ICT's Nordic heritage: From 0G to 5G - Part 2

September 14, 2016

In the first part of this two-part review, we took a look at events in northern Europe from the late 1800s to the end of 1990s that altered the course of telecommunications history worldwide. This latter part follows the Scandinavian mobile telephony journey to the date and finally takes a look at how Scandinavia still keeps on driving the innovation throughout the whole industry.

After the launch of 2G the world was really starting to become mobile. As the use of 2G phones became more widespread and people began to utilize mobile phones in their daily lives, it became clear that demand for data, such as access to browse the internet, was growing.


Mobile payments were trialed in 1998 in Finland and Sweden where a mobile phone was used to pay for a Coca Cola vending machine and car parking. Commercial launches followed in 1999 in Norway.

It was a great challenge for an engineer to design the most advanced integrated circuits (IC) at the time. I still feel proud of it.


Mika Alamartimo, Program Manager at UROS has fond memories of 1999 when he was working in Nokia,

“We were developing the key building blocks like modem and processor devices for Nokia’s first commercial 3G products. The data processing and multimedia needs of the 3G products were far exceeding the limits silicon technology was capable to provide at the time. It was a great challenge for an engineer to design the most advanced integrated circuits (IC) at the time. I still feel proud that we were able to get the technology to the level required to launch the first commercial 3G products.”


The new millennium had arrived; advertising on the mobile phone first appeared in Finland when a free daily SMS news headline service was launched in 2000, sponsored by advertisers.

Nokia’s mobile phones were incredibly successful in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Nokia were also one of the pioneers of mobile gaming, due to the popularity of Snake, which was pre-loaded on many products. The 3310 is one of the company’s most well known products, and is noted today for its toughness.

In May 2000, the European Commission created the Wireless Strategic Initiative, a consortium of four telecommunications suppliers in Europe - Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel (France), and Siemens AG (Germany) - to develop and test new prototypes for advanced wireless communications systems.


Finnish smartphone company Myorigo who developed and manufactured touchscreen smartphones called MyDevice in 2001-2004 was another first for Scandinavia. The main focus in functionality was usability and ease of use via touchscreen. But unfortunately there was no market yet for that. Five years later Apple brought similar device called iPhone to the market with similar functionality than MyDevice had. Only then did usability, touchscreen, internet, value added services, app stores etc. become more and more important for users.

Also this year, Ericsson Mobile phones would be spun off into a joint venture with Sony, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications was born.


After the launch of 3G services during 2003, people started to access the Internet using their telephones. Nokia created the best-selling mobile phone of all time, the Nokia 1100 in 2003.

The Nokia 1100 (and closely related variants, the Nokia 1101 and the Nokia 1108) is a basic GSM Mobile Phone produced by Nokia. 250 million 1100s have been sold since its launch in late 2003, making it the world’s best selling phone handset and the best selling consumer electronics device in the world at the time. The model has now been discontinued.

The 1100 achieved its popularity despite being made during a time when more modern cellphones with more features (e.g. colour screen, internal camera) were available in the market. It was targeted towards developing countries and users who do not require advanced features beyond making calls and SMS text messages, alarm clock, reminders, etc.


Ericsson was working on ways to improve WCDMA as operators were buying and rolling it out; it was the first generation of 3G access. New advances included IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and the next evolution of WCDMA, called High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA). It was initially deployed in the download version called HSDPA; the technology spread from the first test calls in the US in late 2005 to 59 commercial networks in September 2006.


Ericsson had reduced its CDMA organization. This standard, used largely in North America, Japan and mainland Asia, was a rival to GSM, and Ericsson had a global market share of 25%, but the overall volumes were too low so Ericsson wound down its CDMA commitment, ending it completely by 2006. Ericsson started a series of acquisitions to strengthen its position in key technologies and market segments. The first of these was Marconi, a company dating back to the dawn of radio whose assets included a strong portfolio in transmission, fiber optic and fixed network services.


The acquisitions followed Ericsson’s general strategy of next-generation network technologies and multimedia, a combined offering that became more important as video became the dominant form of data traffic on mobile broadband networks. Ericsson created a division to develop its multimedia business in early 2007.


