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A History of Telecommunications & the Olympics and Paralympics A History of Telecommunications & the Olympics and Paralympics

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Since the founding of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation in 1952,
NTT has been meeting the evolving needs of the times by creating and proposing new uses for a variety of technologies.
Here, we present a history of the development of telecommunications up to the present day
in relation to the history of Japan as well as the Olympics and Paralympics.

Since the founding of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation in 1952, NTT has been meeting the evolving needs of the times by creating and proposing new uses for a variety of technologies.
Here, we present a history of the development of telecommunications up to the present day in relation to the history of Japan as well as the Olympics and Paralympics.

Development of the No. 23 Wall-Mounted Automatic Telephone Set in 1953

In 1849, Shozan Sakuma, a feudal retainer to the Matsushiro Clan in Shinano Province (now Nagano Prefecture), created Japan’s first telephone using Western books as reference. When the United States sent Commodore Perry to Japan for a second time five years later, telephone sets were presented to Japan’s feudal government.
From that point on, the development of telephone and telegraph systems in Japan proceeded at an astonishing speed. Up until about the mid-20th century, this development was achieved by combining technologies from advanced countries together with Japan’s own unique technologies, and by 1933 Japan had developed a prototype of the familiar black rotary-dial telephone.
Since then, the performance and design of telephones have been improved using world-leading Japanese technologies, and the number of subscribed telephones throughout the country surpassed 1 million units in 1939. Although the number of subscriptions fell to 540,000 during the Second World War, technological innovation accelerated again in the post-war years, leading to the spread of landlines.

Development of the No. 23 Wall-Mounted Automatic Telephone Set in 53 Although automatic telephone sets that could be used without going through a switchboard operator had traditionally had poor transmission, the No. 23 telephone set offered considerably better quality.
That year, the telegraph relaying process was mechanized for the first time at the Mito Telegraph Office, which subsequently led to the launch of red public telephones. These public phones were installed at 15 locations, including at the Yaesu Exit of Tokyo Station and a kiosk on the Yokosuka Line platform. People’s awareness of these phones grew due to their conspicuous color.
Another service that was launched in 1953 was the broadcasting of television channels, including NHK and NTV. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (now NTT)—a company that adhered to the principle of providing services based on an understanding of operations performed in the field—had been founded the previous year, and this enabled the expansion of telegraph and telephone systems to be financed via private funding. The 1950s was an era in which telegraph and wireless technologies underwent a great leap forward.

Holding of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were the first Olympics to be held in Asia. A play-by-play commentary of the Olympic Games was broadcast nationwide and around the world simultaneously in color via a communications satellite.
As this was a noteworthy event in the history of the development of international telecommunications, the Tokyo Olympics have been referred to as a science festival that made use of a large collection of electronic technologies.
It was Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (now NTT) that supported the Tokyo Olympics behind the scenes through its telecommunication services.

The submarine coaxial communications cables that were used for the overseas transmission of the sound for the Olympic Games went into operation four months before the opening ceremony. A landmark conversation was held between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Japanese Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda on the day that the cables went into operation. Due to the absence of noise on the line, the sound quality of the call was equivalent to that of a local call.
Transmitting both sound and images, these cables allowed people throughout the United States and Canada to feel the excitement of what was then the festival of the century in real time (video images were transmitted to Europe).

In addition, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation used computers to manage the progression of events and collect event data, and they installed telephone service stations in the National Stadium to meet the need for people to be able to make telephone calls.
The number of telecommunication facilities related to the Olympics for purposes such as the provision of telecommunication services for the Olympic village and the press exceeded 6,000 within the Tokyo Telecommunications Station alone. The number of staff members who were directly involved in providing the relevant services reached as many as 44,000.
The data transmission lines used for collecting and recording event data also served to make the world more aware of advances in Japanese technologies.

Photo: The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd./AFLO

Holding of the 1970 Japan World Exposition

The Japan World Exposition held in the Senri Hills outside Osaka (also known as the Osaka Expo) was Japan’s first national project since the Tokyo Olympics.
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (now NTT) was asked by the Japan World Exposition Association to provide all of the necessary telecommunication facilities and operate the site for the Expo.
One example of the company’s contribution to the smooth operation of the site was its use of data communication services to ensure the flawless operation of the guidance system for the exhibition and its event as well as other systems for handling information on the following: entries and exits; site congestion; parking spaces; lost children; and meeting places. It also incorporated new services, such as the installation of transmission lines for TV coverage of the site and pagers for the public.

