Telecom Éireann, or formally Bord Telecom Éireann - The Irish Telecommunications Board, was created by the Postal & Telecommunications Services Act, 1983 from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, Ireland, under the leadership of the Minister for Posts & Telegraphs. Prior to this time the Department of Posts and Telegraphs provided a postal and telephones system as part of the civil service and was known as the "P and T".
Upgrading the Network:
Telecom Éireann immediately embarked upon a major upgrade of the Irish telecommunications infrastructure, which had been quite underdeveloped. The company rolled out digital telephone switching technology, across the country along with an extensive fibre optic and digital microwave backbone. Two digital switching systems were selected; CIT-Alcatel's E10 and Ericsson's AXE telephone exchange. Digital technology quickly replaced analogue systems at national and major regional switching centres and new international gateway switches were installed. The oldest electromechanical step-by-step exchanges and manual operator-manned local exchanges were the first to be converted to digital technology. More modern electromechanical crossbar exchanges, using Ericsson ARF technology dating from the 1960s and 1970s were converted to digital bit by bit through the late 1980s and early 1990s. These crossbar switches were capable of providing voice service that was comparable to digital switching technology.
By the early 1990s, the Irish network was amongst the most modern and most digitalised in the world and by the mid 1990s had become 100% digitally switched.
The company also did a major upgrade to the payphone network in the late 1980s, which saw the rollout of smart card based payphones across Ireland. The Telecom Éireann CallCard was one of the earliest implementations chip-based cards in the world.
Telecom Éireann launched Eircell (now Vodafone Ireland) in 1984, with operations commencing in 1986. The company deployed a national mobile telephone network based on a first generation mobile technology known as the Total Access Communication System, or TACS for short. This technology, similar to AMPS, was also used in the UK by Vodafone and Cellnet. Eircell launched their digital network based on GSM technology from Ericsson in 1993. GSM service rapidly replaced the TACS network as customers migrated over to new digital technology. Within a few years, the TACS network was obsolete and taken off air.
The company introduced a Minitel videotext system into Ireland in 1992 but due to poor uptake and lack of interesting services, it faded from public attention quickly. A number of other companies came together in 1988 with a plan to use the system for shopping and information. Minitel services were ultimately withdrawn completely due to lack of interest.
In 1997 Telecom Éireann established Telecom Internet, the Internet service provider the company rapidly became one of the partners in the Internet Neutral Exchange and is today known as eircom net.
Telecom Éireann established Eirpage, a national paging system in Ireland. This system is now controlled and operated by Voxpro Communications, formerly Pageboy.
Launched in 1984 to replace Euronet, Eirpac is the Irish public switched data network supporting X.25 and X.28
TEIS (Telecom Éireann Information Systems)
This unit sold business systems and office telephone systems to business customers.
TeleCentre - this was Telecom Éireann's retail arm, which was later renamed eircom Store and then shut down as eircom moved away from physical customer contact centres. Since the closure of the stores, customers can only contact eircom online or by telephone.
Phonewatch - Provides monitored alarm services to both residential and business customers. The company remains part of eircom and was rebranded as eircom PhoneWatch. It is one of the largest players in the Irish home security market.
Privatisation: eircom plc.:
Telecom Éireann became eircom plc. in 1999 after being privatised, and was later split into Eircell 2000 Plc. (Eircell), the mobile networks business, and eircom, the fixed-line business which also inherited other minor divisions, such as the Eirpage pager system and the Telecom retail arm. Eircell was sold to Vodafone in May 2001, and later changed its name to the dual-brand Eircell Vodafone before becoming Vodafone Ireland