”

DISREGARDED ROAMING

In other words the inquiry had totally disregarded the need for what would later be called roaming. When Televerket’s development division mentioned the need for such a function, it was dismissed as unnecessary.

The inquiry also found that phone numbers of 13–14 digits would be needed for the mobile system. The fact that this would make international calls almost impossible was seen as insignificant: “Not many calls will be made to mobile phones from abroad, so they can be connected manually.” The inquiry concluded that, in view of the distinctive features of the system, it could be considered an advantage if “dialing a mobile phone differed from making calls to normal phones.”

A proposal from the development division, that the system should be based on technology using programmable memory, was also rejected by the inquiry on the grounds that the economic viability of the new system would be restricted, “which means that financial considerations are more important than facilities.” The conclusion of the inquiry was: “There can therefore be no discussion of any computer control before a large and healthy number of subscribers had been established.” Otherwise it would be too expensive.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

CARL-GÖSTA ÅSDAL

CARL-GÖSTA ÅSDAL

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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