The Commission has compiled a historical telecoms dataset to help build a more extensive picture of the UK's telecoms industry and identify trends.
The Commission worked with Osiris-AI consultants, with the help of Dr Alexis Litvine and Dr Oliver Buxton Dunn of the University of Cambridge, to collate telecommunications statistics from before a time where records were digitised. The Commission also undertook some research by exploring archived Oftel and Ofcom reports, and the resulting statistics are an extensive timeline of data from the mid 19th century through to present day. Some of the data is presented here and the full data-set is available for all to download.
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Data showing the changes to the number of telegrams sent over time. The data shows a rapid rise and fall in the popularity of telegrams over a 130 year period from 1851 to 1980. The data also shows fascinating patterns during times of unrest – particularly during World War 2 as we see a rise in the number of telegram’s sent between 1939 and 1946. The impact of World War 1 is less evident however, and we actually see a fall in usage during the period. Telegraph usage rose quite rapidly up to the 1900’s. The growth in telegram numbers stopped quite abruptly however, and then gradually fell during the 20th century, coinciding with the growth in the number of telephones and telephone calls made.View data set
Number of telephone stations
Data showing the changes in the number of telephone stations for the period 1894 to 1979 for the UK. The time series shows how telephone trends have changed over time. Telephone stations refers to any private or public place providing access to a telephone – this could be a landline connection, telephone box, a post-office or even a pub. The phone network was nationalised in 1911 which unified Britain’s phone networks and propelled its availability to the wider population.View data set
Telephone call volumes
Data showing the changes to the number of calls over the period 1898 to 1993, and call minutes 1993 to 2021. The dataset combines data from the Osiris-AI study, Oftel and Ofcom to provide a fuller picture of how call volumes have changed over time. As seen with the number of telephone stations post 1911, the number of calls made also rose from this point. As the availability of telephones and access to more international networks grew, the number of telephone calls made increased.View data set
Fax and telex
Data showing the number of telex exchange connections and fax machines. The data series combines data from Oftel reports to provide a fuller picture of how communication has changed since telegraphs stopped being used. These technologies were identified as being examples of modern day methods of communication that picked up from telegraphs.View data set
SMS and MMS
Data showing the number of SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) sent since the beginning of the 21st century. Data has been compiled from Ofcom reports and has been identified as a significant method of communication that followed on from telegrams.View data set