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A compact bipolar transistor model is presented that combines the simplicity of the SPICE Gummel-Poon model (SGPM) with some major features of HICUM. The new model, called HICUM/L0, is more physics-based and accurate than the SGPM and at the same time, from a computational point of view, suitable for simulating large circuits. The new model has been implemented in Verilog-A and, as compiled code, in various commercial circuit simulators. In Part I, the fundamental model formulation is presented along with a derivation of the most important equations. Experimental results are shown in Part II.