Companies who had been working and focusing on the internet via computers already took over the battle about users leaving ‘radio oriented’ companies to bleed. You could say that the battle was between ‘radio’ and ‘internet’. Internet won it. Radio was becoming only a simple local connectivity and mobility function. Further, experience from fixed broadband services showed there would also be an ever-increasing demand for greater data speeds and for innovation…


By 2009, it had become clear that, at some point, 3G networks would be overwhelmed by the growth of bandwidth-intensive applications, such as streaming media. Consequently, the industry began looking to data-optimized fourth-generation technologies, with the promise of speed improvements up to ten-fold over existing 3G technologies. The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard, offered in North America by Sprint, and the LTE standard, first offered in Scandinavia by TeliaSonera.


In 2011, UROS an innovative Finland (Oulu) based telecom services company started offering a revolutionary solution for global mobile internet access in co-operation with a network of mobile operators. In particular its roaming devices offer a game changer for business, eliminating roaming bill shock and providing predictable pricing, opening up the market to a new way of thinking about roaming.


Sony Ericsson remained in operation until February 2012, when Sony bought out Ericsson’s share; Ericsson said it wanted to focus on the global wireless market as a whole.


In September 2013 Nokia announced the sale of its mobile and devices division to Microsoft. After the sale of its mobile devices division, Nokia started to focus on its profitable network equipment division, Nokia Networks. Nokia has four network businesses that enable converging mobile and fixed broadband access, IP routing and optical networks, with the software and services to optimize network performance. They continue to help operators, enterprises, and governments meet the increasing demand of the connected world, and capture its opportunities.


While 2020 is the year when 5G technology is anticipated to be launched commercially; in 2015 Finland opened its first 5G test network being built in the northern city of Oulu. The 5G Test Network (5GTN), led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and University of Oulu in a consortium with industrial partners like Nokia. It provides a test bed for 5G technologies, applications, and business models, with a research focus on network management, testing technology, and air interfaces.

Also in 2015, Nokia announced OZO, a futuristic 360-degrees Virtual Reality camera, with eight 2k resolution optical image sensors. The division behind the product, Nokia Technologies, said that OZO would be the most advanced VR filmmaking platform. Nokia’s press release stated that OZO would be “the first in a planned portfolio of digital media solutions”, so more technologic products are expected in the future. The OZO was fully unveiled on November 30 in LA. The OZO will retail for $60,000 and is designed for professional use.


Kauppalehti, a Finnish trade and financial newspaper established in 1898, named UROS as number 1 in its list of growth companies in Finland. UROS, the Finnish native starting to scale-up globally, is known for innovation in International Roaming. Global roaming as a feature in smartphones was deemed to be the next big thing and this year the Finnish company developed its Goodspeed App.

Also in 2016, Steffen Malkowsky, from the University of Lund in Sweden, delivered an aggregate data rate of 1.59Gbps, setting a new world record in 5G wireless spectrum efficiency of 79.4bit/s/Hz. It was achieved using Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output), where large numbers of antennae provide simultaneous connectivity to multiple users in the same radio channel through a technique known as spatial multiplexing.

Also in 2016, Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera, and Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, announced that Stockholm and Tallinn in Estonia will be the first cities to have new wireless mobile technology, 5G, rolled out in 2018.

Today, Mobile Operators from Scandinavia are strong leaders in mobile operations all over the world.

+ Tele2 AB is a major European telecommunications operator, with about 14 million customers in 9 countries. It serves as a fixed-line telephone operator, cable and Digital television provider, mobile phone operator, IoT and Internet service provider.
+ Telenor Group is a Norwegian multinational telecommunications provider. It is one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies with operations in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia.
+ Telia Company AB is the dominant telephone company and mobile network operator in Sweden, Norway and Finland. The company has operations in other countries in Northern, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Asia.

With all this history, it’s clear that whether its because of the famously higher standard of living in Scandinavian countries, the access to great education systems or simply that Scandinavia is a competence centre for communications and mobile telephony, Scandinavia has carved a niche for communications that will be known and remembered for many centuries to come. UROS is proud to be part of this great heritage.

Sources: Wikipedia, company websites and personal stories

Hanne Mattinen

HR Manager

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