Finland’s Elisa becomes first operator in the world to start selling mobile 5G subscriptions

Commercial 5G for smartphones is here. At least, in some places.
Finland, Elisa, 5G, Estonia, Tech, Technology, Mobile, Network, Future, Society

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Photo credit: Ben Mack

Finnish operator Elisa says it has become the first mobile operator in the world to offer customers 5G subscriptions – and has launched a commercial 5G mobile network to boot.

The network was launched with an international call from Finland to Estonia, when Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner called from Tampere to Tallinn and spoke with Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson.

While several operators across the Middle East have are preparing to launch mobile 5G networks – including Etisalat (which plans to roll out commercial 5G in September), STC and Ooredoo – the call between Berner and Simson is thought to be the world’s first commercial mobile 5G call. Simson’s first words during the historic call: “The weather is nice and it’s an unbelievable opportunity to contact you like this.”

Elisa worked with Huawei to launch the mobile 5G service. At first, the network is available in Finland’s second-largest city of Tampere and in Tallinn, Estonia’s uber-hip Rotermann Quarter – but, naturally, there are plans afoot to expand this.


Tallinn, Estonia's Old Town. Photo credit: Ben Mack.

As Elisa head of mobile technology Eetu Prieur told Rapid TV News: “Our 5G network provides about 10 times more capacity compared to 4G networks, which enables video content providers to use very high video quality such as 4K or even 8K resolution, 360 videos and advanced sound.”

Elisa CEO Veli-Matti Mattila had more to say. “With the help of 5G services, consumers as well as corporate and institutional customers will get lots of new value when modern applications can be used more efficiently and it becomes possible to develop new applications. For example, it will be possible in the future for all viewers to watch the same football match as a high-quality live broadcast without delay using any terminal device.”

All that’s in line with what the Finnish transport and communications minister Berner has said about the goal of making Finland the leading nation as a developer of 5G mobile services.

There’s a certain poetry in the 5G call originating from Finland, too. On March 27, 1991, the world’s first GSM phone call was made on the network of Radiolinja, the predecessor of Elisa. The network was also the first to carry a person-to-person SMS text message in 1993, and the first ringtone in 1998.

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