History of Nortel

From Alexander Graham Bell’s original telephone patents to the anywhere, anytime connections of today, Nortel has been at the forefront of innovation in the ever evolving history of communications.

1874 - Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephoneSince its 1895 founding as Northern Electric and Manufacturing, supplying telecommunications equipment for Canada’s fledgling telephone system , Nortel has grown to become a global leader in delivering communications capabilities that enhance the human experience, power global commerce, and secure and protect the world’s most critical information.

Early Years

  • Manufactures the portable commutator, a one-wire telegraphic switchboard for military field service in World War 1. 1900 - Northern Electric manufactures the first gramophones in Canada
  • Produces first dial equipment in Canada – a dial PBX – for a brewery in Montreal.
  • Manufactures first vacuum tubes in Canada which are also eventually used on repeater apparatus for long-distance lines.
  • Trans-Canada telephone toll system goes live in 1932 based on Northern switches. The system covers Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Hamilton and Windsor.
  • Produces the #19 wireless set for two-way telephone communications in tanks and other military vehicles. It becomes the standard for Canada, Britain and Russia in WW2.
  • Develops electromechanical switch in 1950s which also allows push-button phone dials and direct inter-city dialing. Using photo-transistors, this automated system is the company’s first advancement towards computerized switching and is the company’s staple switch for the next 20 years.
  • Implements the Trans-Canada Skyway in 1958, the world’s longest microwave system covering 6114.2 kilometers (3,800 miles).

The Telephony Era

  • A pioneer in communications-satellite business in the 1960s, Northern develops satellite and antenna equipment, serving as prime subcontractor with Hughes Aircraft for the electronics used in Canada’s ANIK communications satellite.
  • Launches the Contempra or “Princess” telephone with the dial in the handset – a design that influences telecommunications products around the world.
  • Introduces world’s first X.25 data switch in 1976, representing the first standard-based commercial application of packet switching, the technology that is the foundation of today’s Internet.
  • First to announce a complete line of fully digital telecommunications products. In 1979 the first Digital World product — DMS-100 – goes into service. It is a fully digital central office switch serving as many as 100,000 lines.
  • Introduces the first cellular telephone system in North America to provide subscribers with such features as call forwarding, call waiting and three-way calling.
  • First in the world to use 64 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) in microwave radio system, allowing more information to be put into the same frequency band.
  • Introduces “Fiber World” initiative for systems based on fiber-optic technology that is much faster and more cost-effective than copper wires.
  • Develops world’s first billing system to use speech-recognition technology to automate collect calls, calls billed to a third party and calling-card calls.

The Internet Revolution

  • Celebrates its first 100 years with introduction of “Nortel” brand, reflecting the company’s evolution from telephony to multiservice Internet and IP-based global communication solutions.
  • Introduces the world’s first 1-Meg modem for “always on” Internet connections; orders exceed US$1 billion in only eight months.
  • Redefines speed of networking with 6.4 trillion bits per second (terabit) optical technology. The technology increases Internet networking speeds and capacity by 640 times with an amplification system that supports 28 million simultaneous Internet connections over a single fiber.
  • Installs world’s first commercial 3G (UMTS) wireless network in Spain.
  • Completes series of landmark next-generation wireless calls, including the industry’s first wireless packet data sessions using CDMA2000 1xRTT technology.
  • First networking company to complete the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) phase II test regimen for IPv6 – the next-generation Internet Protocol. IPv6 will enable the Internet to continue to grow.
  • First networking vendor to provide an end-to-end VoIP solution certified by the U.S. Defense Department Joint Interoperability Test Commande (JITC).
  • The convergence of the communications and IT industries takes a significant step forward as Microsoft Corp. and Nortel announce a strategic alliance based on a shared vision for unified communications. By combining Nortel’s world-class network quality and reliability with Microsoft® software’s ease of use, the alliance will accelerate the availability of unified communications.
  • BT selects Nortel to play an important role in its 21st Century Network (21CN) program. Nortel will be one of two suppliers of a carrier-scale Ethernet solution for 21CN that exploits Ethernet in a fundamentally new way.

Today’s networked world was unimaginable when this company was born, yet much of it has been created by the imagination of our people. As you browse the major milestones of our corporate history, you’ll see this ongoing spirit of innovation, coupled with the agility to respond to an ever-changing world.

Historical Timeline