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Our history

 

 

Tim Whitley 

Professor Tim Whitley

MD Research & Innovation, MD Adastral Park, BT

For more than a century now, we’ve looked to innovation to bring us new products and services, improved customer experience, efficiency gains and to unlock exciting new opportunities.

Our very origins can be traced back to an entrepreneurial fusion of business and innovation.

On June 12th 1837 William Fothergill Cooke (an entrepreneur and businessman) and Professor Sir Charles Wheatstone (an academic) filed a patent for the world’s first practical electric telegraph.

These collaborators were excited by the commercial potential that the recently discovered phenomenon of electricity and magnetism could offer for communications.

From there, we can follow the development of a trailblazing company which has created, embraced and exploited technological innovation to change the world.

We conducted the world’s first wireless transmission across the Atlantic in 1926, built the first electronic programmable computer in 1943 and opened the world’s first digital telephone exchange in 1968.

We laid the first submarine single mode fibre cable in 1981 and the first commercial single mode fibre system in 1984 – the product of research at Martlesham in the early 1980s.

More recently, in 2003, it was our VDSL interoperability testing that helped establish the global standard for the VDSL technology that is powering today’s fibre programme. Our leadership in optical fibre continues today – with our 2014 demonstration of transmission at 3Tbps over 370km.

Today our labs are leading the world in deriving standards for the next generation of fast copper systems and a new approach to ultra-high capacity core networks.

Our current BT purpose statement – using the power of communications to make a better world – is a rather snappy summary of something that has been in our DNA as a company from the very start.