MRT celebrates 20 years of technology
With this issue, Mobile Radio Technology begins its 20th year.
MRT’s first year included a pre-launch pilgrimage by Publisher Pat Wiesner and Editor James D. Fahnestock to Motorola in Schaumburg, IL, and E. F. Johnson in Waseca, MN. As private pilots who shared ownership of a twin-engine airplane, they flew themselves to visit two of the companies that shaped the radio communications industry at that time.
They found Motorola with about $4 billion in annual sales, and maybe a fourth of that from its Land Mobile Products Sector. Today, Motorola has about $30 billion in sales, with perhaps $3 billion of that from its Commercial, Industrial and Government Solutions Sector, LMPS’ successor.
Cellular came and stayed at Motorola — at least the handsets, if not the switches — but paging has come and gone. The company helped to launch the specialized mobile radio industry and then to convert an individual SMR operator (Fleet Call) into a cellular provider (Nextel Communications). Motorola remains Nextel’s only handset and repeater supplier.
Years ago, I toured what was Motorola’s brand-new, robotic pager manufacturing facility in Florida. The company announced late last year that it would exit pager manufacturing; it has already exited paging infrastructure manufacturing.
Johnson was probably a bigger company in the early ’80s than it is now, but if you were to add back all the business units that it divested through the years, among them amateur radio, electronic components and telemetry, it might be as big today as it was then, or larger. Johnson also helped to start specialized mobile radio, and its LTR protocol became the de facto standard.
Where Motorola has been an acquirer of other companies, Johnson has followed another path. Taken public by the Johnson family in 1959, E. F. Johnson was acquired by Western Union in 1984, Diversified Energy in 1985, Arkla in 1990, Weksel Davies in 1992 and Transcrypt International in 1997. We watched Johnson as cellular came and went — fast — in the company’s short-lived partnership with ITT.
Other companies have left the industry since Wiesner and Fahnestock made those first visits. But the two that they chose to visit in those early days continue to lift the industry to new levels.