A coup?

The telecommunications conference lasted four days and the participants stayed at Kabel­våg a whole week. One by one, they dealt with the 27 items on the long agenda. One subject that gave rise to a lot of discussion concerned the coming introduction of television satellites. Another was an increase in international ties that clearly indicated the need to standardize telecommunications services between countries.

When they got to the final item on the agenda, No.27 – Any other business – Carl-Gösta Åsdal stood up to speak. He had prepared what has sometimes been referred to since as a coup d’état. Åsdal described the work on mobile telephony going on in Sweden and pointed out that the other Nordic countries were carrying out corresponding endeavors. He therefore proposed that the Nordic telecom agencies should consider joint telephone solutions. A couple of other delegates had been prepared for Åsdal’s gambit and seconded his proposal. The minutes state:

“The Swedish delegation announced that work was about to begin on the development of the next generation of vehicle radio (mobile telephony). This is a long-term project that is hardly likely to be ready before the end of the 1970s. As there would be major benefits from being able to develop a similar public terrestrial mobile service in the Nordic area, it is considered valuable for the different countries to confer with each other to explore the possibilities of evolving joint system solutions.”

The Danish delegates shared the opinion that joint discussions would be valuable and are recorded in the minutes as proposing that both manual and automatic systems should be examined.

Åsdal had cleared his tactics with Bertil Bjurel, directorgeneral of Televerket, Haug records.


It was a bold move, especially considering the outcome. At the end of the 1960s, cross-border “vehicle telephony” was still considered in many places as a threat to national security. A special permit was required to take a radio transmitter across a border and these had to be granted individually for each user.

The decision of the conference was, however, just what Åsdal wanted. A special Nordic working group was to be appointed. The guidelines given to the group said that it was to explore, without delay, the opportunities for standardizing the signal system for selective calls using existing public (manual) mobile telephone services. Sweden declared its willingness to convene the first meeting of this group.

Haug feels there were probably very few at the Kabelvåg conference who actually thought about radio systems across national borders. “It’s not mentioned in the minutes; all it says is ‘joint system solutions,’ which makes you think more of standardization. That would also have offered certain benefits in terms of larger production runs for equipment. But from day one the working group focused on a joint system with free traffic across borders.”

He does not agree that it was a coup. “One of the ideas of holding these meetings was that participants could present proposals that could be discussed and decided on. If it is all cut-and-dried in advance, then the meeting is a mere front and has no point.”

On the copy of the minutes of the Kabelvåg conference circulated around Televerket in Sweden, somebody (perhaps Bertil Bjurel?) has added the handwritten note: “Sweden has the utmost interest in hastening this process.”

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn



The conference hall, Lofoten

The conference hall, Lofoten


The Norwegian telecom authoritys magazine reported on the Conference in Kabelvåg. With tropical temperatures during Midsummer week, participants did not miss the chance to do a spot of fishing.


© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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