The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) was established by an Act of Parliament in August 1946. It inherited facilities and resources from Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited (AWA) and Cable & Wireless, and was charged with responsibility for all international telecommunications services into, through and out of Australia.
On 1 February 1992 it was merged with Australia’s domestic telecommunications carrier, the Australian Telecommunications Corporation Limited (“Telecom”) to create the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation Limited (AOTC). The new organisation underwent a corporate identity review and was subsequently renamed Telstra Corporation Limited (“Telstra”).
When first established in 1946, OTC inherited facilities which had been depleted during World War II, and faced rising costs and falling profits. From this tenuous beginning, the organisation was to grow over the years to gain world standing on the international telecommunications stage.
Throughout rapid developments in undersea cable networks, global satellite systems and burgeoning digital technologies, OTC maintained a keen watch over its services to ensure continued quality. It also maintained and developed its links with maritime services, one of the initial arms of Australia’s international telecommunications network.
1946 August: Overseas Telecommunications Commission established by Act of Parliament: The Overseas Telecommunications Act, 1946. James Malone appointed Chairman.
1946 October: JES Stevens appointed first General Manager.
1947 November: Direct Melbourne-Wellington, New Zealand, picturegram service opened.
1948 January: First Wagga Weekend (annual staff sports carnival).
1948 April: First Annual Report tabled in Parliament.
1948 May: First International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meeting since WWII began in Brussels.
1948 August: First issue of staff magazine, Transit, published.
1949 May: Aerogram service commenced between Australian coast radio stations and Qantas and BOAC flights on the Sydney-UK route.
1949 May: Commonwealth Telecommunications Board formed.
1949 December: First staff Christmas party held on Sydney Harbour.
1950 June: New transmitting station opened at Port Moresby.
1950 June: Old Darwin Radio station closed, new station opened in Parap.
1950 July: Worldwide unification of telegram categories became effective.
1950 August: PMG’s Department extended picturegram service to all Australian capital cities, transmitted via OTC’s Melbourne office.
1950 November: JL Mulholland appointed General Manager.
1951 September: First Annual General Meeting of the Sydney Office Staff Sports & Social Club.
1951 October: Ships’ Letter Telegram service opened to all classes of vessels.
1952 March: Sydney-San Francisco circuits converted to 5-unit code.
1952 April: Sydney-London telegraph traffic transferred to Electra House, Sydney.
1953 June: Cost of all telegraph rates from Australia (excluding urgent press and press messages to USA) reduced by one third.
1953 June: Radiotelegraph and cable channels re-arranged to cater for heavy traffic during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
1953 December: Melbourne facsimile section received the first-ever picture for publication from a ship at sea (the Royal yacht Gothic en route to Fiji).
1954 August: SF Kellock appointed Chairman.
1955 July: Transfer began of radiotelegraph channels from La Perouse to Bringelly.
1955 October: Bringelly HF radio station officially opened.
1956 April: Trevor A Housley appointed General Manager.
1956 August: Qantas leased a two-way radio teletype circuit to Singapore.
1956 September: First trans-Atlantic coaxial telephone cable, TAT-1, came into service.
1956 December: During the Melbourne Olympic Games, a record amount of traffic was sent over Australia’s international telecommunications channels. 9,408,254 words were sent over 22 leased channels which operated for some 5465 hours. 6730 radiotelephone calls were handled and 2296 phototelegrams were sent. 285 hours of radio broadcasts were made over radiotelephone channels.
1957 October: Bringelly, Rockbank and Bassendean stations began monitoring transmissions from the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, launched by USSR.
1957 October: Lodgement of international telegrams via the international telex network came into operation, known as the printergram service.
1958 January: USA successfully launched its first satellite: Explorer 1.
1958 March: Direct radiotelephone service opened between Australia and Japan.
1958 November: Official opening ceremonies heralded the new international telex services to Japan, USA, UK and Canada.
1959 September: The Pacific Cable Conference hosted by OTC in Sydney was officially opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
1960 August: MRC Stradwick appointed Chairman.
1960 August: Direct Australia-New Zealand telex service opened.
1960 November: Radioteletype and voice frequency circuit opened between Sydney and Honolulu as part of preparations for a communications system being developed for NASA’s Project Mercury (USA’s first manned orbital flight).
1961 September: Sir Giles Chippindall appointed Chairman.
1961 December: New trans-Atlantic telephone cable, Cantat, opened.
1962 April: Shore-end of the Commonwealth Pacific (Compac) cable landed at Bondi Beach.
1962 June: OTC technician Orme Cooper made the first direct voice contact over the trans-Tasman section of the Compac cable between Sydney and New Zealand.
