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A HISTORY OF THE "TELEPHONE COMPANY" IN HAWAII--Part
As the pending Carlyle purchase of Verizon Hawai'i draws closer, we
continue with our multi-part history of telecommunications in
Hawai'i. Last week we left off on the threshold of Hawai'i
In August, 1959, Statehood became reality after decades of attempts.
At Hawaiian Telephone--the new name for Mutual Telephone--growth was
spurred by the Territory's new status.
By the end of 1960, Hawaiian Telephone had 200,000 lines installed.
These customers now had dial service assistance and toll-free
dialing on all islands was operational. This feat made the Island of
Hawaii the single largest toll-free calling area in the United
On May 23, 1960, the Big Isle was hit by tsunami causing one of six
island phones to be destroyed or out of service. Inbound calls to
the Big Island increased by 180 percent as friends and family tried
to reach residents.
In 1961 Hawaiian Telephone was named by the FCC as one of the
telecos to the a satellite development committee.
Also in 1961, the company gave communications support to Project
Mercury, NASA's first manned space flight program. The support
continued through the Gemini and Apollo programs.
In 1963, the British Commonwealth completed an undersea cable from
Canada to New Zealand and Australia via Hawai'i.
In 1964, the first undersea cable between Hawai'i and Japan was
laid, by way of Midway, Wake and Guam. At the same time, a second
cable between Hawai'i and the U.S. Mainland was installed with
Japan's KDD and AT&T and RCA as partners.
Within two years, the focus was in the sky, not under the ocean with
completion of the Comsat's first earth station at Paumalu on the
O'ahu's north shore. This coincided with the deployment of the first
Lani Bird satellite.
The first direct benefit to Hawai'i's residents was the first live
television broadcast from the Mainland--the Nov. 19, 1966 Notre
Dame-Michigan State football game.
Also, the late sixties saw the construction of the company's new
17-story "tower" on Bishop Street.
On May 17, 1967, Hawaiian Telephone ceased to be a local Hawai'i
company when it was purchased by General Telephone & Telegraph
The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of GET and the name was
changed to GTE Hawaiian Telephone.
By the end o 1967, Touch-Tone dialing was introduced and the company
had 350,000 phones in service.
In 1970, the company its largest--1,700 line--PABX in the Ala Moana
Hotel. It also installed the highest phones in the state at the
observatories on Mauna Kea and Haleakala.
Back in 1966, the company began converting all phone numers to seven
digits in anticipation of direct distance dialing. 1970 was the
first year that any phone in the state could be reached directly
from outside. In 1971, O'ahu customer could direct dial out of
state, and by 1973, all customers statewide had two-way direct dial.
Also in 1971, the company took over operation of military phones on
O'ahu and in 1972 it installed its first two electronic central
offices on the Big Island.
In 1973 the company had 500,000 phone lines installed.
The company's third strike lasted from May 7 to June 13, 1974.
1974 saw the inaugural at Moanalua Shopping Center and Ward
Warehouse. By 1983, there were 14 Phone Marts in operation on all
In 1976, the GTE/AT&T domestic satellite system deployed and cut
live TV transmission costs to the Islands.
In 1977, fiber optic was introduced with the installation of one of
the world's first communications systems using fiber at Camp Smith
on O'ahu. By 1979, fiber was in service betwen the Alakea and Kalihi
central offices. The nation's first "long wavelength" optical fiber
system was in service on a 22-mile route between Honolulu and
Wahiawa. By 1983, there were 560 miles of fiber optic cable in
service in Hawai'i.
By 1978, the company had 96 central offices statewide.
In 1981, GTE/Hawaiian Tele acquired the Micronesian
Telecommunications Corp, with headquarters in Saipan in the Northern
Marianas. The system served the islands of Saipan, Tianan and Roto
just north of Guam.
As the company's 100th year began in 1983, a significant change took
place on Jan 1st: the FCC ruled there would be no more regulation of
terminal equipment and that the company would compete on the open
market for that business. Also, long distance competition was
starting to grow, reducing the company's income flow.
The company finally realized that nothing would continue to be
forever, especially in telecommunications.
Next installment will cover 1983 through 2004.
Copyright 2004 Creative Resources, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright not asserted for materials from third party publications.
Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE