Skip to main content

Howay the Vodafone! UK telecoms firm celebrates 30 years connecting us to the world

Vodafone is celebrating its 30th birthday after becoming the country’s first mobile phone network back in the mid-1980s.

Related: Vodafone and BSkyB in secret talks targeting BT broadband expansion

The network was launched by Racal Electronics in Berkshire in March 1984 and promised to deliver a "truly portable and mobile nationwide public telephone network unavailable today” in the original press release.

Racal announced that the service would be popular “among people constantly on the move such as business executives, sales representatives, journalists, doctors and veterinary surgeons.”

"Strong demand is expected from nationwide fleet operators typically those involved in construction, distribution, service, motoring and the public utilities,” Racal’s release added.

Vodafone’s name was the brainchild of one of the original directors and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, who combined “voice”, “data” and “phone” to create a brand that Vodafone rates as the strongest in the UK right now. This was despite complaints about the incorrect spelling of “fone” from company chief executive Sir Gerry Whent.

The first call was made almost nine months later when comedian Ernie Wise used the network to call the firm’s HQ in Newbury, Berkshire from St Katherine’s Dock in London on 1 January 1985. It remained the UK’s only mobile phone network until Cellnet launched its own service nine days later.

Vodafone was demerged from Racal in 1991 and it meant the firm was able to float as an independent entity on the stock market in London and New York. The trademark quotation mark logo came almost six years later in 1997 and two years after this in 1999 the firm reached five million UK customers.

Related: Vodafone and EE bring 4G to more UK towns and cities

It currently counts 453 million subscribers across upwards of 60 countries and it’s investing millions in its UK network in order to address a trend that has seen it fall behind its three big competitors according to a recent RootMetrics survey.