Start Date
Place
Notes
Source
1840
US
The word 'telephone' came into existence in
1840, before Alexander Graham Bell was born. It
was used to describe a device made to convey
musical notes through wooden rods.
McLuhan, Understanding, P. 269
1876
US
Alexander Graham Bell patents his telephone,
built with the assistance of young self-trained
engineer Thomas A. Watson. Elisha Gray, who
developed a similar device at about the same
time, will unsuccessfully challenge Bell's patent.
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA99/grogan/thes
is/Timeline2.html June 2010
1877
Portugal
The first telephone experiments in Portugal
connected Carcavelos to the Central do Cabo in
Lisbon, in 1877.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal_Teleco
m May 2011
1880
US
The U.S. has about 50,000 telephones.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu August
2006
1885
International
The annual subscription for a telephone service
is £20 in London (of which £2 is paid in royalties
to the Postmaster-General), Ffr 600 (£24) in
Paris, $150 (£30) in New York, $120 (£24) in
Boston and $125 (£25) in Chicago. In the UK, the
United Telephone Company offers domestic
connection for £12 a year to anyone with a
business subscription; its smaller rival, The
London & Globe Telephone & Maintenance
Company, offers connection for 10 guineas
(£10.50) a year.
http://www.terramedia.co.uk August 2006
1889
France
The French telephone network is nationalized.
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
1890
Sweden
20,000 telephones in Sweden.
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
1896
South Africa
Thanks to its major breakthrough in the British
telephone market at the end of the 19th century,
the Ericsson Company did not have much trouble
in getting its foot in the door in South Africa,
which was partly ruled by Britain. The first
telephone exchange was delivered to Capetown
in 1896, and was followed by several orders by
other cities. In all, Ericsson installed four
telephone exchanges in South Africa between
1896 and 1900, making it Ericsson's largest
market for exchanges outside Europe.
http://www.ericssonhistory.com/templates/Eri
csson/Article.aspx?
id=2068&ArticleID=1360&CatID=371&epsla
nguage=EN May 2011
1897
US
Telephone penetration in US is 7 per 1,000
people.
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
1898
US
A telephone excise tax was created to help
finance the Spanish-American War. The 3
percent tax was still being charged in 2000.
http://timelines.ws August 2006
1900
US
Bell System was re-capitalized as AT&T
(US$120m assets, 0.8m phones).
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
1901
Australia
There were 22,310 telephone subscribers in
Australia (79 percent in capital cities).
http://www.ketupa.net May 2007
01 Apr 1905
International
Berlin and Paris were linked by telephone.
http://timelines.ws May 2007
1911
Australia
100,000 Australian telephone connections.
http://www.caslon.com September 2006
1911
UK
National Telephone Co in UK nationalized at cost
of £12.5m (9,000 employees, 1,500,000 miles of
wire and 1,565 exchanges).
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
15 Jan 1913
International
The first telephone line between Berlin and New
York was inaugurated.
http://timelines.ws June 2009
1917
US
40 percent of American households have a
telephone.
http://www.scaruffi.com July 2009
1920
US
Telephone penetration in US is 123 per 1,000
people.
http://www.caslon.com May 2008
1927
US
Two-way AT&T radio phone service, U.S. to
London, $75 for 5 minutes.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu September
2006
07 Jan 1927
International
The first transatlantic telephone call was made
between the UK and US to inaugurate a
commercial service; the cost was £40 a minute.
http://www.terramedia.co.uk July 2007
1930
Sweden
There were 500,000 telephones in Sweden.
http://www.caslon.com July 2007
1931
UK
King George V accepts the 2,000,000th British
telephone for use at Buckingham Palace in
1931."
Grun, Timetables, P. 501
1942
Italy
There were 459,361 phone subscribers in Italy.
http://www.caslon.com March 2008
1950
US
Between 1950 and 1970 the number of long-
distance telephone operators in the USA
dropped by 12 per cent, as the number of calls
grew five-fold; but between 1970 and 1980 it fell
by 40 per cent while the number of calls tripled.
Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes, P. 413
1950
US
Party lines make up 75 percent of all U.S.
telephone lines.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu March
2008
1951
The existence of a large population with a single
language gave the telephone a position of
greater importance in the United States than that
of the telegraph in Europe with its numerous
languages.
Innis, Bias of Communication, P. 173 (1951)
30 Apr 1953
US
First building devoted entirely to telephone
directory compilation and printing opens in Des
Plaines, Illinois.
