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Thursday, April 19, 2012

History of The Telephone Line

The telephone was famously invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the US during the 19th century, with the first call made over just 100 feet (30.5 metres) on the 14th of February, 1876. In the subsequent years a global industry has developed around this type of technology, with the humble telephone line still going strong to this day despite competition from emerging wireless services.

Here is a quick overview of the history of the telephone line from its early establishment to its modern applications, which should hopefully indicate just why it was such an important technological advance and how it changed the world.

Within two years of the first telephone call being made, Bell's patents were used to set up a company in the UK, backed by the then not insubstantial investment of £100,000. 150 telephone lines were quickly rolled out in London, with each line able to support a maximum of eight users simultaneously.

Further telephone exchanges were developed in the UK until in 1879 there were 200 subscribers in London, with lines leading across the country to Sheffield, Manchester and even Edinburgh. A rival company founded on the patents registered by Thomas Edison was also established in this year, undercutting the price of Bell's service by a significant margin in order to win over British customers.
The technology powering telephone lines was continually developed over the years, but it was in 1922 that things really got going when electro-mechanical technology designed by Almon B Strowger of the US became widely adopted to help automate the process. For the next seven decades or so, the UK's exchanges used a variant of this hardware in order to route calls.

Example of residential network including VoIP
Example of residential network including VoIP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By the mid-1980s, BT had become a private company and it began to look to digital technology to replace the analogue signals which had been carried by telephone lines for so many years. Investments of over £20 billion were made to update the UK's infrastructure. Despite this, it was not until 1995 that the final exchange working on Strowger's original design was closed, indicating the enduring nature of this set-up.

Using metallic cabling for telephone lines with analogue electrical signals transporting the audio information was not the only invention of Bell's which would go on to shape the world. As early as 1880, he was working with Sumner Tainter on something which they called the Photo-phone, which was essentially an early form of fiber-optic communication.

a fiber-optic splitter: 2x(input, 90% out, 10%out)
a fiber-optic splitter: 2x(input, 90% out, 10%out) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fibre optics would remain impractical and largely unpatented for the transmission of digital data until 1966. The lower attenuation rates in fiber-optic cables compared to metallic equivalents made them desirable for long-distance signal transmission and the UK was home to the first fiber-optic data line during the mid 1980s when a 140Mbps connection was set up between Luton and Milton Keynes. This would pave the way for the proliferation of optical technology which we see today being rapidly rolled out to replace the original metallic infrastructure as data rates are increased.

A TOSLINK fiber optic cable with a clear jacke...
A TOSLINK fiber optic cable with a clear jacket that has a laser being shone onto one end of the cable. The laser is being shone into the left connector; the light coming out the right connector is from the same laser. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The emergence of widespread broadband connectivity after the turn of the millennium, delivered either via traditional landlines or fiber-optic connections, eventually allowed more and more businesses and subscribers to access digital voice services. VoIP providers began to emerge in the middle of the 2000s, with companies such as Skype helping to introduce average consumers to the idea of making long-distance, IP-based calls between PCs rather than fixed-line handsets.

Fiber optic distribution frame from Canovate Group
Fiber optic distribution frame from Canovate Group (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, a single fiber-optic connection or broadband-enabled telephone line can do the work of multiple older lines thanks to VoIP technology and the flexibility of the digital age. In spite of the growth of the mobile market, people still value telephone lines for their reliability and affordability.

Daisy Group plc who specialize in providing communication solutions to UK businesses. Daisy has been providing telephone lines for over a decade and are experts in Voip Technology, and bringing business in to the 21st century

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