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BT History Family Tree

BT is the world's oldest communications company with, as this family tree shows, a direct line of descent from the first commercial telecommunications undertaking in the world, The Electric Telegraph Company, established in 1846. The history of BT is in many respects the history of telecommunications in the UK and internationally.

 BT Family Tree

The Electric Telegraph Company, the first electric telegraph company in Britain, was established by an Act of Parliament in 1846. It was set up by William Fothergill Cooke and Joseph Lewis Ricardo using Cooke and Charles Wheatstone's patents

In 1853 the British Electric Telegraph Company merged with the European and American Electric Printing Telegraph Company (1851-54) to form the British Telegraph Company. Its purpose was to lay down submarine and other telegraph cables to link London and Dublin and major towns in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe.

In July 1855 the Electric Telegraph Consolidation Act enabled the ETC and ITC to formally merge, becoming the Electric and International Telegraph Company (EITC). By 1868 it was the largest telegraph company in the country. The company was against nationalisation, however, the Telegraph Acts were passed and in 1870 it was taken over by the Post Office.

The United Telephone Company (UTC) was formed through the merger of The Telephone Company Limited (Bell's Patents) and the Edison Telephone Company of London on 13 May 1880. In February 1881 the UTC formed the Provincial Telephone Company Limited to promote new telephone companies across the United Kingdom leaving the UTC to concentrate on London.

Formed by the United Telephone Co Ltd in February 1881 the Provincial Telephone Company subsequently set up a series of subsidiary companies to operate in specific regions over which the United Telephone Co Ltd exercised a large amount of control. The subsidiaries were: the National Telephone Company (NTC); the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephonic Exchange Company Limited; the Northern District Telephone Company; the Telephone Company of Ireland Limited; the Western Counties and South Wales Telephone Company Limited; and the South of England Telephone Company Limited. on 1 May 1889 the National Telephone Co Ltd absorbed the United Telephone Co Ltd and the Lancashire and Cheshire Telephonic Exchange Co Ltd with the other subsidiaries following later.

The Corporation of Glasgow was granted a licence on 1 March 1900 to serve an area of 140 square miles. Service opened with its Central Exchange on 28 March 1901. An agreement dated 6 September 1906 saw the undertaking transferred to the Postmaster General.

The Corporation was granted a licence on 21 September 1901 to serve an area of about 100 square miles. In March 1903 an exchange opened in the Town Hall. The system, comprising of eleven exchanges, passed into hands of the State on 1 October 1913. During 1916 these exchanges were closed with subscribers transferred to Post Office exchanges.

The General Post Office ceased to be a Government Department on 1 October and was established as a public corporation under the Post Office Act of this year.

A distinguishing name was given to the telecommunications business of the Post Office - British Telecom - following a Government decision to separate the major Post Office operations. Sir Keith Joseph, Industry Secretary, had announced in the House of Commons in July the Government's intentions to restructure the Post Office and relax the monopoly over terminal equipment and value-added services. However, British Telecom remained part of the Post Office until the following year.

British Telecommunications, trading as British Telecom, severed its links with the Post Office under the British Telecommunications Act, 1981 and became a totally separate public corporation on 1 October. They were now two separate organisations with their own chairmen and boards of directors.

The Telecommunications Bill, delayed the previous year because of the General Election, received Royal Assent on 12 April and became an Act of Parliament. British Telecommunications had been incorporated as a public limited company (plc) in anticipation of the Act on 1 April. The transfer to British Telecommunications plc from British Telecom as a statutory corporation of its business, its property, rights and liabilities took place on 6 August.

On 19 November BT Group plc was formed as the demerger of mm02 (formerly BT Wireless) was completed with shareholders receiving one BT Group plc share and one mm02 plc share for each existing British Telecommunications plc share. On demerger mm02 comprised BT's mobile activities in the UK (O2 UK, formerly BT Cellnet wholly owned since 10 November 2001), the Netherlands (Telfort Mobiel), Germany (Viag Interkom - wholly owned since February 2001) and the Republic of Ireland (O2 Communications, formerly known as Esat Digifone wholly owned since April 2001), Manx Telecom and Genie (BT's mobile internet portal). BT Group plc was principally structured through four lines of business: BT Retail, BT Wholesale, BT Ignite and BTopenworld focused around markets rather than geography.

See BT Group plc

1846 Electric Telegraph Co 1851 Reuters Telegram Co 1853 Electric & International Telegraph Co 1862 Jersey & Guernsey Telegraph Co 1870 Post Office 1880 United Telephone Co Ltd 1880 Provincial Telephone Co Ltd 1900 Glasgow Corporation Telephone System 1902 Portsmouth Corporation Telephone System 1916 Cable & Wireless Co Ltd 1969 Post Office Telecommunications 1980 British Telecommunications 1981 British Telecommunications 1984 British Telecommunications 2001 BT Group plc 2001 MM02 2001 1853 British Telegraph Co