Events in communications history
BT - the world's oldest communications company
But our story goes back almost 170 years to the dawn of telecommunications technology, and from the very beginning we have been at the forefront of innovation to use the power of communications to make a better world.
Click on the section headings below to see some of the highlights from our history so far.
The Prime Minister proposed that the Post Office should be converted to a nationalised industry, and a Government study decided that the Post Office should be split into two divisions - Post and Telecommunications
The Post Office Tower was officially opened to the public on 16 May 1966 by Tony Benn and Billy Butlin. As well as the communications equipment and office space there were viewing galleries, a souvenir shop, and a rotating restaurant, the "Top of the Tower", on the 34th floor, operated by Butlins.
The Post Office Act was introduced, and the Post Office ceased to be a Government department in October that year. Under the Act, the Post Office had the exclusive privilege of running telecommunications systems, with limited powers to authorise others to do so too.
The centenary of the telephone was celebrated on 10 March 1976. A hundred years previously Alexander Graham Bell had heralded a new era in communication with the words, "Mr Watson, come here, I want you".
Buzby flew into existence highlighting a new campaign designed to promote greater awareness of the real cost and value of direct-dialled cheap rate telephone calls.
The Carter Committee, commisioned by the Government, recommended a further seperation of the postal and telecommunications services
Their findings led to the British Telecommunications Act in 1981, and the creation of British Telecom.
"British Telecom" was launched, and seperated from the remainder of the Post Office. It was also at this time that the first steps were taken to introduce competition in the UK telecoms industry.
The first telephones for sale were offered as an alternative to rental.
The first cashless payphone, the Cardphone, was introduced.
Mercury Communications Ltd was licensed by the Government as a telecoms network provider and became the main competitor to BT.
BT introduced its first electronic mail service, Telecom Gold, an early ancestor of btinternet.com.
International direct dialing (IDD) was made available throughout the UK.
Itemised billing was introduced on a trial basis on trunk and international calls in part of Bristol and Bath.
The first cordless phone the "Hawk", came on to the market.
British Telecom's first satellite coast station came into service with the opening of a new dish aerial at Goonhilly. Telephone and telex calls could be made or received direct for the first time to almost anywhere in the world, via Britain.
BT became a public limited company on 6 August, with 50.2% of the new company offered for sale to the public and employees in November. This was the first national floatation of a public utility. The first day of dealings in British Telecommunications shares took place on 3 December.
The search for a new voice for the speaking clock ended on 5 December when Brian Cobby, an assistant supervisor in a telephone exchange at Withdean, Brighton, was selected from 12 finalists in British Telecom's Golden Voice competition.
Launch of BT Cellnet, our mobile communications joint venture with Securicor.
We started working with Comic Relief providing telephony, call centres, network management, online support and thousands of volunteers.
First ever live satellite television programme from a ship at sea broadcast from the QE2.
We opened the world's first all-digital international public telephone service between London and Tokyo.
We helped to set up ChildLine, an emergency service for youngsters at risk.
Directory enquiries was computerised.
The world's first instantaneous translation of speech by computer was unveiled by our Martlesham research laboratories.
We started supporting payroll giving and our Give As You Earn scheme is now one of the biggest in the UK.
TAT 8, the world's first transoceanic optical fibre cable, came into service between the UK and the United States.
City Fibre network, the first UK fibre optic network was launched in the City of London.
BT supported the very first Comic Relief Red Nose Day, helping to change lives in the UK, Africa and some of the world's poorest countries.
We launched Skyphone the world's first satellite telephone system on a British Airways 747.
We became the first company to sponsor the British Paralympic Association.
The "Beattie" series of advertisements starring comedienne and actor Maureen Lipman were launched. They were broadcast until 1991.
British Telecom's long distance network became totally digital on 3 July with the closure of Thurso electro-mechanical exchange in Scotland, completing the trunk lines modernisation beginning in 1985.
The biggest change to the London telephone numbering system since the introduction of All Figure Numbering took place on 6 May with the code change from 01 to 071 for inner London and 081 for outer London.
British Telecom became BT with new identity BT piper.
