OTC – A Timeline

A Starting Point. by Robert Brand

I have commenced a Timeline of OTC events. I would be grateful if anyone would like to add an entry – simply email me at: homepc@rbrand.com

Please make sure it is OTC specific.


The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) (OTC) is established with responsibility for all international telecommunications services by Act of Parliament on August 7. Its responsibility is the maintenance and operation of Australia’s overseas telecommunications services as well as communications with ships. At that time the acquisition begins of the communications assets of AWA, which had previously operated the overseas wireless services, and of Cable and Wireless overseas telegraph facilities, with C&W retaining ownership of the cables themselves, while the cable stations in Australia and Norfolk Island come under the ownership of OTC.


Foreshadowing quite revolutionary changes in international communications, in October, HF signals from the USSR’s Sputnik, the world’s first man-made satellite, are picked up by OTC engineers and excite considerable interest.


Planning for CANTAT (UK-Canada) and COMPAC (Pacific) cable systems which began with conferences in London in 1958 is finalised in Sydney. It is agreed that the capital cost of COMPAC, estimated at that time to be £33 million, would be shared by OTC (Australia), Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (later Teleglobe), Cable and Wireless Ltd and the New Zealand Post Office. The cable, which before the later installation of circuit multiplication equipment (CME), has a capacity of 80 3KHz, 4 wire duplex voice channels and comprises 8284 nm of cable and 322 valve repeaters and 34 equalisers, is based upon designs developed for CANTAT by the British Post Office, but the overall installation crosses a number of new frontiers, as two sections of the cable (Vancouver/Hawaii and Hawaii/Fiji) are longer than any submarine telephone cable laid or planned at this time, and this has important implications for terminal equipment and repeater design and additionally, no electrical performance criteria exists for a system of this length. Manufacture of the cable and repeaters is undertaken by two British firms, Submarine Cable Ltd (SCL) and Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (STC), but Australian content is provided by the 130 volt rectifiers for the no-break power supplies for the Sydney, New Zealand and Fiji terminals which are designed and built in Sydney by STC.


Commonwealth Cables Management Committee formed to manage submarine cables.


With the COMPAC cable bringing reliable, high quality communications to Australia from Europe and North America, there is a requirement to provide similar communications from Australia to South East Asia and to enable circuits in COMPAC to be extended to this region. To achieve this, a Commonwealth Cable Conference is held in Kuala Lumpur to plan such an installation – SEACOM.


Australia is amongst the first group of countries which begin to address the problems of international communications using satellites and in August, along with ten other signatories, becomes a founding member of the Interim Communications Satellite Committee (ICSC) which functions as the initial policy decision making body of INTELSAT. As a member of ICSC, OTC develops proposals relating to public telecommunications standards for satellites resulting in the following general concepts being adopted:

  • ICSC should formally adopt CCITT standards and publicise the fact that it was offering service to those standards
  • to achieve the former standards, ICSC should specify a ‘standard’ satellite earth station at or near the top of known technological performance capability, in order to maximise the amount of derived satellite capacity
  • the basis for the standard unit of space segment charge should be related to the satellite capacity required to provide a CCITT standard telephone circuit between two standard earth stations as defined above.


COMPAC is commissioned and the large increase in telephone channels results in the need for advanced methods of switching. Australia’s first automatic international telephone exchange enters service on 3 December, in conjunction with the commissioning of the cable.


Laying of the SEACOM cable begins.


NASA proposes that in support of the Apollo programme an earth station should be established at Carnarvon, Western Australia by October of the following year, to provide tracking, telemetering and command services for the launch of the satellites, together with direct communication links between the earth station and the USA.


The earth station is supplied by NASA on schedule, but the first satellite fails to reach synchronous orbit, remaining in a 12-hour elliptical one. Nevertheless, it is used on 25 November for the first exchange of television signals between Australia and the UK.

First television programs from the UK are transmitted to Australia via satellite.


