Oribitel TPU 900 and TPU 901

Orbital TPU 900

The world's first GSM phone and the first phone to receive a text message

  • Date launched: 1991
  • Network: GSM 900Mhz
  • Form: Transportable
  • Size: 172(w)x216(h)x75(d) mm
  • Weight: 2100g
  • Can you use it today: Yes, in theory

The Orbitel TPU 900 (left) was the world's first GSM phone. As you can see it was hardly tiny. Digital technology was more bulky than analogue. This world's first went to a British company, Orbitel, a joint venture between Racal and Plessey, beating Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson to make the first phone to be approved for the new GSM standard in 1991.

As you can imagine these phones were not great sellers, however, Orbitel succeeded in exporting them to Germany and there was a revised model, the TPU 901. The Orbitel was the first phone that the UK's first GSM provider, Vodaphone, offered.

This phone also has the accolade of being the first phone to receive a text message. Neil Papworth, sent the world's first text "Merry Christmas" on 3 December 1992 to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis, who received it on an Orbitel TPU 901.[1]

As GSM spread to Africa, these phones became something of a status symbol, because of their large size.


[1]Wikipedia - SMS

Add your comments

"Orbital was a JV between Racal Vodafone and Ericsson

Please spell VODAFONE correctly.

Although, having said that, Gerry Whent sacked our then PR officer for displaying 'don't forget your f in Vodafone' on a DM display at the TMA Conference in Brighton in the late '80s." David Pearce 10/09/2013
"I have one of these that still works" Wakko Warner 06/15/2014
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