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Events in telecommunications history


British Telecom and the Government of Gibraltar formed a joint venture company called Gibtel to operate Gibraltar's overseas telecommunications services from 1 January.

The British Telecom Chairman Iain Vallance opened the City Fibre Network, the country's first fibre optic network, in the City of London on 27 January.

Itemised billing was introduced in the City of London as a permanent service.

The second UK digital international telephone exchange was opened at Kelvin House.

The Sharelink share dealing joint venture with Albert E Sharp & Co was launched.

A major development programme of Monarch digital telephone systems was launched with GECPlessey Telecommunications.

The 1000th 'System X' digital local exchange was opened.

An optical fibre undersea link to the Isle of Man - the longest unregenerated system in Europe - was inaugurated on 28 March. The following year, the equivalent of 25,000 simultaneous telephone conversations was carried over a single optical fibre link in the optical submarine cable.

The British Telecom credit card was introduced on 14 November, and could be used to make calls on any telephone (including payphones) in the United Kingdom. The card provides a secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) and a unique account number. The cost of any calls made was added to the next home or office telephone bill along with details of each call.

The service was relaunched as the BT Chargecard the following year. In 1991, when the service was used by over 600,000 customers, the 20p facility charge on its use for directly-dialled calls was dropped. This attracted large numbers of personal users, whereas previously the service attracted mainly business customers.

BT introduced a new, simpler pricing structure for Chargecard calls made with its Chargecard from 7 August 1997. There was now a single 20p-a-minute rate for all inland direct dialled calls, regardless of time of day and distance. All direct dialled calls made within and from the UK were charged per second, with the minimum fee of 9.5p remaining unchanged.

At the same time there were reductions on some international routes. Changes included a 28 per cent reduction in the daytime cost of calling Japan, a 26 per cent drop in the cheap rate cost of calling Austria, Finland, Malta and Norway and a 21 per cent reduction in the cost of calls to the UK from the USA and Canada.

On 1 August 1998 the Chargecard Gold card was launched. Existing high spending customers of the existing residential Chargecard service automatically received a free replacement Chargecard Gold card and an invitation to register to collect either AIR MILES or to make savings on home telephone bills using BT TalkTime minutes.

The scheme was open to Chargecard customers who spent more than £300 on their Chargecard. Members of the new Chargecard Gold scheme were entitled to earn one AIR MILES award or 10 minutes of BT TalkTime for every £5 of Chargecard calls made. Family members using the same account were given their own Chargecard Gold cards and qualified for the same benefits which were credited to the account. AIR MILES were no longer available for new PremierLine customers from February 1999.

Talking Pages, another service offered by Yellow Pages, was launched.

British Telecom International and INMARSAT started trials of the Standard C satellite system, the smallest and cheapest maritime satellite terminal up to that time.

International Megastream was launched. Its first customer was Shell International Petroleum.

TAT 8, the world's first transoceanic optical fibre cable, came into service. It was laid between Tuckerton, New Jersey, USA and Widemouth Bay, Britain via Penmarch, France.

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