The SEACOM cable is completed, with the Australian terminal at Cairns, North Queensland. The Singapore-Kota Kinabalu-Hong Kong-Guam sections have the same capacity as COMPAC, but this is doubled to 160 3kHz channels for the Guam-Madang-Cairns sections. At Guam a land interconnection is arranged with the Hawaii-Japan cable system. The APO is responsible for linking the Cairns terminal to Sydney by microwave and this requires special attention to design in order to obtain low noise performance needed to match the standards imposed by CCITT for international systems.

Following the successful launch of a replacement satellite, regular satellite communications began from Australia in February.


Specifications are prepared and tenders called for a full performance standard earth station at Moree, New South Wales, and regular public satellite service commences across the Pacific to USA and Japan on 29 March.


The link to UK, Europe, Africa, Middle East and part of Asia, is provided through an earth station completed at Ceduna, SA, in December and a second antenna is also added to Carnarvon in October, which permits the original antenna to be used to provide tracking, telemetry, command and monitoring services under contract with INTELSAT.


Studies of liquid filled optical fibres, invented by CSIRO, begin and the work is later extended to multi mode and single mode solid glass fibres.


The Laboratories develop a prototype Video-conferencing system.


The Laboratories’ video-conferencing system undergoes successful trials via satellite link between Sydney and London and is later installed between Melbourne and Sydney. This is the world’s first international video conference link.


Satellite earth stations now provide an important new dimension in Australia’s overseas telecommunications services more than half of Australia’s overseas telecommunications circuits are carried via satellite. In the early series of satellites operated by INTELSAT, the emphasis tends towards the most advanced available technology with lesser attention to actual traffic requirements. OTC plays a role in the development of a planning approach and G. Gosewinckel becomes the founding Chairman of a planning sub-committee which is established to consider longer term issues.


International Subscriber Dialling (ISD), becomes an obvious requirement for Australia. It commences to 14 major destinations on 1 April and is extended progressively to other destinations, co-ordinated with the availability of ISD access facilities within the Australian national network. Initially, charging is on a multi-metering basis but Telecom introduced an accelerated program for itemised charging facilities. Reflecting the growing importance of marketing, a national advertising campaign is implemented, resulting in a marked increase in awareness of the new service.


Commercial use of international CCITT No. 6 signalling is inaugurated in July, with circuits between Australia, the United States and Japan.


The Australian Computer Research Board (ACRB) is established through funding by CSIRO, Defence Department, Telecom and OTC, with initial funding of $130,000 per annum. The objectives of the ACRB are:

  • to foster research and development in computer engineering and computer science, including the application of this research and development in universities and other appropriate organisations;
  • to assist in improving the training of computer engineers and scientists and to attract into the field the high calibre graduate;
  • to encourage interaction between universities, government, industry and other interested bodies.


International telephone switching capacity is expanded by the commissioning of an L. M. Ericsson AKE-132 processor controlled gateway exchange at Paddington, generally similar to the AKE-131 at Broadway, but it incorporates a number of new features resulting from advances in switching technology. A new international Transmission Maintenance Centre is also provided.

Telecom and OTC collaborate with KDD Japan in the first intercontinental field trial of the CCITT No. 7 signaling system, the later generation common channel signalling system designed to be the central nervous system of the Integrated Services Digital Network.

Following a review by Dr. J. L. Farrands, a former Secretary to the Department of Science and Technology, an OTC Research and Development Board, consisting mainly of experts external to OTC is formed to make recommendations on and to oversight an external R&D programmer. Two main objectives are set:

  • to make OTC a more informed telecommunications authority and, in particular, a more informed purchaser of telecommunications equipment;
  • to place Australian industry in a position where it can participate in design, development, manufacture and installation of telecommunications equipment.


A contract is let with L. M. Ericsson Pty Ltd for two AXB20 telex exchanges, including manual operator switchboards and a number of service enhancements, such as Store and Forward, Abbreviated Dialing and Department Billing. This upgrades the international telex switching facilities and the first of these is now in service.


The last of the old submarine cables is taken out of commission and the Commonwealth Cable Management Committee is disbanded.

Common channel signaling is introduced into the Australian national network, following earlier trials.


The Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation is formed on 1 February, as a result of the merger of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission into the Australian Telecommunications Corporation. The merged body continues to trade under its former identities of Telecom Australia and OTC, trading as Telecom Australia.

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