The history of our company can be traced to a number of British telegraph companies founded by Sir John Pender in the 1860s. Today the focus of our business is in the Caribbean and Latin America, a region where we have operated since the 1870s. Across the region we have often been the first to introduce new services into the countries in which we operate – from telegraph cables and landline telephones, to broadband and mobile data services – and remain the market leader in most markets and services. To find out more about our long and distinguished history, please browse the timeline below - you can click on the words for descriptions of our key dates and click on the arrows to scroll more quickly.
John Pender, a Manchester cotton merchant, joined other businessmen as director of the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company. This company ran a telegraph cable service between London and Dublin. This was only two years after the first submarine cable between England and France had been laid. This was the beginning of Pender’s submarine cable empire and Cable & Wireless.
The first sub-sea cable landed at Porthcurno, Cornwall, completing the London to Bombay telegraph line. In total 14 sub-sea cables operated from Porthcurno, making this an important station.
All of Pender's companies merged to form The Eastern Telegraph Company, the first global cable telecommunications company and the largest operating company in the world at that time.
WI and Panama&
The West Indies and Panama Telegraph company was founded in 1870 to lay sub-sea cables in the region, but went into liquidation seven years later. A new company was created with the same name and with John Pender as one of its directors.
The West India and Columbia Electric Company, a predecessor of LIME Jamaica, installed the first 50 telephone lines in the country’s capital city, Kingston.
The Eastern Telegraph Company had a massive international communication network of around 150,000km of undersea cables.
After many experiments in wireless communication, Marconi set up Poldhu and the Lizard stations in Cornwall. He successfully transmitted the first transatlantic wireless signal from Cornwall to Newfoundland.
Wireless and cable telegraphy were important tools of communication in the First World War. The Eastern Telegraph Company and Marconi supported the war effort through the War Office and the Admiralty by offering expertise in keeping communication open around the world, through censorship, listening in, field work and in confusing the enemy. Also, a once US/ German cable was re-routed to Cornwall, which helped isolate Germany and her communication system.
Marconi succeeded in telephoning Australia on short wave radio after experiments between Poldhu and his yacht. In July he was granted a contract with the General Post Office to set up shortwave telegraphy circuits from London to Australia, India, South Africa and Canada.
The Eastern Telegraph Company merged with Marconi’s Wireless Company to form Imperial and International Communications.
Cable & Wireless&
Imperial and International Communications was renamed Cable & Wireless.
Cable & Wireless purchased the West Indies Cable Network, a sub-sea cable network comprising 20 subsea cables, each over 700 miles in length, submerged in water 1,000-2,000 fathoms deep. The network provided the Caribbean and Panama with international communications via telegraph.
The West India and Panama Telegraph Company changed its name to Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Ltd.
The Government of Clement Atlee nationalised Cable & Wireless, which became the international communications section of the British Post Office.
Cable & Wireless was invited to help the Government improve its telecommunications services to cope with traffic generated by the press coverage of the Royal visit of HRH Princess Margaret. This included the provision of the first radio-telephone link connecting Belize with the rest of the world.
Cable & Wireless had representation on the technical committee for Intelsat 1 (nicknamed Early Bird), the world’s first commercial communications satellite to be placed in continuous orbit.
Cable & Wireless built their first earth station on Ascension Island to provide support to for the Apollo moon landings
Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados were able to transmit and receive high grade television, telephony, high-speed data and faxes using satellite earth stations completed in 1971 and 1972. By 1988 further earth stations had been completed in Bermuda, Belize, the Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos.
The Cable & Wireless Telecommunications College was opened in Barbados as part of a £4 million investment in the country. It was one of four in the group at the time with the others located at Porthcurno in Cornwall, Bahrain and Hong Kong.
Cable & Wireless was the first privatisation of the Thatcher Government. In a challenge to British Telecommunications, Cable & Wireless launched Mercury Communications as part of the privatisation.
Cable & Wireless introduced internet access to the Cayman Islands.
Cable & Wireless Panama&
Cable & Wireless bought a 49% share of the Panamanian Instituto Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (INTEL). The company is now called Cable & Wireless Panama.
Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to agree to liberalise its telecoms market, passing a law in February 2000. During the decade, we worked with governments across the region to introduce competition. We remain the leading provider in most of the markets in which we operate and most of the services we provide.
Cable & Wireless sponsored the ICC Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean.
Cable and Wireless plc demerged and Cable & Wireless Communications became an independently listed company. Our former sister company, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, was subsequently bought by Vodafone Group on 27 July 2012.
We bought 51% of shares in The Bahamas Telecommunications Company and assumed management control.
We completed the sale of our Macau and Islands businesses as part of a strategy to focus our business in the Caribbean and Latin America.