Azerbaijan celebrates telecom history – and pursues digital future

ITU

Azerbaijan this month celebrates the 140th anniversary of its telephone communications system with a look back to early network rollouts in its Caspian seaport and capital city, Baku.

Nation-wide commemorative festivities organized by the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport simultaneously aim to promote new technologies and expand digital skills and connectivity.

According to the ministry, the country’s first telephone line was put in place in December 1880 by a Russian steamship company, the St. Petersburg-headquartered Caucasus and Mercury. This first line connected the Baku Port to the main offices of the Caspian Oil Company on nearby Naberejnaya Street.

Less than a year later, Baku’s Russian governor, Lieutenant-General Valery Pozen, authorized Branobel – otherwise known as the Nobel Brothers Petroleum Company – to build a telephone line to connect the chairman’s and senior engineers’ houses to company offices.

The six-kilometre telephone line officially went into service on 23 November 1881 in the old (Julian) calendar – or 6 December 1881 according to the modern calendar. This more extensive, Branobel connection officially represents the establishment of telephone communications in the country, the ministry adds.

Commemorative programme

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Digital Development and Transport has sponsored a series of events to mark the 140th anniversary.

These include a competition for journalists to prepare the best articles or programmes on telecom-related themes for television or electronic media; awarding special diploma to long-serving communications workers; and recognizing outstanding women for their role in the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The ministry has offered free online computing courses, aiming to boost communication and technology knowledge in remote parts of the country.

It has also issued commemorative postage stamps for the occasion, produced a badge with the “Azerbaijan Telephone Communications 140” logo, and commissioned a documentary on the history of telephone communications.

Mobile and fixed telecom carriers, for their part, are offering discounts on various services for the anniversary.

Sovereignty and ITU membership

As Azerbaijan’s early telecom networks grew, they formed part of the framework of the International Telegraph Union, forerunner of today’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The Russian Empire was a founding member and convention signatory from the beginning in 1865.

After brief independence in 1918-1920, Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union, which took over Russian ITU membership for most of the 20th century. Azerbaijan then joined ITU independently on 10 April 1992, following the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

Today, the ministry says, Azerbaijan remains firmly committed to ITU’s core values, centred on peaceful international cooperation in all aspects of telecommunications.

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