European nations wanting to use telegraphs for international communications
1849: First international agreement between Austria and Prussia; negotiation of common standards and tariffs.
1851: Similar agreement reached between Belgium and France.
Various countries join the two different unions
1865: International Telegraph Union founded at a conference in Paris
A uniform telegraph standard determined. Morse code to be used for International transmission.
1903: ITU begins to draft regulations for international telephone service (note that phone was invented in 1877).
1903: Beginning efforts to regulate maritime radio communications
Berlin: Preliminary Conference Concerning Wireless Telegraphy, nine nations attend including U.S.
1906: Berlin Radiotelegraph Conference--29 member countries form the International Radiotelegraph Union;
Formulated the basic regulatory principles still in common use today:
Partitioned spectrum frequencies below 188 kHz for long distance communications and frequencies between 188 kHz and 500 kHz for military use.
1912: Radiotelegraph Conference in London
New services like time and weather broadcasts assigned below 188 kHz; amateur use above 3 MHz--then considered useless!
Focus on more spectrum efficient methods of transmission--replacement of spurious spark gap transmitters by frequency-stable tube-based systems.
1920: Washington Preliminary World Conference on Electrical Communications
Proposed to merge telegraph and radiotelegraph conventions into a single Universal Electrical Communications Union. Proposed a spectrum allocation process that would require international approval before use. Created the blueprint for the current International Telecommunications Union.
1927: Radiotelegraph Union meeting in Washington
80 countries participate. Broadened responsibility beyond maritime transmitters to all radio transmitters. First comprehensive Table of Allocations. Formation of Radio Technical Consulting Committee (CCIR) to study technical issues.
1932: Joint Telegraph and Radiotelegraph Conference in Madrid
Creation of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), spanning radio, telephone, and telegraph.
1947: ITU Conference, Atlantic City
Becomes a specialized agency of the United Nations. Only sovereign countries become full members, one vote per country independent of size.
Today: 166 member countries, 300 non-government agencies ("recognized private operating agencies," scientific, industrial, and international organizations)
International Radio Conference
Spectrum Allocated (kHz)
|1906||Berlin||500 to 1000|
|1912||London||150 to 1000|
|1927||Washington||10 to 23,000|
|1932||Madrid||10 to 30,000|
|1938||Cairo||10 to 200,000|
|1947||Atlantic City||10 to 10,500,000|
|1959||Geneva||10 to 40,000,000|
|1963||Geneva (space)||10 to 40,000,000|
|1967||Geneva (maritime)||10 to 40,000,000|
|1971||Geneva (space)||10 to 275,000,000|
Western Union holds virtual monopoly for long distance communications in the US. Refuses to buy Bell's telephony patents because it believes that one of its own employees hold a patent for the telephone. Bell wins patent infringement lawsuit in 1879, giving him complete control of the telephone industry. Western Union forced to sell its telephone network to Bell, as well as its Western Electric manufacturing concern in 1881.
1885: Bell forms AT&T to provide long distance services between local exchanges.
1907: AT&T gradually loses control of the telephone network. By this date, it controls only 51% of the network.
T. Vail, President of AT&T, and banker J. P. Morgan purchase independent telephone companies. Pressured them to knuckle under or have their long distance service cut-off. Companies sue AT&T.
Interstate Commerce Commission assumes regulatory role for interstate telephony.
Vail proposes the concept of regulated monopoly. State lawmakers establish own regulatory control. Prohibit competitive provision of local-exchange services to avoid wasteful duplication and "cream skimming" and to insure universal service. State regulatory commissions control telephone rates.
1934: Establishment of Federal Communication Commission
Controls interstate and international communications. Universal service is identified as the primary goal of telecommunications policy.
By 1956, Bell System has complete control of the US telecommunications infrastructure.
1940s: Bell System seeks to monopolize mobile communications market.
1940: First 2-way mobile radio connected to phone system in NY; rapid growth in the number of mobile users from about 86,000 in 1940 to 695,000 in 1948.
1949: FCC does not allow Bell System to establish a "natural" monopoly. Permits other companies to provide radio-operated services.
1949: First federal anti-trust suit against AT&T. Goal was to separate AT&T from Western Electric.
Resolved in 1956--AT&T focuses on common carrier services and grants licenses to its competitors. Consent decree no longer allows Western Electric to manufacture mobile equipment. It is restricted to selling equipment to the Bell System. This gives a big boost to Motorola in mobile communications. (AT&T also restricted from data processing business).
1966: FCC investigates whether Bell Systems should be allowed to enter data processing market.
1971: Common carriers allowed to enter data processing, but only through arms length subsidiary. At same time FCC allowed common carriers to provide data and specialized communications services.
Example: microwave transmission systems for bypassing AT&T long distance network ok'd in 1959.
1969: MCI (Microwave Communications Inc.) voice transmission over microwave links between St. Louis and Chicago. Many companies get into this business throughout 1970s.
1976: FCC reexamines whether Bell System should be allowed to enter data processing market.
1980: FCC's final decision--beginnings of deregulation. "Enhanced" services (those that add, change, or restructure information) no longer regulated. 1968: non-Western Electric equipment could be attached to the phone network (famous Carterphone decision--2-way radio link to telephone system); by 1980, customer premise equipment market completely deregulated. AT&T, GTE, and others could enter computer and data processing systems and services.
1974: Second anti-trust case against AT&T--Separation of AT&T, Western Electric, Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs)
AT&T has been a disaster in the computer business. Because it both provides services and manufactures equipment, it is its own most serious competitor. RBOCs less willing to purchase equipment from their own service rival.
RBOCs anxious to get into information services (e.g., video-on-demand). Fiercely competitive with each other, no longer interested in collaborative research via Bellcore.
US Telecomm Act of 1996
Some Comparative Statistics
US/Japan ratio of numbers per capita
Number, in millions
|Cable TV subscribers||1995||61.0||2.2||13|
|Host computers linked to the Internet||1996||6.1||0.3||11|
|Mobile phone subscribers||1995||28.2||5.4*||3|
|Yen, in Billions|
|Database operating revenue||1993||1431.5||210.8||3|
|Market scale of CD ROM||1993||630.0||83||4|
* Note that some of these statistics can change very quickly. Cellular phone use grew to 10 million subscribers in Japan by March 1996 and more than 20 million by October 1996, due to rapidly declining costs for cellular phones and services. The turnaround has been accelerated by the recent deregulation of the Japanese cellular telephone market and the recent introduction of personal communication services (called "Personal Handyphone System" in Japan).