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January 2, 2015

Thirty years pass since first UK mobile call

Vodafone chair's son snuck out of New Year's party to surprise his dad.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Thirty years have passed since Vodafone connected its first phone call over a commercial mobile network.

Michael Harrison, the son of Vodafone’s first chairman Ernest, made the call to his home from Parliament Square at midnight, having slipped out of a New Year’s Eve party to surprise his father.

As his dad picked up the phone the younger Harrison said: "Hi Dad. It’s Mike. This is the first-ever call made on a UK commercial mobile network."

His phone call came ahead of the public unveiling of the technology by comedian Ernie Wise at St Katherine’s Dock in London a few days later, with Vodafone being the only firm to run a mobile network for the first nine days of the year.

More than 2,000 orders had been placed for the cumbersome handsets sold by the firm at the time, with six times that number eventually sold by the end of 1985 at a cost of £2,000, or what would be £5,000 today.

"The development in mobile since has been completely unprecedented," said Maurizio Pilu, partnerships director at the Digital Catapult, a firm that promotes collaboration in digital industry.

"Who would have ever predicted that the majority of the UK would no longer be using mobile for voice? Data now leads the way when it comes to mobile and we are using record amounts of mobile data across the UK."

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