History of Telecommunications

The history of the telephone has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. When the telephone was originally invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, communication across a phone line was only achievable by short distances and was only used to transmit voice data. With today’s technology, communications can span the globe and carry voice, data, and video. The earliest phone systems used rotary technology and a manual switching system requiring human intervention.

It was not until the early 1950’s that the Bell System widely embraced the “dial tone”, which was originally invented by Siemens in 1908, and thought of it to be a good substitute for an operator’s “Number please” and placed the service in all of their automatic switching centers. In 1951, AT&T introduced customer-dialing of long distance phone calls across the nation, which no longer required the assistance of an operator. 1962 witnessed the launch of the first commercial communications satellite (Telstar I), providing 240 two-way telephone circuits.

In 1963, the development of the first touch-tone phone was introduced, the Western Electric 1500. In 1964, Bell System put its video telephone into commercial service, but the technology never found a place in the market. The 1970’s saw a lot of improvements in the reliability and service of telephone systems. Customer dialing of international long distance calling was available. AT&T installed the world’s first digital electronic toll switch, the 4ESS, in Chicago. This switch replaced the electromechanical switch and allowed for a much higher volume of calls.

Many more achievements were made during the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Services such as call forwarding, 3-way calling, and voice mail systems were introduced. The cellular phone market sky rockets and has millions of subscribers today. What use to be a single phone line running between two phones, has turned into a wireless universe spanning the globe. Regulation of Telecommunications For many decades, AT&T controlled the telecommunications market. In 1974, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T.

The Department of Justice stated that AT&T was a monopoly due to the ownership of nearly all the local and long distance telephone system; referred to as the Bell System. The struggle lasted for many years and both parties finally reached an agreement, as stated in the Modified Final Judgment, requiring AT&T to divest itself of all their Bell Operating Companies (BOCs) on January 1, 1984. The BOCs were required to provided equal access to all long-distance phone companies.

With the divestiture of AT&T, seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) were created and AT&T retained its long distance telephone service, manufacturing, and research and development. BOCs divided themselves into several smaller units known as local access and transport areas (LATAs). The BOCs could route calls inside their local LATA, but if it was outside of their area, they had to route the call to the local point of presence (POP) of a long-distance carrier. The divestiture allowed for customers to have their choice in services and providers.

This is also why the routing of telephone calls are handled how they are today. Convergent Technology Trends The phone systems of today are slowly becoming the systems of tomorrow. With the explosion of wireless and cellular technologies, local and long-distance phone companies are really starting to feel the affects. Most cellular phone companies provide free long-distance calling with their packages. This is taking a toll on long-distance companies who provide services over phone lines and through their switching