After Veil’s demise in 1920, the Bell Telephone Company needed to refocus, they were facing financial trouble with costs rising more rapidly than revenue. Walter Gifford followed in the footsteps of Veil in 1925, he proved to be as innovative a leader as his predecessor, realising that the many pies that Bell System and Western Electrical had dipped their fingers in, meant the focus wasn’t on providing communications services anymore. He sold off various researching arms to other companies, and was quoted as saying that Bell System has "to provide the most telephone service and the best, at least cost consistent with financial safety".
In 1927, the first commercial radiotelephone service was introduced by AT&T between America and the UK, costing £9 for a three-minute call, with around 2000 calls made per year. On January 7th 1927, Gifford contacted Sir Evelyn Murray, who was the then secretary of the General Post Office in the UK, who managed the phone system in the UK at the time.
The call hears Gifford explaining that this achievement will facilitate business, act as a social convenience and strengthen the ties of friendship, something that still resonates with how we use the phone today. Murray notes that there are still difficulties to face regarding regulation and reliability of their service, before declaring the service open to the public.
You can hear their telephone conversation here, http://www.history.com/speeches/first-transatlantic-telephone-call
The service continued to spread, connecting North America to Europe, followed by a Pacific service in 1931 and Tokyo in 1934, costing $39 for three minutes. 1935 was a year for celebration as AT&T made history once again. Gifford and T.G. Miller, VP of AT&T, phoned one another from separate rooms, in the Long Lines Building in New York, with their telephone call being transmitted on a circuit which travelled 23,000 miles around the globe. You can listen here http://www.history.com/speeches/first-transatlantic-telephone-call
However around this time at this time and following from where we left Part 4, Congress were considering a new legislation to regulate the telegraph, broadcasting and telephone industry, passing the Communications Act in 1934, this meant the telephone industry was under investigation, with the monopoly created long before, finally being scrutinized.
The war left the Bell System weakened, seeing nearly 70,000 of it’s employees serving in the armed forces and the focus of business shifting to provide army telephone facilities. By the time the war had ended the Bell System was in need of modernisation to cope with the increased demand for the use of the telephone. The situation in the UK for those at the Post Office was just as strenuous, with 73,000 employees joining the armed forces, in some areas losing up to 25% of their staff and again the focus of telecommunications shifting to serve the forces. During the war, continental telephone services dropped, gradually re-opening during 1946.
75 years after the invention of the telephone, the UK introduced the first law of the telephone as being a separate device to the telegraph. The Telephone Act was introduced in August 1951 and allowed for rental charges by statutory regulation. This was also the year that the first answer machine became available, the Swiss Ipsophone.
By 1952, the telephone was widely available but there was still no solid transatlantic service, the Post Office External Telecommunication Executive was created in order to control overseas services, it would later become BT. On December 1st, 1953 AT&T, The Post Office, Eastern Telephone & Telephone Company and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation signed an agreement to deliver the first transatlantic telephone cable.
Four years later, on September 25th 1956, the first transatlantic telephone cable was launched, linking Canada, the USA and the UK. It was a victory for modern, world wide communication. The 30 telephone circuits provided a link to the UK from Canada and the US, with the remaining circuits dedicated to connecting the UK to the rest of Europe. The project cost £12.5M and three years of careful planning and installation to complete. The entire cable was laid by one ship, the Post Office’s Cable ship, Monarch, it carried 1,500 nautical miles . Although cables had been placed under water before, this was on a much larger scale and required development of new methods of securing the cables in deep waters, although the cables and technology had been in development since WW2.
1956 was also the year that a consent decree was introduced to limit AT&T to 85% of the national telephone network in the US, in a bid to reduce the hold the monopoly had over the telephone service industry. Communication was growing ever more easy across the globe, with some of the first ‘mobile’ phones being introduced.