First Russian Mobile Phone

 This is the photo of the first Soviet cellular phone. The development of such devices has started in 1958 as a cooperative project by the group of the Soviet scientists from different cities.

It was a fully functional mobile phone that was placed in the car of the Soviet elite. It had a full duplex link and in order to dial a phone one had just pick up the receiver and dial a number using this big square buttons with letters and digits on them. On the first models there were even old-style round dial.

first russian mobile phone

In a common Soviet town the phone base station had only 16 radio channels, but it was enough to serve the local Communist elite with a mobile phone link.

There was used a 150 MHz frequency, so the antenna placed on the roof of a high building could give a coverage area of 40-50 miles.

The first devices were started in production in 1963, and till 1970 more than 30 Soviet cities were covered with this elite mobile phone network. As far as the author knows, in USA there was also such kind of mobile telephone system but it started a bit later – at 1969.

The system had even some modern day features as “conference-call”. And there was a hierarchy in using this system. People who hold higher Communist positions could throw of the line the lower posts when they needed to talk urgently but all the lines were busy. Some could call only local numbers and more advanced Communists could call worldwide.

In the late 70s there appeared a new, less monstrous model of the Soviet mobile phone. It could be conveniently placed between front passenger chairs in the car, not in the trunk as before.

a further modification of the russian mobile phone altai

The Soviet authorities even didn’t think about providing the service to common people. The mobile phone could give another level of freedom to its owner, and it was not what they expected from the citizens.

34 thoughts on “First Russian Mobile Phone”

  1. It wasnt a cell phone, if you have such phone you dont use a cellular number, you are connected to the regular tefon station, no cell phone operators, no bills. Basically it uses CV technology.
    to Alexandre, the TV is also a radio reciver, so can you say that it is cellular? Uchi machast’!!!

  2. In fact it isn’t “the first one”. There were some similar apparatus in cars of Stalin and some other communist bosses of 1930s-1940s. It was even bigger than one on this picture and based on vaccuum tubes, not transistors (they weren’t invented yet). More astonishing thing that earlier devices had some sort of signal scrambling against overhearing.

    Levon, who needs the mess with cellular numbers and bills?

  3. One more reason why it wasn’t a cell phone – because it haven’t polyphonic tunes, bluetooth and color display 🙂
    And couldn’t send SMS, yeah, dudes? 🙂

    • A couple years late, but here you go.

      It’s hard to tell exactly when the first full-duplex, direct-dial mobile “telephone” appeared in the US; Motorola’s IMTS may have been the first ‘standard’ for it in the ’60s, but custom systems must have existed before then. “Phone patch” for a radio system is a pretty simple problem technically, but the problem here would have been the expense and bureaucracy of interfacing with the Bell telephone system – probably almost as bad as dealing with the Soviet equivalent!

      [In the US, one of the reasons for permitting/sanctioning the Bell monopoly was national security – check out some of the old “Long Lines” stuff!]

  4. First, let’s remember that the average Russian might not know the EXACT meaning of the words “cell phone”.
    That said, these two models appear to be analog radiotelephones which are a simple duplex transceiver, with the outgoing voice channel transmitting on one frequency and the incoming audio on another.

    They are analogous to the old VHF radiotelephones also in use in the USA at around the same time, and yes the Russians most likely DID have earlier models as well.
    To make it clear, the word “cell phone” or “cellular phone” should be defined properly.

    A cellular telephone system uses a collection of “cells” in which low-powered analog or digital UHF/microwave radiotelephones seek out the strongest “cell” in their area. The cell network picks the cell that has the best reception and transmission and the call is handled by that particular tower until the signal starts getting stronger in a neighboring “cell”.

    At such time the call is “handed off” to this neighboring cell and the process is repeated over and over as the caller travels through the area. This allows many more users to access a greater number of talk/receive channels, which are MULTIPLEXED by the way, for even greater efficiency.
    In a digital network efficiency is even better because each caller has a unique digital identifier and the network can filter out ALL other signals except the one with the appropriate identifier.

    This is very similar to the SSID assigned to a WiFi access point. You can receive a good signal from a nearby access point but if you do not have the proper SSID and passkey you cannot use the system.

    • Thank you,

      You said exactly what I wanted to say better than I could have said myself.