1962 July: Prime Minister Robert Menzies officially opened the trans-Tasman section of the Compac cable.
1962 December: New telex exchange at Paddington terminal, Sydney, opened.
1963 April: New transmitting and receiving stations opened at Lae Radio (PNG).
1963 August: AE Chadwick appointed Chairman.
1963 December: Compac cable officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II addressing simultaneous ceremonies in London, Ottawa, Sydney and Wellington.
1964 January: New Townsville Radio station officially opened at Pallarenda.
1964 January: Fanning Island cable station closed.
1964 August: International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (Intelsat) formed in Washington DC. OTC was a founding signatory to agreements setting forth interim arrangements, ensuring Australia’s participation in the development of a global satellite communications system.
1965 April: First Intelsat satellite, Early Bird, launched into orbit above the Atlantic Ocean.
1965 November: NASA announced that the Intelsat satellite communications system would be used for its manned space flights to the moon. The Australian government gave consent for the construction of an OTC satellite earth station at Carnarvon, WA.
1966 January: Harold White appointed General Manager.
1966 July: Cocos Islands cable station closed.
1966 October: Carnarvon satellite earth station officially opened and successfully tracked the first Intelsat II satellite as it passed over Australia.
1966 November: First satellite television link-up between Australia and England: “Down Under Comes Up Live”.
1967 March: HRH Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Southeast Asia (Seacom) cable. Simultaneous ceremonies held at Cairns, Guam, Madang, Hong Kong, Singapore and London.
1967 April: OTC Head Office relocated from Spring Street to Martin Place in Sydney CBD.
1967 April: OTC General Manager, Harold White, appointed Chairman of the newly-formed Commonwealth Telecommunications Council at its inaugural meeting in London.
1967 May: New international radio station opened at Gnangara, WA.
1967 November: Time assignment speech interpolation (TASI) equipment came into operation on the Compac cable, increasing the number of circuits from 80 to 100.
1968 March: Moree, NSW satellite earth station officially opened, followed by an international television link-up between Australia and Japan.
1968 April: The first commercial use of Moree SES came when news stations in Melbourne broadcast US President Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not stand for re-election.
1968 October: Sir Arthur Petfield appointed Chairman.
1969 July: Pictures of the first man on the moon were telecast to the world via OTC facilities in Australia.
1969 November: Australia became the first nation in the world to use satellite systems for domestic communications when 24 voice circuits were opened between Carnarvon and Moree satellite earth stations.
1969 December: Ceduna, SA satellite earth station came into service.
1970 March: OTC’s year-end figures showed that the revenue from international telephone services exceeded those of international telegraph for the first time.
1970 October: Fully automated telex system introduced onto the Australia-US service.
1971 January: The first Intelsat IV satellite placed over the Atlantic.
1971 November: 100th anniversary celebrations of the landing of the Java-Darwin cable that linked Australia with the world by telegraph for the first time.
1972 February: The Gemini XII space capsule touring display arrived in Australia to help celebrate OTC’s 25th anniversary of operations.
1972 July: Direct radiotelephone service opened between Norfolk Island, Australia and beyond.
1973 November: New Hobart Radio station opened.
1973 December: Assets and responsibilities for the operation of telecommunications services in PNG were transferred from OTC to the PNG government.
1974 February: Broadway, Sydney terminal officially opened by Prime Minister E Gough Whitlam.
1974 November: Alan George Gibbs appointed Chairman.
1974 December: Cyclone Tracey hit Darwin. OTC radio facilities suffered comparatively minor damage.
1975 May: Legislation passed in Parliament advocating the formation of Telecom and Australia Post (from PMG’s Dept) and leaving OTC as a separate statutory authority.
1975 September: RD (“Bob”) Somervaille appointed Chairman.
1976 April: New International Subscriber Dialling (ISD) service begins operation.
1976 July: Australia-PNG (A-PNG) cable officially opened.
1976 November: Sydney Radio handled its first ever ship-to-ship telex connection, between vessels in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
1977 February: OTC became the first signatory to the International Maritime Satellite Organisation (Inmarsat) agreement.
1977 March: OTC’s multi-award-winning advertising campaign “Memories” went to air promoting ISD.
1978 May: Capacity of Broadway exchange telephone circuits increased from 2400 to 6000.
1978 July: Representatives from American, Japanese and Australian telecommunications organisations met at an international telephone conference to herald implementation of the new CCITT No. 6 telephone signalling system, after 15 years of international research and cooperation.
1979 March: OTC’s maritime radiotelephone service, Seaphone, launched from Melbourne Radio station.
1979 April: OTC’s Midas (Multimode International Data Acquisition Service) came into commercial operation, providing Australian organisations with fast access to overseas information banks by using advanced computer-based technology.
1979 May: WT (“Bill”) Schmidt appointed General Manager.
1979 September: OTC’s OverseasFax service came into commercial operation.
1980 April: 50th anniversary of the inauguration of the Australia-UK direct telephone service.
1980 June: The world’s first optical fibre underwater telecommunications cable laid in Loch Fyne, Scotland to undergo trials.