BT launched Phone Disc, an electronic phone book on a CD and Phone Base, a dial-up service connecting a customer's terminal or PC to BT's database via a modem and the telephone network.
We introduced braille and large print telephone bills for blind and partially sighted customers.
We launched our first Big Button phone for people who are blind, partially sighted or have dexterity challenges.
Videophone was demonstrated at the Ideal Home Exhibition in March, enabling customers to see as well as hear the person on the line. It became available to the public as the Relate 2000 later in the year.
BT established a network of 13 Malicious Calls Bureaux throughout the country, operated by teams of specially trained investigators who worked closely with the police.
Concert was created, following a strategic alliance formed with US telecommunications company, MCI
We have been in India since 1993 and acquired local licences in 2007.
Virtually all the remaining shares in BT left to the Government were sold, raising £5 billion for the Treasury and introducing 750,000 new shareholders to the company.
Growth in the internet exploded and e-commerce over the net began.
'It's good to talk' for residential customers was judged to be the most effective advertising campaign in Britain between 1994 and 1996.
We launched caller display and caller return services, peak rate charging was abolished.
BT's UK operation became the largest single organisation in the world to receive registration under the international quality standard ISO 9001.
BT.com and the online BT Shop were launched
Per second pricing was introduced
Interactive TV trials began involving some 5,500 users in more than 2,000 homes.
We launched BT Internet, a residential mass-market internet dial-up service.
We started measuring our UK carbon footprint.
BT had announced its intention to merge with MCI, its partner in Concert, the previous year, but WorldCom then made a counter offer for MCI, and BT agreed to sell its 20% stake in MCI.
We launched Wireplay, the first online gaming service in the world.
We started supporting the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which provides invaluable humanitarian aid to those caught in the chaos of a disaster.
BT and AT&T, the major US long-distance telecommunications operator, announced they were forming a global venture.
BT and United News & Media joined BT and News International as an equal partner in LineOne, the internet-based information and entertainment service for residential customers.
BT launched Schools Internet Caller, a new service offering affordable access to the Internet for Britain's 32,000 schools.
We pushed fibre optical transmission to 80 gigabits per second.
We acquired 100% of Cellnet, becoming BT Cellnet.
BT and AT&T announced a £1.2 billion deal to acquire 30% of Japan Telecom; the formation of Advance, an alliance to provide seamless worldwide mobile communications; and that their global venture would be known as Concert
BT was recognised in the British Diversity Awards, receiving a Gold Standard Award for its Ethnic Minority Network.
BT SurfTime was introduced, offering a range of options for residential and business customers to access the Internet without hidden charges.
BT won a 3G mobile licence in the UK.
BT sponsored the Talk Zone at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich.
A comprehensive restructuring of the company was also announced, emcompassing a radical seperation of UK fixed telephony business in to Retail and Wholesale, and the creation of four new international businesses - Ignite, BT Openworld, BT Wireless and Yell
BT opened its 1000th broadband enabled exchange at Livingston, Scotland.
BT announced a three for ten rights issue at 300 pence per share. The opportunity was well supported by shareholders and became the largest ever rights issue in UK corporate history.
BT Wireless was renamed mm02 and was demerged in a 1 for 1 share offer;
BT Openzone offered public wi-fi access for the first time.
Deregulation of Directory Enquiries and replacements for 118 500 launched.
BT Broadband was launched heralding the widespread availability of affordable high speed internet access.
BT revealed its new "connected world" corporate identity which replaced the piper emblem and was introduced alongside the brand values of trustworthy, helpful, straightforward, inspiring and heart.
We launched our BT Broadband Voice package, which was the first move by a major UK player into the consumer VOIP market.
BT offered its fastest-ever consumer internet service available to 75 per cent of existing broadband users
BT began trails of Flexible Broadband doubling availability for broadband users.
BT became the first UK-based company to introduce Siebel CRM OnDemand to business in the UK.
Following successful trials, BT announced plans to launch Project Bluephone (later known as BT Fusion).
BT reached its target of five million broadband lines one year ahead of schedule. Northern Ireland became the first UK region outside London to have all its exchanges broadband-enabled.