Merritt, The FIfties
1956
US
Hush-a-Phone court ruling forces AT&T to allow
outside equipment in network.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu June 2007
1956
US
Indeed, so essential to the common defense did
AT&T seem that the Defense Department would
intervene forcefully to prevent the company's
breakup by antitrust suit in 1956, citing a 'hazard
to national security.'
Wu, Master Switch, P. 159-60
1956
US
There are an estimated 59 million phones in US.
http://www.caslon.com April 2008
1962
Italy
There were 8.5 phones per 100 Italians.
http"//www.caslon.com April 2008
1963
US
There was an estimated 81 million phones in US.
http://www.caslon.com May 2008
1964
The child and the teenager understand the
telephone, embracing the cord and the ear-mike
as if they were beloved pets
McLuhan in Essential McLuhan, P. 289
(1964)
1965
US
9 of 10 U.S. telephones can use direct distance
dialling.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu October
2006
1967
Canada
Canadian Overseas Telephone Corporation
(COTC) renamed Teleglobe Canada in the
Teleglobe Canada Act.
http://www.ketupa.net May 2008
1968
US
AT&T reserved 911 for emergency calls after the
1967 recommendation by the President's
Commission on Crime.
http://timelines.ws June 2007
1968
US
FCC approves non-Bell equipment attached to
phone system.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu August
2008
1976
US
By 1976, about 44,000 people in the United
States had AT&T mobile phones with another 20,
000 on five-to-10 year waiting lists.
http://www.caslon.com June 2007
1981
UK
British Telecommunications Act establishes
British Telecom as public corporation
independent of Post Office.
http://www.caslon.com January 2009
1982
China
2.5m phone subscribers in China.
http://www.caslon.com March 2008
1982
Italy
3.4 phones per 100 Italians.
http://www.caslon.com September 2006
1982
US
The US government breaks up the largest
company in the world, AT&T, worth $60 billion,
because it has become a monopoly.
http://www.scaruffi.com August 2006
1983
Canada
Regulators approve Bell Canada restructure
scheme, allowing regulated and unregulated
activities under the same corporate roof.
http://www.ketupa.net May 2007
1983
International
AT&T forced to break up - deregulation results in
first Canadian pay-TV channels.
http://www.ketupa.net May 2007
1987
Canada
Bell Canada Act 1987 replaces 1880 legislation,
removing some restrictions (Bell Canada still
cannot hold broadcasting license).
http://www.ketupa.net May 2007
1987
Canada
Teleglobe privatized following Teleglobe Canada
Reorganization and Divestiture Act.
http://www.ketupa.net May 2007
1987
US
There is an estimated 1 million mobile phone
subscribers in US.
http://www.ketupa.net September 2007
1989
International
The global estimate of telephone subscriber lines
is 496 million.
http://www.ketupa.net July 2007
1989
US
Estimated 138 million subscriber phone lines in
US.
http://www.ketupa.net July 2007
1990
China
7.1m phone subscribers in China.
http://www.caslon.com July 2007
1990
Mexico
The telecommunications industry is mostly
dominated by Telmex (Teléfonos de México),
privatized in 1990
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico July 2011
1991
US
Baby Bells get government permission to offer
information services.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu April 2007
1992
Canada
Canadian regulators allow Unitel to compete with
BCE and other national long-distance services.
http://www.ketupa.net July 2007
1992
US
10 million mobile phone subscribers.
http://www.ketupa.net June 2007
1993
China
China has 17.8m phone subscribers.
http://www.caslon.com May 2007
1994
China
China has 27.2 million phone subscribers and
5.1 million mobile phone subscribers.
http://www.caslon.com July 2007
1995
US
An estimated 25 million mobile phone
subscribers in US.
http://www.ketupa.net April 2007
1996
Germany
Germany's federal government first sold a chunk
of Deutsche Telekom, with shares valued at the
D-mark equivalent of €14.57.
http://timelines.ws July 2007
1997
Australia
The Telecommunications Act 1997 deregulates
telecoms in Australia.
http://www.ketupa.net July 2007
1998
US
Americans average 2,300 phone calls a year.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu March
2007
1998
US
Digital mobile phone sales overtake analogue
phone sales.
http://www.caslon.com May 2007
Jul 1998
Brazil
In July of 1998 when 27 state-owned telephone
companies were privatized there were 20.2
million Hard line telephone accesses [land-based
phones]. The 34 hard-line telephone operators
have installed since then and up to December of
1999 7.6 million new lines an expansion of more
than 37 percent in a year and a half.
