When the telephone lines darkened the sun in Stockholm

Editor's note: This is the first of two posts we're running on Telefontornet, the old "phone tower" in Stockholm.


Head of Social Media

Head of Social Media

In the late 1800s, Sweden was the most telephone-dense country in the world, and Stockholm had more telephones than any of the major cities in the world, with 4,832 subscribers. Because of this huge demand, the decision was made in 1887 to build Telefontornet.

Telefontornet, or Phone Tower, stood on the roof of Stockholms Allmänna Telefon (SAT)’s headquarters in downtown Stockholm. When it was first opened, Stockholm had 5,500 telephones and the city’s telephone lines collectively came to around 5,000 kilometers. 4,000 telephone wires led from the tower to all over central Stockholm.

Dive into the history of telephony through videos, original sources and even literature!

As you can see, 4,000 telephone lines equal quite a mess, and the network was extremely vulnerable to the elements. Locals even said that it darkened out the sun.

By 1913, the networks had gone underground. But could you imagine if technology hadn’t evolved, and we still needed to have physical lines for all of our connections? There were only 5,500 telephones to connect to when this picture was taken. Imagine how tangled it would be nowadays, when we don’t have just our phone sets connected, but our mobile phones, our computers, our tablets, our everything!

Henrik Tore Cedergren, founder of SAT, had a clear mission: A telephone in every household. I think he would be amazed to see what we have today.

Of course, when everyone sees that pictures of the tower are from Stockholm, they want to know where Ericsson fits in. So a brief history lesson:

In 1883 the telephone company SAT was founded. Since the company was a competitor to the local Bell telephone company in Stockholm, they couldn’t rely on Bell for their telephone equipment. In Sweden there was only one company that could fill their orders: LM Ericsson. Over the years the companies worked together in a similar way in Mexico City, Warszawa, Moscow and other cities. In 1918 the companies merged into Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, still the mother enterprise of…you guessed it: Ericsson.

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