Folllowing the Telecommunications Strategic Review (TSR), BT signed legally-binding Undertakings with Ofcom to help create a better regulatory framework for BT and the UK telecoms industry.
We launched our paper-free billing campaign. For every customer who signed up for this BT bought a native sapling for the Woodland Trust to plant.
Openreach opened for business.
Ofcom removed retail price controls on BT.
21CN went live in Cardiff.
BT Vision - a groundbreaking new digital TV service - went live.
BT announced it had connected its ten millionth broadband line, smashing its initial target of five million connections by the end of 2006.
BT celebrated the 70th annivarsary of the UK's 999 emergency service.
BT invests £1.5m in Inspiring Young Minds, a three-year strategic partnership with UNICEF which brings education, IT and communication skills to disadvantaged children in South Africa, Brazil and China.
BT announced a £1.5 billion investment to roll out fibre-based broadband to up to 10 million UK homes by 2012.
We launched BT Total Broadband Anywhere which offers our customers the same BT Total Broadband experience that they receive in the home while they are out and about with a BT ToGo phone.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced that BT had become the latest Tier One partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games
BT Vision was UK's largest on demand service with more than 5,000 hours of programming available.
BT announced a new Friends & Family Mobile scheme which now offered discounts of up to 40% on calls to mobiles.
Ofcom published a policy statement setting out a regulatory framework for next generation access (NGA). This gave sufficient regulatory certainty for BT to proceed with the initial phase of its super-fast broadband roll out.
BT launched its volunteering programme by offering all staff the opportunity to volunteer in work time.
Launch of BT Infinity, our super-fast fibre-based broadband proposition currently offering download speeds of up to 40 Mb/s and upload speeds of up to 10 Mb/s.
BT launched Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 on BT Vision in time for the 2010-11 Premier League football season.
We launched our 'Get IT Together' programme to support customers who feel they do not have the skills to use our services.
BT launched MyDonate, a new online fundraising service for UK charities.
BT announced plans to roll out fibre-based super-fast broadband across the UK.
BT launched a new range of printed and online safety advice to help parents keep children safe on the internet and launched a major campaign to prompt BT broadband customers to consider BT's free Family Protection parental-control software.
BT was at the heart of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the official communications services provider, a sustainability partner and a lead sponsor.
We started offering customers our YouView set-top box which gives them standard definition (SD) and HD Freeview channels and the ability to pause, record and rewind live TV and on-demand content.
The 75th anniversary of the 999 service showcased BT's long history of managing high-volume call centres.
BT Sport's TV channels launched and are free to BT Broadband customers.
BT launched the SmartTalk app, which allowed customers to make phone calls from their smartphone – wherever they were in the world – but which were billed as if calling from their BT home phone.
BT acquired UEFA Champions League and EUFA Europa League football rights for three years from summer 2015.
We launched the BT One Phone proposition, providing businesses with an innovative fixed-mobile solution.
BT managed 300,000 calls during the live TV Sport Relief telethon, peaking at a record of 244 calls per minute.
BT set a new broadband world speed record over an existing core fibre link between the BT Tower in London and BT's Adastral Park - data speeds of up to 3 terabits per second.
We take it for granted today that, by pressing a few buttons on a telephone, we can talk to family, friends or business associates - not only throughout the UK, but across the world too.
Similarly, at the flick of a switch, we've grown accustomed to seeing and hearing about world-changing events beamed or transmitted live into our living rooms by TV and radio.
This communications revolution has transformed the way we live and work and promises ever more spectacular developments in future years.
But today's technology, which helps make it possible, stems from basic work done in the last century by a few pioneering visionaries. Our own company history reflects many of these developments. Here we provide a detailed history of telecommunications dating back to 1605.
If you require further information on any aspect of BT's development or telecommunications generally, contact BT Archives.
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You can use the ‘Select the year’ boxes below to find out what happened in specific years or use the 'search' box at the top of the screen to perform a text search and restrict the search to 'Just this Section'.
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1605 - 1911 Private and public enterprise
1912 - 1968 Post Office control
1969 - 1980 Post Office (public corporation)
1981 - 1983 BT (public corporation)
1984 onwards - BT (private company)