http://www.ehealthstrategies.com/files/it_braz
il.pdf June 2011
02 Sep 1998
Afghanistan
A $415 million deal was signed with the Taliban
government for telecommunications by Gary
Breshinsky of Telephone Systems International.
http://timelines.ws May 2007
Dec 1998
UK
More than 2.5 million mobile phones were sold in
Britain in the three months up to Christmas,
raising the number of the mobile phones in
Britain to 13 million.
http://www.ciolek.com/GLOBAL/1900late.htm
l#1998 August 2010
1999
International
Global telecommunication traffic generated by
data transmission exceeds traffic generated by
voice transmission.
http://www.caslon.com April 2007
2000
Africa
In 2000, Subsaharan Africa as a whole had less
fixed telephone lines than Manhattan.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Africa
May 2011
2000
China
26 million mobile phone subscribers in China.
http://www.caslon.com August 2006
2000
Finland
65 percent all people in Finland owned mobile
phones, leading the world.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu July 2007
2000
Germany
German government gains €50.2bn from six 3G
wireless licenses.
http://www.caslon.com April 2007
2000
India
There were 2 million handsets in India.
Time Magazine 6 December 2010
2000
International
2/3 of the world's population has never made a
phone call.
Harper's Index
2000
International
EU and U.S. regulators block WorldCom
US$115bn merger with Sprint.
http://www.caslon.com March 2007
2000
Japan
In Japan only, Internet cellphones were sold.
There were 40,000 new subscribers daily.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu April 2007
2000
UK
UK government gains US$35bn from auction of
five 3G wireless licenses.
http://www.caslon.com March 2007
2003
Japan
Originating in Japan in 2003, an author under the
pseudonym of Yoshi, 'published' the first mobile-
phone novel ever, entitled Deep Love, a story
about a teenage prostitute who finds love through
a chance encounter. Though mobile phones only
process 1,600 characters per email, Yoshi
employed this limitation to his advantage. Using
concise dialogue, devoid of words too lengthy or
complicated, he blended a rather generic plot
with straightforward storytelling, attracting a new
generation of readers who did not typically read
novels. Serializing chapters, readers could email
him their feedback. Incorporating their ideas, the
story took on new twists and turns. Deep Love
was so successful, it went from mobile to print
and eventually hit the big screen.
http://www.puremobile.ca/insiderblog/cell-
phone-novels-a-japanese-digital-literature-
revolution January 2011
2003
Russia
22 percent of the Russian population had mobile
phone subscriptions.
http://www.caslon.com March 2007
2003
US
U.S. law bars telemarketers from "Do not call"
phone list.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu July 2006
2004
International
1.5 billion Cellphones worldwide.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu August
2006
2004
International
Global revenue from mobile phones greater than
from fixed-line phones.
http://www.caslon.com July 2007
2004
US
Survey lists cellphones as chief American
love/hate object
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu August
2006
2005
Africa
Figures released in March 2005 from the London
Business School reported that Africa has seen
faster growth in mobile telephone subscriptions
than any other region of the world over the last
five years. At the end of 2004 Africa's largest
mobile phone firm, Vodacom, had 14.4 million
users while MTN had 14 million subscribers. As
Vodacom's chief tells Reuters, Telecoms are
Africa's big success story -- perhaps the only
one.
http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0712-
rhett_butler.html December 2010
2005
International
Global number of mobile phone customers
passes 2 billion.
http://www.caslon.com May 2007
Mar 2005
Kuwait
Kuwait-based MTC agreed to pay nearly $3.4
billion for Amsterdam-based Celtel Int'l., founded
by Mo Ibrahim, who stood to make $700 million
by selling his one-fifth stake. Celtel had 5 million
customers spread across 13 African countries.
http://timelines.ws July 2007
02 Nov 2005
Germany
Deutsche Telekom AG, Europe's biggest phone
company, said that it plans to cut 32,000 jobs
from its payroll in Germany in the next three years,
25,000 at its main operations and 7,000 from a
staffing agency subsidiary.
http://timelines.ws March 2007
16 Nov 2005
Finland
Nokia Corp. said it is paying $430 million to
acquire Intellisync Corp., a provider of wireless e-
mail service for cellular carriers, adding to the
mobile phone maker's growing arsenal of
products to compete with BlackBerry.
