It's a silver anniversary for SaskTel today as it celebrates the launch of cellular service in the province.

The crown corporation released its first phone with with cellular coverage 25 years ago.

Old Cell Phones

Some of SaskTel product offerings of when mobile services first began. (CBC)

"The functionality has moved from voice only to all sorts of applications that you can run over data," said Stacey Sandison, SaskTel's chief marketing officer. "We put through billions of text messages a year on our network."

She explained how different the service was in the early days compared to now at an event in downtown Regina.

"The first cell phone launched was in August 1989 when we turned up our network. The characteristics of it would be what we call a brick phone. It was very large phone that had a short life battery and didn't particularly fit into anybody's purse or pocket. The primary function of it was to make a voice call."

The early cellular years

In the first year there were only a few thousand people in the province who signed up for the service.

Old Cell Phone


"The concept of wireless was new to our province and it was expensive at the time. It was primarily a business tool at the time for customers travelling. Primarily used for safety in many cases or critical communication," said Sandison.

The service was originally offered only in Saskatoon and Regina. The company immediately began working on finding a way to offer cell service throughout the province.

"As the years progressed, it became a more affordable tool for our market and it started to move into the consumer market where today you have customers who use it as a necessity in their life, not necessarily as an extra luxury for them," explained Sandison.

SaskTel now has coverage in 98 per cent of the province and cell service is available in countries all over the world.

Sandison says voice calls are still very popular, but the most common use for cell phones now is also text messaging and data usage for apps and games.

"A lot of people say they would go back home to get their phone before they would go back home to get their wallet."