1946: Telephone Industry
Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.
1946: Telephone Industry
The nation's telephone industry made phenomenal strides in 1946. It was a year in which more new telephones were installed, more calls were handled, and more telephone equipment was manufactured than in any previous year.
To telephone people from coast to coast the principal objective was to catch up with the unfilled demand for service, a job which began with the backlog of wartime orders and continued to grow in magnitude as the post-war period brought an even heavier demand.
It was this sustained heavy demand that provided the principal answer to why the industry had not been able to return to a current basis. Although the telephone companies showed a net gain of over 2,800,000 telephones at the end of 10 months of 1946, there remained 2,000,000 'held' orders to be filled, and the flood of new applications continued.
Efforts to Install Service.
In its effort to restore telephone service to a when-and-where-wanted basis, the telephone industry was the center of intense activity in all its branches. The manufacturers of telephone equipment were turning out the needed apparatus in record quantities despite shortages of materials, and this equipment was rushed from the factories to local communities where it was most needed. New central office buildings were going up, and an even greater number of additions were made to existing buildings. At the same time extensive additions of the outside wire and cable plant kept pace with the expansion of central office switching capacity.
More people and more capital were required to expand the telephone plant, operate it, and meet the increasingly heavy demand for service. The telephone companies recruited and trained tens of thousands of new employees. Securing the necessary capital for the tremendous expansion program was a subject of vital importance for management, employees, and investors.
Increase in Telephones.
At the end of the third quarter of 1946, the number of telephones in service in the United States had reached 30,750,000. This represented a 12-month gain of 3,530,000 telephones. An increase of 3,800,000 was in prospect for the full calendar year 1946.
The nation's total at the end of September included 24,886,000 telephones in territory served by the Bell System companies (a 12-month increase of 3,000,000) and 5,864,000 telephones served by some 6,000 other companies.
Increase in Telephone Calls.
For the year ending September 30, 1946, completed conversations averaged 124,000,000 per day — an increase of 15,300,000 over the daily average for the previous 12-month period. Local conversations were up from 103,920,000 to 118,515,000 daily while toll conversations increased from 4,780,000 to 5,485,000 daily.
Growth of Investment.
The investment in telephone plant and equipment had grown to $6,845,000,000 at the end of September 1946. Here the increase for nine months was $415,000,000.
Of the total invested in telephone plant and equipment in the United States, the Bell System's portion on September 30, 1945, amounted to $6,085,000,000.
Increase in Personnel and Wages.
The number of men and women employed by the operating telephone companies in the United States reached a new high of 570,000 on September 30, 1946. Bell System personnel, including the 113,000 employees of the Western Electric Company and Bell Telephone Laboratories, grew to 600,000, an increase of 162,000 over the total at the end of September 1945.
Increased wages along with the increase in numbers of employees sent telephone payrolls to record levels. For example, the combined September 1946 payrolls of the Bell System operating telephone companies totaled $102,782,000. This was $31,398,000, or 44 per cent, more than the figure for September 1945.
The first full year of peace following World War II also witnessed a number of significant developments in the extension and improvement of the telephone system. Among the new types of service introduced was mobile telephone service for motor vehicles, rural telephone service over electric power lines, use of radio to link remote farms and ranches with the regular telephone system, and inter-city transmission of regular television programs over coaxial cable.
Urban Mobile Telephone.
By the first of December 1946, the Bell companies had urban mobile telephone service in commercial operation in 18 cities, and a 19th system was operating on the frequency assigned to 'highway' mobile telephone service. Initial use of the two-way vehicular service was principally industrial and commercial, the chief subscribers being delivery concerns, public utilities, newspapers, contractors, movers, and other organizations which need to keep in touch with their drivers.
Rural Telephone Over Power Lines.
The year 1946 witnessed the delivery of equipment for regular rural telephone service over electric power lines in six states. This development involves the use of power-line wires simultaneously for power service and telephone service. The telephone conversations are carried over the power lines by high frequency currents which are controlled by special apparatus.
Rural radio-telephone service was started in a sparsely settled region of Eastern Colorado. The ranch homes and the telephone central office at Cheyenne Wells, Colo., were connected by shortwave radio. Calls to and from the ranches are completed through the telephone switchboard in the same manner as any other call.
Coaxial Cable Program.
The Bell System's coaxial cable construction program was increased to 12,000 route miles of cable. This cable is suitable for carrying as many as 1,800 telephone conversations simultaneously as well as for television transmission. Experimental television service was begun in 1946 over the New York-Washington coaxial cable in either direction with good results.
Overseas public telephone service between the United States and the rest of the world was further extended in 1946. The volume of overseas messages was running about 10 times greater than it was in the highest pre-war year. Overseas rates are down some 40 per cent from the pre-war level.