It's hard to imagine the world without the mobile phone but three decades ago in the UK there was no such thing. A former Vodafone Chairman received the very first UK mobile call on New Year's Day 1985. Ciara Lee looks at how things have changed since then.
Britons make 132 million mobile phone calls a day - but it was 30 years ago that it all began, led by Vodafone's first chairman. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, CIARA LEE, SAYING: "It was 1985 when Michael Harrison first made that UK phone call to his father Sir Ernest Harrison. Things have evolved rapidly since these early chunky and somewhat heavy handsets to an industry that is now worth billions of pounds." Today, Vodafone has over 438 million customers and 11 million fixed broadband customers. Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VODAFONE'S UK CEO JEROEN HOENCAMP, SAYING: "We beat the competition thirty years ago by nine days, to make that first call, to get that first customer out in the market. And that says a lot about Vodafone." The company has mobile operations in 26 countries and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets But it faces stiff competition. BT's move to buy mobile operator EE is expected to put the former state-owned telecoms giant back in pole position as fixed line and mobile services converge. It revives BT's old rivalry with Vodafone and could force Vodafone to make costly moves of its own to keep up. But Vodafone is confident. (SOUNDBITE) (English) VODAFONE'S UK CEO JEROEN HOENCAMP, SAYING: "Across the globe we are investing in network and customer experience. And that translates into the UK in one billion pounds in network, fixed and mobile." Mobile technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, and is showing little sign of slowing down. Nigel Linge is professor of telecommunications at the University of Salford. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR NIGEL LINGE, PROFESSOR OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD, SAYING: "I think increasingly we will be seamlessly connected. We won't consciously think, I'm using a mobile phone. We'll just be connected. You will see a growth in wearable technology. Universal connectivity is still a challenge. You don't get a signal absolutely everywhere on the planet." For the family of Sir Ernest Harrison, they had now idea how significant that moment in 1985 would be. From those first pioneering calls, the UK mobile market has grown into a telco giant worth 15 billion pounds a year.