The evolution of ‘Vodafone’ brand started in 1982 with the establishment of ‘Racal Strategic Radio Ltd’ subsidiary of Racal Electronics plc – UK’s largest maker of military radio technology. The same year, Racal Strategic Radio Ltd formed a joint venture with Millicom called ‘Racal Vodafone’, which would later evolve into the present day Vodafone.
In 1980, Sir Ernest Harrison OBE, the then chairman of Racal Electronics plc. Agreed a deal with Lord Weinstock of General Electric Company plc to allow Racal to access some of GEC’s tactical battle field radio technology. The head of Racal’s military radio division – Gerry Whent was briefed by Ernest Harrison to drive the company into commercial mobile radio. Whent visited GE’s mobile radio factory in Virginia, USA the same year to understand the commercial use of military radio technology. In 1982, Racal’s newly formed Racal Strategic Radio Ltd subsidiary won one of two UK cellular telephone network licences, with the other going to British Telecom. The network, known as Racal Vodafone, was a joint venture 80% owned by Racal, with Millicom holding 15% and Hambros Technology Trust 5%.
Vodafone was launched on 1 January 1985, and shortly thereafter Racal Strategic Radio was renamed Racal Telecommunications Group Limited. On 29 December 1986, Racal Electronics bought out the minority shareholders of Vodafone for GB£110 million and Vodafone became a fully owned brand of Racal. In September 1988, the company was again renamed Racal Telecom. On 26 October 1988, Racal Telecom, majority held by Racal Electronics; went public on the London Stock Exchange with 20% of its stock floated. The successful flotation led to a situation where the Racal’s stake in Racal Telecom was valued more than the whole of Racal Electronics. Under stock market pressure to realize full value for shareholders of Racal, Harrison decides in 1991 to demerge Racal Telecom.
Vodafone Group, then Vodafone Air touch plc. (1991 to 2000) On 16 September 1991, Racal Telecom was demerged from Racal Electronics as Vodafone Group with Gerry Whent as its CEO. In July 1996, Vodafone acquired the two thirds of Talk land it did not already own for £30.6 million. On 19 November1996, in a defensive move, Vodafone purchased Peoples Phone for £77 million, a 181 store chain whose customers were overwhelmingly using Vodafone’s network. In a similar move the company acquired the 80% of Aztec Communications that it did not own, a service provider with 21 stores. In January 1997, Gerald Whent retired and Christopher Gent took over as the CEO. The same year, Vodafone introduced its Speech mark logo, composed of a quotation mark in a circle, with the O’s in the Vodafone logotype representing opening and closing quotation marks and suggesting conversation. . On 29 June 1999, Vodafone completed its purchase of Air Touch Communications, Inc. and changed its name to Vodafone Air touch plc. The merged company commenced trading on 30 June 1999. In order to gain anti-trust approval for the merger, Vodafone sold its 17.2% stake in E-Plus Mobil funk. The acquisition gave Vodafone a 35% share of Mannesmann, owner of the largest German mobile network. On 21 September 1999, Vodafone agreed to merge its U.S. wireless assets with those of Bell Atlantic Corp to form Verizon Wireless.
The merger was completed on 4 April 2000, just a few months prior to Bell Atlantic’s merger with GTE to form Verizon Communications, Inc. In November 1999, Vodafone made an unsolicited bid for Mannesmann, which was rejected. Vodafone’s interest in Mannesmann had been increased by the latter purchase of Orange, the UK mobile operator. Chris Gent would later say Mannesmann’s move into the UK broke a “gentleman’s agreement” not to compete in each other’s home territory. The hostile takeover provoked strong protest in Germany, and a “titanic struggle” which saw Mannesmann resist Vodafone’s efforts. However, on 3 February 2000, the Mannesmann board agreed to an increased offer of £112 billion, then the largest corporate merger ever. The EU approved the merger in April 2000 when Vodafone agreed to divest the ‘Orange’ brand, which was acquired in May 2000 by France Telecom. The conglomerate was subsequently broken up and all manufacturing related operations sold off.
Vodafone Group plc. (2000 to present)
The headquarters of Vodafone Romania in Bucharest On 28 July 2000, the Company reverted to its former name, Vodafone Group plc. In April 2001, the first 3G voice call was made on Vodafone United Kingdom’s 3G network. In 2001, the Company acquired Eircell, the largest wireless communications company in Ireland, from eircom. Eircell was subsequently rebranded as Vodafone Ireland. Vodafone then went on to acquire Japan’s third-largest mobile operator J-Phone, which had introduced camera phones first in Japan. On 17 December 2001, Vodafone introduced the concept of “Partner Networks”, by signing TDC Mobil of Denmark. The new concept involved the introduction of Vodafone international services to the local market, without the need of investment by Vodafone.
The concept would be used to extend the Vodafone brand and services into markets where it does not have stakes in local operators. Vodafone services would be marketed under the dual-brand scheme, where the Vodafone brand is added at the end of the local brand. (i.e., TDC Mobil-Vodafone etc.) In 2005, Vodafone entered into a title sponsorship deal with the McLaren Formula One team, which has since traded as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. In May 2011, Vodafone Group Plc. bought the rest of the shares of Vodafone Essar from Essar Group Ltd with value of $5 billion and became a solely owned of Vodafone Essar.
On 1 December 2011, it acquired the Reading based Bluefish Communications Ltd – a ICT consultancy company. The acquired operations formed the nucleus of a new Unified Communications and Collaboration practice within its subsidiary – Vodafone Global Enterprise, which will focus on implementing strategies and solutions in cloud computing, and strengthen its professional services offering. In April 2012, Vodafone announced an agreement to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for £1.04 billion. Vodafone was advised by UBS AG, while Barclays and Rothschild advised Cable & Wireless. The acquisition will give Vodafone access to CWW’s fiber network for businesses, enabling it to take unified communications solutions to large enterprises in UK and globally; and expand its enterprise service offerings in emerging markets. On 18 June 2012, Cable & Wireless’ shareholders voted in favor of the Vodafone offer, exceeding the 75% of shares necessary for the deal to go ahead.