      I don’t think the author had the intention of misleading the readers it is just that this type of technology / phone was not nearly as common as cellular phones are today and many people did not know of them or just plain forgot about them.

      So, thanks again for your great explanation of the differences in technology.

      And to the author: Thank you for the photos. It was great to see them

      • It’s just the misunderstanding of the word “cellular” or “cellphone” that is causing all the uproar. Just looking at these pictures it is indeed most likely the first “mobile phone” to be sure. It just was not “cellular” because cell technology didn’t exist yet.
        To be totally honest, in many ways it was much more practical than a cell phone however, because it required VERY little infrastructure for it to work, only a very good receiver station/antenna some place in the metropolitan area.
        These phones didn’t require extensive infrastructure for one very simple reason – BONE CRUSHING POWER!
        Mobile phones of this type typically had approximately 100 to 250 watts of power output, enough to give anyone touching the antenna a very unpleasant electric shock and maybe a good skin burn.

        CELL phones, on the other hand?
        The early “bag phones” put out about SIX watts and today’s small models only put out about 0.6 to 1.0 watts. No more power is necessary because cell stations are everywhere. But so is huge infrastructure to support cell system.

        Sometimes it is better to just have giant RF amplifier in the trunk!

  5. Well if we speak about scientist, and technology,

    Russian scientist have been leaders. Despite what your propaganda told you.

    Russian scientist are well known in the world and have excellent reputation. 700 of their scientist contributed to the buildning of the machine to thest the bigbang that soon will be in test. In russia they show the progress in real, they dont make it sensational like in US, America im sure have good scientist, and they may as well respect their collegues in Russia..

    What im pretty sure and i can confirm when i read around in internet about RUssia is that the majoroty of the countries including US care more about Russia that Russia care about them. Its like an inferiority complex actually.

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  7. No!
    there is not a radio station!
    This is a radio-telephone!!!
    in radio you have one channel, one way so you talk or listen.
    In phone you have two way communications – full duplex, so you can talk and listen in this same time!

  8. How it is i don’t know that but, i need it so, how it is possible to get ???? i love russian sexy girls if any one would like to friendship pls. send mail for me with your cell numbers i must have to reply you. my mail is: (Shimol IT Eng. Dept)

  9. sometimes it i have a hard time selecting which mobile phone to buy. there are too many options to choose from.’,;

  10. digital telephone systems today presents a great improvement overt the analog phone systems we used severa decades ago,-,

  11. the great thing about the modern telephone system are those value added services like Digital Subscriber Lines which offer high,.:

  12. It is amazing how telecommunications have started and started with different but relative technologies all over the world. The recent development of the mobile phone from analog to GSM has been a consortium of technologies and telecommunications experts around the world particularly in Europe.It is where GSM got its name Groupe Spécial Mobile later translated to English as Global Systems for Mobile which was developed by European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT). Later, GPRS and EDGE were added to the GSM standards. Now we have 3G and Korea has a more sophisticated system that only they are using.

  13. A couple of years too late..

    Well, it was installed in a car, and worked while it was moving, so, it was a ‘Mobile Phone’.

    Sure, cellulars these days are also mobile phones, just a different kind, due to their technology, hence the name ‘cell’

    And now we have a 4G around the corner..

  14. wow…soviet science…if only they had made all this tecnology for comon use…they were firts in many technologies…bravo for the soviet union, bravo for Russia..

  15. Very interestíng, and thank you! A small correction: At the time of opening of the described Soviet service in 1963, there were several public mobile phone services already elsewhere, for instance, in the U.S. (since 1946), Germany (since 1950), and Sweden (since 1956). Best regards, Jorma Nieminen, Finland.

  16. It is not unusal to imagine that these technologies “sprang up” all over the world “at the same time”. The truth is, the Russian phones were based on American military equipment, that they had acquired specs on through espionage. That is why, even at the time the technology was outdated. It was not until much later that the Soviets caught on that if they wanted the newest coolest stuff they had to engage in industrial espionage. By then it was too late. Technology was advancing too fast for them and the military had turned away from updating technology as soon as it came out as we were recuperating from expensive wars. You just can’t steal old technology and expect to remain competitive with a rapidly advancing technological civilization. The Chinese figured it out early…they are stealing US technology as fast as it is being developed.

  17. If you think that almost simultaneous appearance of technology, projects, etc. can be only by spying, you are non-educated (at least, not technically educated).


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