Lessons from the Telecommunications Industry for Space Commercialization

Roger Launius's Blog

The switchboard in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1921. The switchboard in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1921.

Everyone agrees, or almost everyone since there are a few pretenders to this title and each have their champions, that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 in Boston, Massachusetts. A year later he organized the Bell Patent Association to lease equipment to users. What became known as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company expanded over time, operating the full system to which subscribers paid a fee for use as well as equipment rental built at its laboratory, Western Electric Company. By 1895 the Bell system had grown to over 300,000 phones, this was nothing compared to expansion in the next ten years, to 2,284,587 phones in 1905.

In the early twentieth century AT&T began buying out the competition and consolidating various telephone providers into an ever larger network. Company president Theodore Vail aggressively pursued this corporate strategy epitomizing it by the slogan…

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