Twenty years ago today - first mobiles used in Australia

On this day 20 years ago, the first mobile phones were introduced in Australia.

At 10.42am on February 23, 1987, the then Minister for Communications, Michael Duffy, received the first official call using an analogue mobile phone.

They were big and bulky, weighing more than half a kilogram. They were disparagingly dubbed “bricks”, offered voice only services and cost more than $4000 each.

In the ensuing two decades there has been a rapid evolution resulting in a quantum shift in mobile phone technology. They have been transformed into digital, slim-line, pocket-sized, hand-held mini-computers capable of anywhere, anytime connectivity.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, Chris Althaus, said the convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology was now mainstream in the form of third generation (3G) services offered by the industry.

“The latest technology provides access across multi-media functions such as the internet, music, video, email, SMS, instant messaging, photography, mobile office, mobile TV as well as the all-important voice telephony functions,” he said.

“3G is providing consumers with the latest mobile telecommunications functionality and further opportunities for business to boost productivity by allowing streamlined business processes, enhanced customer service and increased efficiency,” he said.

Mr Althaus said the growth of mobile phones had been spectacular over the past two decades and the mobile telecommunications industry had a greater impact on the Australian economy than the free-to-air television industry and the newspaper printing and publishing industry.

“Behind the success of our industry, there are people, and mobile phone telephony has had a profound impact on their everyday lives – their lifestyle, their productivity and the ways they interact with their family, friends and their workplaces,” he said.

Industry facts:

Today there are 19.76 million mobile phone services in Australia. A decade and a half ago there were 635,000 mobile phones in Australia.

Today mobile services in operation as a proportion of the Australian population is 96%. Fifteen years ago fewer than 4% of people had one.

In the 12 months to June 30, 2006, there were 10.2 billion text messages sent in Australia. In 1987 there were none. Six years ago when text messaging started there were only 642 million sent in 2000-01.

AMTA runs a range of programs to assist people and the community to use mobile telephony in an environmentally, socially and economically responsible and successful manner.

MobileMuster: The industry’s world-leading recycling program collects mobile phones for recycling because they are not biodegradable and they contain many valuable materials that can be extracted and resused in product such as jewellery, stainless steel products and fence posts. The website is :

Mind your Mobile: AMTA runs the “Mind your Mobile” program that makes lost and stolen mobile phones virtually worthless because once reported missing they cannot be connected to any network in Australia. The anti-theft technology works by detecting a mobile phone’s electronic serial number, known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, then sharing this information with the carriers. More information can be found at:

Str8tlk: AMTA has launched a new industry website to assist young people get access to practical information for using their mobile phones in a safe, responsible and affordable manner. The new website – Str8tlk - aims to assist young people aged 10-18 years on a wide range of subjects related to the use of their mobile phones. The website is

Social research: AMTA in partnership with leading academics has started a three-year research project into the impact of mobile phones on work/family balance.

Consumer tips: AMTA has introduced a range of step-by-step guides to help consumers to gain access to all the benefits that mobiles have to offer in terms of safety and security in an affordable and responsible manner. The full range can be accessed on our website:

For more information contact Randal Markey, Manager, Communications, AMTA, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550