1980 September: The Australian Government expanded OTC’s charter to give it interim ownership and management of Australia’s national communications satellite system.
1981 April: The first space shuttle, Columbia, launched.
1981 November: The Australian Government announced the formation of a national body, Aussat Pty Ltd, which would own and manage the new national satellite system.
1982 October: The Commonwealth Games in Brisbane generated a massive increase in international telecommunications traffic.
1982 December: The Sydney-Hobart became the first yacht race in the world to be monitored using satellite communications.
1983 January: Shore-end of the Australia-New Zealand-Canada (Anzcan) cable landed at Bondi Beach.
1983 August: OTC launched its new Minerva data communications service.
1984 May: Healesville satellite earth station officially opened near Melbourne.
1984 July: OTC launched its Herogram service for athletes attending the Los Angeles Olympic Games. OTC was the only foreign international telecommunications organisation with a presence at the Games.
1984 November: Anzcan cable officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II speaking simultaneously to parties gathered at the Sydney Opera House, Auckland, Suva and Vancouver.
1985 January: The cable laying vessel, CS Pacific Guardian, built in England, sailed into Sydney Harbour on her maiden voyage.
1985 February: George Maltby appointed Managing Director (position formerly known as General Manager).
1985 May: Shore-end of the Australia-Indonesia-Singapore (AIS) cable landed at Whitford Beach near Perth, WA.
1985 November: OTC’s Telex World Letter service introduced, allowing telex users to send messages to correspondents who do not own a telex machine.
1986 July: Seacom cable taken out of service; Guam cable station closed.
1986 October: Perth International Telecommunications Centre and the AIS cable officially opened in Gnangara, WA.
1987 June: Amendments to the Overseas Telecommunications Act were announced, paving the way for OTC to expand its sales of developed software and provide consultancy services on communications systems to foreign countries. OTC International Limited announced as a wholly-owned international marketing subsidiary.
1987 July: Vista satellite earth station officially opened in Vietnam.
1987 November: Senator Gareth Evans officially opened the new OTC House at 231 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.
1987 November: Oxford Falls, Sydney, satellite earth station officially opened.
1988 January: Alan W Coates appointed Chief Commissioner (position formerly known as Chairman).
1988 April: OTC Skystream service officially opened at Sydney SES.
1988 July: OTC’s Bicentennial exhibition, Settlement to Satellites, opened at Paddington terminal, manned by staff and veterans (OTVA members).
1988 August: New AXE900 digital telephone exchange opened at Broadway terminal, Sydney.
1988 September: OTC International’s proposal for a Pacific Area Cooperative Telecommunications Network was endorsed at the South Pacific Forum.
1988 December: David M Hoare acting Chief Commissioner (subsequently Chairman), following Alan Coates’ resignation.
1988 December: The last in a chain of four earth stations in the Antarctic was completed by OTC at Macquarie Island.
1989 January: MJ Hutchinson appointed acting Managing Director following George Maltby’s resignation.
1989 April: OTC incorporated to become OTC Limited.
1989 July: SWR Burdon appointed Managing Director.
1989 October: OTC Callcard service launched.
1989 October: First Intelsat VI satellite launched and placed in orbit over the Atlantic Ocean.
1989 November: Direct Australia-UK videoconferencing service launched.
1990 March: New OTC International-installed satellite earth station opened in Hanoi, Vietnam.
1990 June: OTC launched its Switched Digital service – the first international product based on ISDN technology. The service allows high-speed transfer of text, data and images, high-speed facsimile and interactive video and audio.
1990 September: The Australian Government announced it had finalised plans for a merger between OTC and Telecom.
1990 November: Senator Gareth Evans received the inaugural telephone call during the official opening ceremony of the Cambodian satellite earth station in Phnom Penh.
1990 December: A Construction and Maintenance Agreement was signed by OTC and 35 other countries for the AUD800 million South Pacific optical fibre cable network.
1991 January: Commonwealth Telecommunications Interim Board met for the first time. The Board was formed by the Federal Government to advise on the structure of the new telecommunications body which would result from the merger of Telecom and OTC.
1991 March: OTC achieved the figure of 1 billion paid minutes of bothway international telephone traffic in a single financial year.
1991 April: OTC Easifax service launched.
1991 June: New Adelaide business office officially opened.
1991 November: New AUD12 million ISDN exchange at Paddington terminal, Sydney commenced full operations.
1991 November: Shore-end of the Tasman 2 optical fibre cable landed at Bondi Beach.
1992 February: OTC ceased operating as a separate company when it merged with Telecom Australia to form the Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (AOTC).
Information sources: OTC annual reports (Australian state and national libraries, OTC Australia Archive, Telstra Archive), OTC magazine Transit, (Australian state and national libraries, OTC Australia Archive, Telstra Archive).