On June 17, 1946, a fellow driving through St. Louis made the first mobile phone call. It was the result of decades of engineering work at Bell Labs and Western Electric. Two years later, the service was available in nearly 100 cities and counted 5,000 subscribers. The monthly fee was $15, equivalent to $207 in today's dollars, plus around .35 per call, or $5 in today's dollars. From Today's Engineer:
This wireless network could handle only a small volume of calls. A single transmitter on a central tower provided a handful of channels for an entire metropolitan area. Between one and eight receiver towers handled the call return signals. At most, three subscribers could make calls at one time in any city using the single transmitter and the tiny amount of spectrum allocated by the Federal Communications Commission to this service. It was in effect a massive party line, where a tightly controlled number of subscribers had to listen first for someone else on the line, and, if finding the line free, signal an operator, who would place the call. During the call, the user depressed a button on the handset to talk and released it to listen. The equipment, of course employing vacuum tubes, weighed eighty pounds, filled much of a vehicle's trunk and drew so much power that it would cause the headlights to dim.