Sweden, 1881, telephone station, signal room central station, Stockholm

Lars Magnus began manufacturing telephones of the Bell type, but was working purposefully in 1879 and 1880 on developing a better design. The result was a wall-mounted model with what was called a helical microphone, which was ready for production at the end of 1880. This design was to play a decisive role in the continued commercial advancement of L.M. Ericsson & Co.

The breakthrough came from a triumph in Gävle, in Sweden’s Norrland province north of Stockholm. At the beginning of 1881, the Bell Company offered to build and operate a telephone network in the city. A competing tender from J.W. Sundberg, a Gävle businessman, proposed the use of Ericsson products. Two telephones from the Bell Company and two from Ericsson underwent comparative tests. The local paper wrote that both systems worked excellently, but it concluded that Ericsson’s telephones were “simpler, more robust and more handsome”. Experts called in expressed the same judgment, also pointing out that Ericsson’s telephones were cheaper.

Gefle Telefonförening [the Gävle Telephone Association] also decided on a telephone exchange from L.M. Ericsson & Co., of the type known as a plug-board exchange, the company’s very first design. The subscriber lines, which were still only single core, were connected to a plug board, and calls were connected using jack plugs.

News of the choice made at Gävle soon spread, and was to have major consequences. Before the end of 1881, local networks had been built in Gothenburg, Malmö, Sundsvall, Norrköping, Linköping, Eskilstuna, Västerås and Örebro. The first three chose Bell as their supplier, the last five L.M. Ericsson & Co.

There was also rapid progress in Sweden’s Nordic neighbors. The Bell Company had applied for a concession in Bergen, Norway, in early 1881, but before any decision could be made, news of the outcome at Gävle became known. As a result, the citizens of Bergen established their own telephone company and ordered equipment from L.M. Ericsson & Co. Bell had founded a telephone company in Kristiania (Oslo) in September 1880, at the same time as in Stockholm, but faced competition in the city in 1881 from the Kristiania Telephone Association, launched by the Swede Carl Söderberg, who chose Ericsson telephones. In March 1882, a telephone company started operating in Turku in Finland, established by Frans Nordfors, who also chose Ericsson.

These decisions effectively staked out the future direction for L.M. Ericsson & Co.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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