In the meantime, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation opened the Telecommunications Pavilion to exhibit its products and services. Under the theme of “Human Communication,” the pavilion attracted a total of 6.58 million visitors.
A large three-sided screen was set up in one section of the pavilion to provide visitors with a glimpse of the future of telecommunications by allowing them to see events occurring at remote sites in real-time and to engage in conversation with people at the other site. Unique initiatives such as this became big news. Other exhibits at the World Expo that proved particularly popular with visitors were a videophone and a wireless telephone, the latter of which was described as the “dream telephone.” Images of visitors conversing over this “dream telephone” while standing, sitting, or moving around were transmitted around the world. The wireless phone and videophone became symbols of the Expo, which was organized under the theme of “Progress and Harmony.”

In this way, the Osaka Expo—which seemed almost like a dreamland in which the city of the future had suddenly appeared—proved to be a great success. In fact, 77 countries participated and attendance for the first six months reached an unprecedented total of 64.22 million.

Photo: Provided by Osaka Prefectural Government

Holding of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics

The 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics were also the first winter Olympics to be held in Asia. At the request of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation provided communication data services for the event. The Olympic Games were broadcast throughout Japan and overseas using the company’s transmission lines.
The television lines were in operation for 22 hours a day from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., which significantly exceeded the standard operating hours of 16 hours a day. In order to avoid interfering with TV broadcasting, the company developed dedicated domestic transmission lines for the operation of its telecommunications services.

The Olympics also led to Hokkaido becoming the sixth city in Japan to operate a pager service.
A pager is a device used to transmit information via wireless signals so that people who are out and about can be contacted. The initial number of subscriptions was 700 units, of which 500 were used for the Olympics.
That year, the number of telephone subscribers across the nation exceeded 20 million for the first time.

The following year, the telefax, the push-button home telephone, and the push-button business phone went on sale. After that, in 1975, the Japan National Railways Corporation (now JR) launched a system for reserving train seats from push-button phones.
This boost in technological innovations around the time of the Sapporo Winter Olympics was a major driving force behind Japan achieving the world’s second largest gross national product (GNP).
Telecommunications also served as a trigger in supporting competitive economic activities in the areas of coaxial cables, microwaves, telexes, and data communication.

Photo: Shinichi Yamada/AFLO

Launch of the shoulder phone and founding of NTT in 1985

The carphone service, which involved using a telephone consisting of a handset mounted on a radio transceiver, was launched in 1979. This telephone set weighed 7 kg, and the annual fee (including call charges) was about 500,000 yen. This expensive telephone was mainly used by VIPs.
Six years later, the shoulder phone was developed in response to demand for a telephone that people could use even when they were away from their cars.
Users of this telephone could remove it from their cars and make calls from outside the office, making it a highly innovative piece of equipment.

At that time, the base station areas where car telephones could be used were limited to locations alongside major roads. Weighing 3 kg and with a battery standby time of 8 hours, this telephone could be carried on the user’s shoulder, which was a unique style. The call charges were still far from inexpensive, though.
The development of the shoulder telephone is the origin of today’s handheld mobile telephones, and it led to a world in which individuals have their own phones.

It was in 1985 that Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation was broken up to form the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, now commonly known as NTT. With the Public Telecommunications Law being replaced by the Telecommunications Business Law, entry into the telecommunications business was liberalized.
The following year, NTT’s 1.95 million government-owned shares were sold off. Since then, NTT has devoted itself to developing businesses that put its customers first. It began by launching its pressed-flower telegram service, public in-flight telephone service, and recorded message service, as well as by reducing Saturday call rates.

Photo: Exhibit at the NTT History Center of Technologies

Launch of a mobile telephone service in 1987

In 1987, two years after the launch of the shoulder telephone, NTT released a handheld mobile phone to meet growing demand for such a service.
NTT launched a mobile telephone service that allowed users to carry their phones around with them. Since then, it has endeavored to achieve ever greater technological innovations in fierce competition with the gradually increasing number of rivals that have entered the mobile-phone market.

In 1991, mova—which was designed to be the world’s most compact and light-weight phone—was launched. Mobile phones had been seen as a status symbol for the rich, but the great success of this new phone changed the image of mobile phones forever. Mobile phones changed completely to become an essential communication tool for many people.

In 1992, NTT spun off its Mobile Communications Division to form NTT Mobile Communications Network Co., Ltd. It was around this time that the mobile communications market saw a tremendous increase in popularity in anticipation of the upcoming era in which everyone would have a mobile phone.
The Personal Handyphone System (PHS) came on the market in 1995. With its less expensive call charges and its use of a digital system, the PHS was widely accepted as a kind of portable public phone that would also meet the needs of the multimedia era to come.
The ten years following its privatization in 1985 was truly an era of great innovation and technological leaps for NTT. Even then, the company was steadily preparing for the era that was soon to come.

Photo: Provided by the NTT History Center of Technologies

Holding of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and Paralympics

In an era marked by a global trend aimed at enabling people to live more affluent lives by revitalizing industries through the promotion of multimedia, the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and Paralympics signaled a turning point for NTT.
Participating as a Gold Sponsor in these Olympic and Paralympic Games, NTT devoted itself to developing and upgrading the communication infrastructure in the region where the games were to be held, as well as building, maintaining, and operating the communication systems required to run the games.

