Just over twenty years ago, if you wanted a phone service, you could get one.. from Telstra. And that was it. Today marks an anniversary of sorts in Australian telecommunications, as Optus is twenty years old today, at least in terms of when it started commercial operations.
It’s just struck me that there’s probably a decent number of Giz readers who wouldn’t even recall an Australian telecommunications market with a single entity in it, let alone a time when that entity was simply called “Telecom”. Boy, do I feel old right now — a bit older than Optus is, although that date is itself a bit murky too.
Birthdays are always tricky things, but Optus’ is particularly tricky to unravel. A carrier licence was awarded to the company back on the 19th of November 1991, while commercial operations began on the 31st of January 1992. However, there are no Optus customers that could have been with the company for twenty years; it wasn’t until mid-June in 1992 that the company actually started selling services. The Optus release notes that at that time:
The cheapest mobile phone on sale was a Motorola handset, which retailed for approximately $750, had a $65 connection fee and a monthly ‘line rental’ fee of around $30 per month.
When they put it like that, it sounds like not much has changed; connection fee aside it’d be pretty easy to spend that much on a smartphone right now, although what you could do with that original Motorola handset would seem a little primitive now. [Optus]