In practice, the Kabelvåg decision meant for Sweden that the automatic mobile system – with the working name of MTC, which had been called for in the Terrestrial Mobile Telephony Inquiry – was to be planned as a Nordic project but for implementation in the relatively distant future.

The existing MTA and MTB systems were inadequate and too expensive to cope with the requirements that had arisen. There was also a concern that private players had begun to win territory. Televerket therefore decided in August 1969 to go ahead with an interim, manual system. It appointed a project group, and dubbed the system MTD (Mobile Telephone system D); it was to be in operation until the MTC system was ready.

MTD was to be set up in selected major Swedish towns – “cautiously, however, so that the development of a nationwide network would not be delayed.” Håkan Bokstam, a member of Televerket’s planning division, was appointed head of the MTD project. Mäkitalo’s tasks at the development division included further work with MTC.

The MTD system was based on service centers at which calls could be connected manually to or from a mobile phone. The operator read out the number requested over the calling channel of the base station in the area in which the recipient’s vehicle was thought to be. This meant the caller had to know the recipient’s whereabouts. If there was a response, the operator could then tell the subscriber to transfer to an available channel where the conversation could continue. When selective calling was introduced in 1974, the subscriber’s phone rang and it was no longer necessary to monitor the calling channel.

MTD was launched at the end of 1971; to begin with it covered an area in central Sweden, with a service center in Örebro. It was then extended stage by stage during the 1970s with service centers in Malmö, Trollhättan, Sundsvall, Gothenburg and Karlstad.

BUY YOUR OWN MOBILE TELEPHONE

One major innovation, at least in principle, was that with MTD, Televerket deviated from its monopoly mindset. Until then, all telephones had been government property, which subscribers were allowed to borrow. Now subscribers had to acquire their own equipment from the supplier of their choice. This was not so much for ideological reasons, at least not explicit ones, but more to involve as many participants as possible (manufacturers and importers of mobile phones, suppliers and distributors) and make MTD attractive and available to a wider group of users.

But it was a contentious issue, Haug says. “There was no little opposition; the unions above all were eager to make sure that Televerket would still be in charge of servicing the equipment.”

The regulations stipulated that equipment would continue to require Televerket’s certificates of approval. Televerket also allocated numbers, registered them, and charged a fixed quarterly subscription and call tariffs.

By the beginning of 1974, MTD had around 2,400 subscribers and a network of 58 base stations. At its peak, around the mid-1980s, the system had just over 19,300 subscribers, 110 base stations and about 400 exchange operators.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

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