http://timelines.ws March 2009
25 Nov 2005
Switzerland
Swiss authorities said they will block major
foreign acquisitions by the telecommunications
operator Swisscom because of financial risk to
the state, which holds most of the company's
shares.
http://timelines.ws February 2007
2006
US
AT&T bids US$67bn for BellSouth.
http://ketupa.net/timeline9.htm January 2011
05 Feb 2006
US
ESPN launches Mobile ESPN on 5 February, a
Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) service
using Sprint's telecom network. The service
delivers ESPN content to ESPN-branded mobile
phones, available through an exclusive deal with
the Best Buy retail chain. Prices range from
$34.99 for 100 minutes a month to $224.99 for 4,
000 minutes a month.
http://www.terramedia.co.uk July 2007
01 Jun 2006
Finland
Jorma Ollila stepped down as chief of Finland's
Nokia Corp. He was succeeded by Olli-Pekka
Kallasvuo. The new Nokia Nseries included the
N73 camera-phone; the N91 phone, which
doubled as an iPod-style music player; the N92,
a mobile TV; and the N93, a mobile video
camera.
http://timelines.ws June 2008
2007
Canada
The majority of Canadians still prefer land lines
for phone service, but two-thirds of consumers
also report using a cellphone, according to a
Statistics Canada survey released Friday "As of
December 2006, about 90.5 per cent of
households reported having a land line, while
66.8 per cent reported having at least one
cellphone," the federal agency said in a release.
CBC 6 May 2007
Feb 2007
China
According to statistics from China's telecoms
regulator MII (Ministry of Information Industry),
there are over 426 million mobile phone users in
China, the biggest user group in the whole world.
http://www.danwei.org/internet/china_media_
timeline_danwei_wo.php June 2010
15 Feb 2007
Finland
Nokia, the world's leading maker of mobile
phones, said it would shed some 700 jobs, with
Finland taking the brunt of the cuts.
http://timelines.ws March 2009
2008
Japan
Young Japanese women (mostly) write texting
novels on cell phones.
http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu March
2010
15 Jan 2008
Germany
Finland's Nokia, the top global mobile phone
manufacturer, said that it planned to close a
factory in Germany by mid-year which employs 2,
300 workers.
http://timelines.ws August 2010
Jun 2008
Algeria
Algeria's mobile-telephone market rose to some
28 million, up from 1.4 million four years earlier.
Two-thirds of the market was run by Egyptian and
Qatari firms.
http://timelines.ws August 2010
08 Sep 2009
International
Deutsche Telekom AG and France Telecom SA
said they intend to combine their British mobile
phone units, shaking up the country's intensely
competitive market and forming the country's
biggest mobile operator. Analysts said Nokia
Siemens Networks, the key equipment vendor to
British operations of Deutsche Telekom and
France Telecom, had most to lose in the merger.
http://timelines.ws August 2010
2010
India
There were 545 million handsets in India.
Time Magazine 6 December 2010
2010
International
More than half of the people in the developing
world are now cell phone subscribers, a U.N.
report said Tuesday, highlighting strong global
growth in telecommunications. There were an
estimated 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions
at the end of last year, compared with about 1
billion in 2002, the International
Telecommunication Union said in a report. In
developing nations, 57 percent of people were
signed up.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35539966/ns/t
echnology_and_science-wireless/
December 2010
05 Jan 2010
International
Google introduced its Nexus One smart phone.
http://www.timelines.ws/21stcent/2010_1.HT
ML December 2010
20 Mar 2011
US
AT&T Inc. said Sunday it will buy T-Mobile USA
from Deutsche Telekom AG in a cash-and-stock
deal valued at $39 billion US becoming the
largest cellphone company in the U.S.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2011/
03/20/att-t-mobile.html March 2011
13 Apr 2011
Nigeria
Nigeria's privatisation agency has given the
reserve bidder in the sale of former state
telecoms monopoly Nitel two weeks to confirm it
is still interested, the head of the agency said on
Wednesday. The Bureau of Public Enterprises
(BPE) wrote to the Omen International
Consortium last month asking if it would be
interested in revalidating its reserve bidder status
after the preferred bidder missed several
payment deadlines.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/13/nig
eria-nitel-idUSLDE73C1BI20110413 May
2011
08 May 2011
Guinea
South African mobile operator MTN said on
Sunday it had resolved a fee row with the
government of Guinea that had seen the west
African country seize its assets there.
http://www.africa.com/news/ May 2011
Telephony Timeline
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