‘Hello?’ Telecommunications have come a long, long way

From a nine-word call by Alexander Graham Bell to the world in your pocket via 5G, phones forge a way to the future

Changes in phones over timeThe words of the world’s first telephone call were: “Mr Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

The date was March 10, 1876, with Alexander Graham Bell on lead vocals and his assistant, Thomas Watson, receiving. Bell successfully demonstrated his ability to “talk with electricity” by transmitting the nine-word call, and the rest really is history.

It was the development which led to birth of the Bell System, headed by the Bell Telephone Company and later by AT&T. The system provided phone services to much of the United States and Canada from 1877 to 1984. Bell formed his eponymous company in 1877, a year after that historic call to someone who was physically out of earshot.

His patent lasted 15 years, after which the market opened to competition and thousands of new companies started. Fast-forward to the present day, and the word “competition” barely does justice to the frenzy as service providers fall over themselves to provide newer, better, faster communication system.

The relatively simple device — remarkable in its day — which enabled people to talk over a long distance has evolved into a hand-held computer, capable of creating, receiving and sending links, videos and messages, channelling GPS and downloading apps. Last, and possibly least, in its list of functions, is the ability to make calls.

In this ultra-competitive, closely fought world, Verizon Communications is one of the “Baby Bells” — the companies formed to break up the monopoly of the original Bell System.

It now leads the industry, with the first commercial application of next-generation broadband services. Verizon recently announced its plan to launch wireless residential broadband services in three to five US markets in 2018.

As a first application of fifth-generation — or 5G — wireless, these services will use radio signals, rather than copper or fiber cables, to provide customers with unprecedented wireless speeds for Internet access. As 5G continues to evolve, customers will benefit from a wide array of services — including broadband, mobile and IoT (Internet of things) — and the necessary bandwidth and low latency for 3D and virtual reality applications.

Verizon’s first commercial launch is planned to be in Sacramento, California, in the second half of 2018. Details of that launch, and the announcement of additional markets, have yet to be revealed.

Verizon successfully trialled 5G residential applications in 11 markets last year. The commercial launch is based on customer experience and on Verizon’s confidence in new technology powered by millimetre-wave spectrum.

Verizon estimates the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be about 30 million US households.

Verizon says the 5G commercial launch will not have a material impact on its consolidated capital expenditures in 2018. The company expects its full-year 2018 capital spending program to be consistent with the past several years.

“This is a landmark announcement for customers and investors who have been waiting for the 5G future to become a reality,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon CTO.

“We appreciate our strong ecosystem partners for their passion and technological support in helping us drive forward with 5G industry standards, for both fixed and mobile applications.

“The targeted initial launches we are announcing today will provide a strong framework for accelerating 5G’s future deployment on the global standards.”

We’ve come a long way from “Ma Bell”.

Exciting times, and a long way from that simple “come hither” call to Mr Watson.