Nokia has a long history of successful change and innovation, adapting to shifts in markets and technologies. From its humble beginning with one paper mill, the company has participated in many sectors over time: cables, paper products, tires, rubber boots, consumer and industrial electronics, plastics, chemicals, telecommunications infrastructure and more. Most recently, Nokia has been best known for its revolutionary wireless communication technologies, which have connected billions of people through networks and mobile phones.
Nokia’s history dates back to 1865, when mining engineer Fredrik Idestam set up his first wood pulp mill at the Tammerkoski Rapids in Southwestern Finland. A few years later he opened a second mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta river, inspiring him to name his company Nokia Ab in 1871.
In 1967, we took our current form as Nokia Corporation as a result of the merger of Idestam’s Nokia AB, Finnish Rubber Works, a manufacturer of rubber boots, tires and other rubber products founded in 1898, and Finnish Cable Works Ltd, a manufacturer of telephone and power cables founded in 1912. The new Nokia Corporation had five businesses: rubber, cable, forestry, electronics and power generation.
Nokia first entered the telecommunications equipment market in 1960 when an electronics department was established at Finnish Cable Works to concentrate on the production of radio-transmission equipment. Regulatory and technological reforms have played a role in our success. Deregulation of the European telecommunications industries since the late 1980s has stimulated competition and boosted customer demand.
In 1982, we introduced the first fully-digital local telephone exchange in Europe, and, in the same year, the world’s first car phone for the Nordic Mobile Telephone analog standard. The technological breakthrough of GSM, which made more efficient use of frequencies and had greater capacity in addition to high-quality sound, was followed by the European resolution in 1987 to adopt GSM as the European digital standard by July 1, 1991. The first GSM call was made with a Nokia phone over the Nokia-built network of a Finnish operator called Radiolinja in 1991, and in the same year Nokia won contracts to supply GSM networks in other European countries.
In the early 1990s, we made a strategic decision to make telecommunications our core business, with the goal of establishing leadership in every major global market. Basic industry and non-telecommunications operations—including paper, personal computer, rubber, footwear, chemicals, power plant, cable, aluminum and television businesses—were divested between 1989 and 1996. By 1998, Nokia was the world leader in mobile phones, a position it enjoyed for more than a decade.
In 2006, Nokia, which had already been investing in its mapping capabilities for many years, acquired Gate5, a mapping software specialist, and then in 2008 NAVTEQ, the US-based maker of digital mapping and navigational software. Today, Nokia offers leading location services through the HERE business and brand, launched in 2012.
In 2007, Nokia combined its telecoms infrastructure operations with those of Siemens to form a joint venture named Nokia Siemens Networks. NSN has become a leading global provider of telecommunications infrastructure, with a focus on offering innovative mobile broadband technology and services.
In 2011, Nokia joined forces with Microsoft to strengthen its position in the highly competitive smartphone market. Nokia adopted the Windows Phone operating system for smart devices and through their strategic partnership Nokia and Microsoft set about establishing an alternative ecosystem to rival iOS and Android. In 2011, Nokia also started to make a number of changes to its operations and company culture that would in the course of the next two years lead to shortened product development times, improved product quality and better responsiveness to market demand.
In 2013, Nokia moved to reinvent itself with two transformative transactions. The first was the purchase of Siemens’ stake in NSN, which was nearing the end of a deep restructuring and remarkable transformation. The second was the announcement of the sale of substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business to Microsoft. The Microsoft transaction was originally announced on September 3, 2013 and was completed on April 25, 2014.
Following the closing of the transaction, Nokia announced its new vision and strategy, building on its three strong businesses; Nokia Networks, HERE, and Nokia Technologies.