OKI, a Japanese company, was one of the pioneers of mobile telephones, working with Bell Laboratories in the 70s. However, its first product for the UK market did not arrive until in 1989.

The OKI CDL700E was launched with a huge advertising campaign in 1989 by Martin Dawes Communications, which formed an exclusive link with the OKI brand. The phone itself took some inspiration from the look of a military walkie-talkie, but with some brightly coloured buttons and a large flexible aerial. It was small and light for the time, significantly lighter than the Motorola 8500X, but was easily eclipsed for size and weight by Motorola's latest creation, the 9800X, but with such a small price tag, the OKI CDL700E must have looked attractive.

Martin Dawes, the founder of Martin Dawes Communications, was unlike many of the loud and brash barrow boy types who started as the first mobile phone retailers back in 1985. He was a quiet, unassuming man with an eye for spotting new technology trends. It was a talent passed from father to son. Martin's father, Fred Dawes, founded a TV retail empire in the 50s which became Rumbelow's. Martin also went into the TV business, founding a chain of shops renting colour TVs in the early 70s.

In 1985 he saw the opportunity to get into the mobile phone business and started Martin Dawes Communications, selling both Motorola and NEC phones in the 80s.

The tie up with OKI allowed Dawes to push a unique product to the British market. It was smaller and lighter than many mobiles of the time. If Dawes himself was shy, the advertising campaign, which called the OKI CDL700E 'The most potent professional and powerful business aid you'll ever share a high level conversation with', was not. Later Formula 1 star Nigel Mansell, who was pictured using one, promoted the phone.

OKI made a few more phones for the UK market, but did not make a massive dent in Motorola's or Nokia's sales. Martin Dawes Communications, however, continued to be successful. Dawes sold his stake in the business to Cellnet in 1999 for £70m.



(1) The Times Saturday 28 October 1989 - Clunk, Click, for a futuristic trip

Add your comments

"I worked for Oki Telecommunicationsx from 1985 till 1998, OK phones were on the market and for sale in 1985 I worked there I know they were and it was sold them to the Oki brand" Lila Gorisek 07/29/2020
"What year did the OKI 1000 cell phone come out?" Brad Baker 09/21/2020
"1989 in the UK" Steven Braggs 09/21/2020
"I have two OKI CDL700E both in leather cases and both in good condition. Are they worth anything?" Phil Taylor 03/01/2021
"My comment has been published but where do I find any reply/response" Phil Taylor 03/07/2021
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Mobile phone history