Cable & Wireless is one of the world’s leading international communications companies. We can trace our history to a number of British telegraph companies founded by Sir John Pender in the 1860s. Since then, we have provided telecommunications services, networks and equipment to businesses, governments and residential customers around the world. 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 and Wireless.
The Anglo-American Telegraph Company was set up as a successor to the Atlantic Telegraph Company which had failed in its attempt to lay a transatlantic cable in 1865. The following year, using Brunel's legendary ship, The Great Eastern, they successfully retrieved and joined up the existing cable and laid another new cable that connected Ireland to Newfoundland.
The first cable is landed at Porthcurno, Cornwall and the London to Bombay telegraph line is completed. In total fourteen cables operated from Porthcurno making this an important station.
All of Pender's companies - Falmouth, Malta, Gibraltar Telegraph Company, The Anglo-Mediterranean Telegraph Company, British- Indian Submarine Telegraph Company and the Marseilles, Algiers, Malta Telegraph Company - merged to form The Eastern Telegraph Company, the first global cable telecommunications company and the largest operating company in the world at that time.
The Eastern Telegraph Company has 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. ETC 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 rerouted 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.
The TELEX machine or teleprinter was introduced which meant that sending messages could be fully automated and was very cost effective .
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Imperial and International Communications is renamed Cable and Wireless
Cable & Wireless is nationalised and becomes the international communications section of the British Post Office.
The first transatlantic telephone cable called TAT 1 was laid between Scotland and Newfoundland (with AT&T). It had 36 channels which rose to 48 as demand steadily increased.
Cable & Wireless built their first earth station on Ascension Island to provide support to for the Apollo moon landings
Period of considerable change in the way the company did business. No longer operating as a monopoly in many locations; establishment of working partnerships with the independent Governments of many Commonwealth countries.
In 1981, Cable & Wireless was the first privatisation of the Thatcher Government. In a challenge to British Telecommunications, Cable and Wireless launch Mercury Communications as part of the privatisation.
The iconic Cable & Wireless globe is born
One 2 One, a division of Mercury Communications, launches mobile communications to the UK consumer market
Cable & Wireless Global formed to build global IP network - the 'global digital highway'
Cable & Wireless acquires Energis to strengthen its position as the second largest telco operator in the UK.
Cable & Wireless plc separates the business into two standalone business units - Cable & Wireless International (now Communications) and Cable & Wireless Europe, Asia & US (now Worldwide)
Cable & Wireless Worldwide demerges and Cable & Wireless Communications becomes an independently listed company