British Telecom

It wasn’t until I came to look it up that I realised how short a time this company was with us.

First, of course, it was the Post Office, responsible for both postal services and telecommunications.. Post Office Communications was renamed as British Telecom in 1980 (though still stayed as part of the Post Office).

The British Telecommunications Act of 1981 transferred the responsibility for telecommunications services away from the Post Office (though British Telecom was still a state-owned entity).

The heady journey continued. In 1982, the Government announced its intention to sell off the state-owned entity. It was the first time a UK public utility was placed in private hands: a move which some called “selling off the family silver“).

In August 1984, the business of British Telecom was transferred to a company: British Telecommunications plc. In November 1984, more than 50 per cent of British Telecom shares were sold to the public.

British Telecom also lost its monopoly of running telecommunications systems in the UK, and Mercury Communications jumped into the market as a competitor.

In April 1991, British Telecom unveiled its new trading name: BT.

So British Telecom lasted a mere 11 years. A blink of the eye in the telecommunications calendar.

Yet the name lives on, like Post Office Telephones and Rediffusion — two other ghosts of the communications business — below our feet on the city streets.


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