The Rise and Fall of the World’s Greatest Telecom Firm – A brief History of Nokia

It all began in 1865, when Fredrik Idestam started a paper mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids in Southwestern Finland. After the project was successful to some extent, the next mill was built on the banks of another river, named Nokianvirta. This inspired Idestam to name his company ‘Nokia AB’, after the Nokianvirta river.

However, the history of Nokia Corporation dates back to 1967, when it was merged with Finnish Cable Works Ltd., a telecom company which was involved in manufacturing telephones and power cables. This was Nokia’s first step into the telecom industry, but the Nokia Corporation’s business had five main sectors: rubber, cable, forestry, electronics and power generation.

Nokia’s first telecom venture was the establishment of Mobira Oy, a radio telecom firm, which was a joint venture with Finnish TV maker Salora. This evolved into the Nordic Mobile Telephone service, shortly known as NMT. ‘NMT’ was the first cellular telecom network to have an international range in the 1970s. Slowly, NMT kept growing and Nokia  moved on to manufacture the world’s first car phone, the Mobira Senator in 1982. Five years later, the Mobira Cityman was introduced. This was the first handheld phone that came out in 1987 and it costed a whopping 4500 Euro approximately. The Mobira Senator also weighed 800g. The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), which is used in almost all commercial forms of communication, was devised and developed by the Nokia Corporation. This was adopted as the European digital standard on July 1, 1991. A Nokia phone was used to make the first GSM call on NMT through a Finnish Operator by the name Radiolinja.

After smelling success in the telecom industry, Nokia stripped away all its other businesses and began to concentrate on manufacturing better phones. This gave birth to the Nokia 2100 series in 1994, and it was the first phone which featured the fondly famous ‘Nokia Ringtone’. 20 million of these phones were sold, and in 1997, the widely popular ‘Snake’ video game was introduced. In 1998, Nokia became the world leader in mobile phone sales and it was undisputedly the best mobile phone brand of the 20th century. In 1999, Nokia was again the first firm to commercially introduce internet into phones. The Nokia 7110 was released in 1999, and it could send emails. Following this, Nokia launched the first phone with a built-in camera in 2001, named the Nokia 7650. In 2002, the first phone with video capture technology was released, and it was identified as the Nokia 3650. The same year, Nokia launched the 6650, its first 3G phone that created a technological revolution.

Nokia’s basic phones were a huge hit in Asia and especially in India, where the telecom company manufactured phones like the 1100, which catered to the needs of people of all classes. Needless to say, a whole nation was thankful to Nokia. Nokia’s value multiplied from $8.9 billion to $42.8 billion, a 500% increase in the global turnover. Nokia was ranked as the most sustainable technology firm consecutively in 2009 and 2010, and its Symbian smartphones were quite a hit. These were the first practical smartphones, but they had a few backlogs.

But then came Google and Apple. Nokia found it difficult to tackle the problem caused by Android and Apple smartphones. But instead of having faith and persevering, they resorted to a very hasty decision. Little did they think that it would bring their mighty fortress down. In September 2009, Nokia hired Stephen Elop from Microsoft as the Chief Executive of Nokia Corporation. After Nokia faced a huge loss and a miserable failure of its latest models, Elop decided to cut off jobs, reduce operations and compensate the loss. Sadly, it did not work. In another miserable attempt to regain lost glory, Nokia planned to put away its Symbian Smartphones and partnered up with Microsoft to make its first Windows smartphone, the Lumia 800 in 2011. Though it later tried to develop its own OS based on Java, it was not a huge success because of the Windows smartphones. Slowly, Nokia’s profits began to reduce and it was devoured by the abominable Microsoft, with nothing left to spare. Now, the ‘Nokia’ brand name is no more. Microsoft is all set to launch its first smartphone without the ‘Nokia’ brand name on November 11, 2014. It will just be called ‘Microsoft Lumia 535’ and  many would not like it.

It is hard to say this, but sadly, Nokia is no more. Its fate seemed to coincide with the old, Finnish tale of the Sampo. A few small mistakes costed the company a lot, a price that it could not pay for. But whatever may be, Nokia will always remain as a company that created a revolution in communication. It definitely lived up to its tagline, ‘connecting people’. As a matter of fact, it connected the world. Most of the communication infrastructure that we use today were pioneered by Nokia, and all we need to say is a ‘Big Thanks’. Nokia phones have helped people in every way possible and they went places where no other Telecom firm could go. If you are reading or listening to this and have a Nokia phone with you, keep it safe, regardless of whether you use it or not in the future. Because one day, you could tell someone that a company called Nokia existed. Though there might not be any material product which bears the Nokia brand name anymore, it will remain etched in our hearts, and that is what denotes the success of a company. As the old saying goes, all good things come to an end. So did Nokia.

A tribute to Nokia by the Wheels and Chips Journal  

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