Table of Contents

  • We are delighted to present this fifth edition of the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) World Telecommunication Development Report, this year on the theme of mobile cellular communications. The report has been specially prepared for World TELECOM 99, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland (10-17 October 1999).

  • The history of wireless communications dates back to 1898, when Guglielmo Marconi, transmitted the first wireless message. In the United States, mobile radiophones have been in operation since the early 1920s when the Detroit Police Department started using them in police cars. The British invention of radar (1935) was a significant step forward in understanding higher radio frequency portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. During World War II radiotelephony was further developed for military purposes. In 1946, the first commercial mobile radiotelephone service was tested by Bell Systems in St. Louis, and it was introduced into several US cities by the end of the 1940s. This service was intended to connect mobile users in cars to the public landline network. The system was based on a single powerful transmitter that used signals based on frequency modulation that could cover an area up to some 50 miles (about 80 km) from the transmitter. These FM mobile telephones used the 120 kHz frequency band to transmit voice over a bandwidth of just 3 kHz. In the 1960s, a new mobile telephone system was launched by Bell Systems called the Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS). It brought many improvements, such as full-duplex, direct dialing, and FM channel bandwidth of 25-30 kHz.

  • Regulation of mobile cellular services has tended to be minimal. For instance, fewer than half the countries replying to an ITU questionnaire in 1999 stated that their mobile operators had universal service/access obligations or that their mobile tariffs were regulated. The relative lack of cellular regulation in a number of markets is partly due to regulatory asymmetry where new services are not burdened with regulatory obligations in their early stages of development. This approach has been reinforced by the growing belief that fixed networks have been too regulated, stifling innovation and network growth. Since mobile has developed at a time when this belief has become commonly accepted, regulations have been limited or non-existent. A related factor is that, in some countries, mobile cellular has typically been defined as a value-added service, falling outside the regulatory scope of basic voice telephony. In developing countries, the scarcity of regulatory skills and, in some cases, the absence of an independent regulator, have narrowed the latitude for encouraging mobile operators to enlarge overall accessibility to communications. The question that begs asking is whether mobile cellular has grown so fast because of limited regulation or whether it would grow even more rapidly with more regulation?

  • Mobile service is rarely cheaper than fixed-line telephony. Even in countries where the service is relatively mature, the price of using a mobilephone to make a particular call is generally more expensive than using a fixed-line telephone. However, higher prices appear to have done little to detract from the popularity of mobile service. Indeed, many users make calls on their mobilephone even when they are at home or in the office and could easily make the same call, more cheaply, on a fixed-line telephone. The secret of the attractiveness of mobile pricing can be summed up in one word