Wireless History Timeline - 1980s

1989

The Motorola MicroTAC is introduced, the smallest and lightest phone available at the time, weighing 12.3 ounces.

1989

The "technology wars" among competing digital cellular standards begin.

1988

FCC’s Auxiliary Cellular Services Order adopts technical flexibility rules for cellular radio without mandating specific standards, which promotes the introduction of advanced cellular technologies by the industry.

1987

One millionth cellular subscriber is added in October.

1986

In May, the FCC accepts 37,650 applications for markets 241 – 305. At some point during this year, the shelves in the FCC filing room allegedly collapse due to the weight of the 100,000 applications in storage.

1986

In April, the FCC receives 8,471 applications for markets 166-180, and 25,018 for markets 181-240

1986

In March, the FCC receives 6,367 applications for markets 151 – 165

1986

In February, the FCC receives 8,007 applications for markets 121-135 and 7,436 applications for markets 136-150

1985

At year's end, there are 340,213 cell phone subscribers.

1985

The FCC releases the ISM band for unlicensed use, paving the way for wireless local area networking.

1984

The divestiture of AT&T is finalized, with cellular operations going to the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies. AT&T National AMPS company is divided among the RBOCS.

1984

In July, the FCC is inundated with 5,182 applications for markets 91-120, after having received only 1,110 applications for the 90 largest markets in the country

1984

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is founded in May.

1984

In February 1984, cellular service launches in Indianapolis as the third U.S. market with coverage. 

1983

On October 13, the first commercial cellular system begins operating in Chicago. In December 1983, the second system is activated in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. corridor.

1983

In March, the FCC accepts 567 applications for markets 61-90.  The FCC states this is too many applications to handle effectively by comparative hearings, and in October issues a rulemaking seeking authority to award licenses by lottery.

1983

Motorola introduces the DynaTAC mobile telephone unit, the first truly “mobile” radiotelephone. The phone, dubbed the “brick,” had one hour of talk time and eight hours of standby.

1983

In January, TCP/IP is selected as the official protocol for the ARPANET

1982

In November, the FCC accepts 353 applications for markets 31 -60

1982

In June, the FCC accepts 190 applications for the 30 largest market in the United States.  Only three applications were received for Boston, the smallest number for the major markets

1982

AT&T settles its antitrust lawsuit with the U.S. Government, agreeing to divest itself of local phone service and its cellular licenses.

1981

FCC issues Cellular Communications Systems Order, determining the cellular industry should have two carriers per market and creates cellular “A” and “B” licenses for each area of the country.