The development of GSM started in the early 1980s. It was seen then as the mainstay of the plans for Europe´s mobile communication infrastructure for the 1990s. Today, GSM and its DCS 1800 and PCS 1900 versions have spread far beyond Western Europe with networks installed across all continents.

The story begins in 1982 when the European Conference of Posts and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), consisting then of the telecommunication administrations of twenty six nations made two very significant decisions. The first was to establish a team with the title "Groupe Spéciale Mobile" (hence the term "GSM", which today stands for Global System for Mobile Communications) to develop a set of common standards for a future pan-European cellular network. The second was to recommend that two blocks of frequencies in the 900 MHz band be set aside for the system.

The CEPT made these decisions in an attempt to solve the problems created by the uncoordinated development of individual national mobile communication systems using incompatible standards. The impossibility of using the same terminal in different countries whilst travelling across Europe was one of these problems; another was the difficulty of establishing a Europe-wide mobile communications industry that would be competitive in world markets due to the lack of a sufficiently larger home market with common standards - with its attendant economies of scale.

By 1986 it was clear that some of these analogue cellular networks would run out of capacity by the early 1990s. As a result, a directive was issued for two blocks of frequencies in the 900 MHz band, albeit somewhat smaller than recommended by the CEPT, to be reserved absolutely for a pan-European service to be opened in 1991.

In the meantime the GSM members were making excellent progress with the development of agreed standards. One major decision was to adopt a digital rather than an analogue system.

The digital system would offer improved spectrum efficiency, better quality transmission and new services with enhanced features including security. It would also permit the use of Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) technology which would lead to smaller and cheaper mobiles, including hand held terminals. Finally, a digital approach would complement the development of the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) with which GSM would have to interface.

GSM initially stood for Group Spécial Mobile, the CEPT (Conference of European Posts & Telegraphs) formed the group to develop a Pan-European cellular system to replace the many systems already in place in Europe that were all incompatible.

The main features of GSM were to be International Roaming ability, good sound quality, small cheap handsets and ability to handle high volumes of users. GSM was taken over in 1989 by the ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and they finalised the GSM standard in 1990. GSM service started in 1991. It was also renamed this year to Global System for Mobile communications (GSM).

Today there are approx 105 countries with GSM networks or planned networks and many more are planned with around 32 million subscribers world wide on the 139 networks. This accounts for over 25% of the world's cellular market.

The MoU "Memorandum of Understanding" has over 210 members from 105 countries, this organisation meets ever three to four months to look at new or better implementions to the GSM system.

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