In the telecommunications field, NTT provided a system for transmitting voices, images, and data by constructing an ultra-high speed communication network consisting of fiber-optic cables, digital switching systems, a frequency division multiplexer for high capacity transmission, and a satellite communication link.
This system was also used to help create a new traffic management system for controlling congestion throughout the games.

For any company aiming to develop technologies that will dominate the future, the Olympic Games—an event where top athletes from around the world engage in fierce competition—serves as the ultimate stage for presenting its achievements. The trust it earned at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and Paralympics was of great benefit to NTT as the next century approached.

Photo: Reuters/AFLO

Installation of fiber-optic cables for general households launched in 2001

Having quickly recognized the advantages that fiber-optics offer in terms of their outstanding high-speed broadband transmission characteristics, NTT has been engaged in the development of this technology since the 1970s.
In 1981, NTT introduced GI fiber cables (commercial testing) to its relay and toll line system for the first time. Sometime later in 1989, it completed its transpacific cable system.
By promoting the use of high-speed, high-capacity optical communication systems, including fiber-optic ones, NTT has remained a pioneer in the fiber-optics sector.

In 2001, its efforts were rewarded.
That year, NTT East and NTT West began providing fiber-to-the-home (FTTH)—an optical communication service that uses fiber-optic cables for general households—as its B-FLET'S service.
Since then, the demand for FTTH, which boasts an overwhelmingly fast transmission speed, has increased quickly due to the rapid spread of the Internet, the launch of video streaming services, and other such factors.

Two years earlier in February 1999, NTT DOCOMO had begun offering “i-mode.” Following the introduction of this feature, online services that had previously only been accessible from computers could now be accessed using just a mobile phone. With i-mode, convenient everyday services—such as e-mail, ticket reservation services, restaurant guides, and telephone directory search engines—could now be conveniently accessed anytime and anywhere. Offering a new form of communication, i-mode was widely accepted, especially among the younger generation, and it proved to be a great hit with more than 5.6 million units sold in the first year from its launch up to the end of March 2000.

Photo: Corbis/AFLO

Japan chosen in 2013 to host the 2020 Olympic Games

On September 7, 2013, Tokyo, Japan, was selected as the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games at the 125th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, which was held in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.
This will be the second time the Olympics have been held in Tokyo (the 1940 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to be held in Tokyo, but they were forfeited due to the Sino-Japanese War).
With 22 years having passed since the last time, the 2020 Olympics will be the fourth time Japan has hosted the Olympic Games, following the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, and the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

Japan’s efforts to bring the Olympics back to Tokyo started when it submitted its candidature in 2011. At that time, a total of six cities (including Tokyo) submitted applications to the IOC.
With Rome (Italy) having already withdrawn its candidacy, five cities made bid presentations in 2012. After that, a preliminary screening was conducted by the IOC Executive Board, which left Istanbul (Turkey), Madrid (Spain), and Tokyo as the official candidate cities.

A through on-site analysis of each city was conducted by the IOC Evaluation Commission in March 2013, after which presentations were made to the IOC Committee a few months later in July. Japan’s day of destiny came in September. Japan’s final presentation to the IOC Committee prior to voting became a popular topic for discussion, with Princess Hisako (the wife of Imperial Prince Norihito) having made a speech in English and French and Christel Takigawa having made a speech in which she used the Japanese word omotenashi (Japan’s spirit of hospitality). After securing 49 votes in the first round of voting, Tokyo was selected as the host city in the final round of voting having won 60 of the 100 votes that were available. The moment when IOC President Jacques Rogge said “Tokyo!” is still fresh in the memories of Japanese people.

Photo: The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd./AFLO

NTT announced as a Tokyo Olympic Gold Partner in 2015

In 2015, NTT signed an Olympic Partner agreement with regard to the Japanese national teams for the Olympics and Paralympics that will run for six years, which covers the period of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Given this, NTT was announced as the first Tokyo Olympic Gold Partner, Japan’s highest tier for its sponsorship programs.
NTT’s aim is to connect people in Japan and the rest of the world through the power of ICT. We believe that staying ahead of trends in the rapidly evolving field of ICT in order to deliver safety in tandem with increased convenience will lead to a truly multicultural society that supports all forms of diversity, which is consistent with the vision of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
We also believe that this will eventually contribute to the delivery of an Olympic Games that people can enjoy comfortably and safely.

NTT has provided a variety of communication services for all of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that have held in Japan: the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, and the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. By leveraging all of the communication and security technologies it has developed over the years and the value of its service infrastructure that extends across Japan and overseas, NTT will devote itself to providing exceptional omotenashi to all those involved in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.