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Events in telecommunications history

1918

Leeds automatic telephone exchange was opened on 18 May in Basinghall Street - a Strowger-type manufactured and installed by the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company. It was the largest of its kind in Europe, equipped for 6,800 lines with an ultimate capacity of 15,000, and the first exchange in this country capable of being extended to give service to 100,000 subscribers. It was also the first in which the caller was required to dial five figures for every local call.

HMTS Alert (No. 2) of 941 tons and of similar design to Monarch (No. 3) was launched. Like her sister ship she gave faithful service during World War II, but was sunk with all hands in February 1945 off the North Goodwins.

A Siemens Brothers & Company type automatic exchange was opened at Grimsby on 14 September 1918. It was similar to the Strowger system in many respects, but differed in the form of line switch employed and because the connectors were controlled entirely by relays. The characteristic feature was the 'Preselector', a rotary line switch provided for each subscriber's line to find a disengaged trunk to a selector.

Further Siemens type exchanges were opened at Stockport on 23 August 1919 and at Southampton on 30 June 1923, but the Post Office had decided on the Strowger system as its standard automatic exchange in 1922.

The Wireless Telegraphy Board was set up to coordinate interference problems in radio communication in the English Channel, thereby beginning the frequency management structure that exists today.

The first interdepartmental committee to be established in the UK, the Wireless Telegraphy Board reported back to the Imperial Communications Committee on national (domestic) communication matters. With the outset of World War II, it became a military board known as the British Joint Communications Board (BJCB) and operated as a supporting agency of the Combined Communications Board in Washington, based in London. Following the end of the war it became the British Joint Communications-Electronics Board, and the Wireless Telegraphy Board was disbanded. The interests of users of radio other than Government departments were represented by the Post Office.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 vested responsibility and the necessary statutory powers with respect to regulating the use radio frequencies in the Postmaster-General. In 1968, in preparation for the change of status of the Post Office, the PO Engineering Department brought together in one unit engineers who were responsible for the numerous technical aspects of radio regulatory work. This unit then transferred to the new Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in 1969.

When the Ministry was abolished in 1974, responsibility for radio regulation passed to the Home Office in a newly created Radio Regulatory Department. The Department was divided into eight technical branches: broadcasting services; radio interference; regulatory and monitoring; common services; land mobile; space services; microwave and maritime; and long range planning.

The Department moved to the Department of Trade and Industry in 1983, seen as a logical move given the Ministry's responsibility for telecommunications, information technology and innovation. The Department was re-titled the Radio Regulatory Division (RRD).

A further change of name occurred in 1986 when the Radio Regulatory Division became the Radiocommunications Division. Finally, the Division became the Radiocommunications Agency in 1990, under the Government's Next Steps programme.

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