Jonathan Jensen – A bit of Mobile History

Looking back at customer service in the early 1990’s

Nokia Orange

The other day I was talking to Ewan about customer service and it made me realise just how much this aspect of the mobile world has changed. The move from providing a niche service to going mass market inevitably removed the personal service that the operators offered back in the early days of the market. So a little bit of mobile history …

The specific instance that Ewan & I discussed was how Orange used to offer two hour replacement handsets when they launched back in 1994. I guess handsets were perhaps less reliable back then and I certainly had several replacements over the following few years. However the one occasion that really stood out was when a two hour replacement handset was shipped to me on the Isle of Wight. I phoned the fault in early evening and a couple of hours later was in possession of a courier delivered brand new handset – how cool was that!

Back in 1992 I bought my first handset, a Nokia 101, from Vodafone’s service provider arm, Vodac (in those days the networks were not allowed to sell direct). A very nice lady turned up at the house to show me the range of handsets that Vodac sold, I chose one and it was delivered a few days later. That’s what I call pre-sales service! The handset was of course analogue, not GSM, and used TACS technology. TACS stood for Total Access Communications System. By today’s standards I’m not sure ‘Total Access’ would stand up to scrutiny! But back then any mobile phone was something special! GSM roaming was only a glint in the EU eye, however my TACS Vodafone could roam in Malta (Vodafone ran the network) should I have found myself there – I didn’t!

The analogue networks suffered from very variable coverage – nothing much changes does it! After pushing to have a coverage complaint escalated, Vodafone despatched a team to check things out and look at the coverage ‘on site’. A car, bristling with antennae arrived; readings were taken and fed back into network planning. I was left in no doubt that my complaint had been taken seriously!

The other side of all this great service was of course, call costs. In the early days of mobile, a second mortgage was pretty much essential to deal with the bills! Now, although standard call charges are pretty good, you still need that second mortgage to deal with roaming bills, and sometimes data, as Ewan knows to his cost!

All this reminiscing got me thinking about the handsets I’ve had since 1992. Well, here’s the list – the ones I can remember! How many do you recognise?

Nokia 101
Nokia 2140 Orange
Nokia Orange 5.1
Ericsson GH198
Nokia 2110
Nokia 8110
Nokia 3110
Nokia 5110
Nokia 6130
Nokia 9110
Nokia 6150
Ericsson T28s
Nokia 8210
Ericson T68
Nokia 6310i
Nokia 7210
Nokia 7250
Nokia 7250i
Nokia 6230
Nokia 6230i
Nokia 1600
Nokia E65
Nokia 6120C
Nokia 2310
Nokia E51
Nokia 1208

It’s a mixture of high and low spec handsets. Some I bought myself and some issued by employers. Some bought for a very specific purpose – like the Nokia 1208 that cost £3 last month which I take when I go running.

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.

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