Sonera's 60-year-old Telex service to end in December, 2005

Sonera will close on December 31, 2005 its Telex service, which is intended for communication of telex traffic. The service, to be 60 years old in next June, is among the oldest teleservices still in use in Finland. For a long time, it has worked as a fast, reliable, and economical method of international communication. Little by little, new communication services such as e-mail have taken the place of the service. Among the last users of Telex is the Finnish Meteorological Institute, which was also the first user of the service in 1945.

The Telex service can be used normally until the end of December, 2005. The closure of the service is based on international communication moving to more modern channels. These days, e-mail, to take one example, has commonly replaced the service. In Finland, the Telex service is still used by approximately 200 corporate customers. The aim is to find alternative channels for these customers to take care of their communication needs.

The users of the Telex service mainly consist of companies engaged in international trade, which early on needed text-based communication. The service enabled communication in the telex network with all the telex subscriptions in the world. Therefore, the service was for a long time one of the most important channels in international communication for carrying information more economically and more reliably than the phone network. Additionally, many countries and regions where phone connections worked poorly could be reached with telex.

A little bit of history: an important channel to abroad for corporate customers

The Post and Telegraph Office had acquired a modern teleprinter exchange to Finland for the 1940 Helsinki Olympics. It was known by its English abbreviation Telex (Teleprinter exchange). The outbreak of the Second World War, however, led to the cancellation of the Olympics, and the brand new exchange was handed over to the army. As soon as normal conditions had been restored, the Post and Telegraph Office was finally able to open Finland’s first telex exchange for traffic on June 1, 1945.

Telex continued the work of the old telegraph network as a means of text-based communication. The Morse code was in the 1950s rather quickly superseded by telex traffic and the telex code. Customers obtained their own telex terminal devices, which meant that there was no need to take the messages to the telegraph office to be sent. As the waiting period for long-distance calls remained long, telex was able to serve the business life and the media. The telex network, which originally was a manual system, was automated by 1964.

The first customers of telex in Finland included state institutions, such as the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Finnish Defence Forces, but news agencies and banks as well. Shipping and forwarding agencies made up a notable customer segment.

Long-distance traffic has been the backbone of the telex service. The most important target countries were Finland’s major trading partners Sweden, Germany and Great Britain.

Telex met the corporate customers’ need to get a printout of their messages. Consequently, despite the phone becoming common in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of telex customers did not decline, but on the contrary, that was the golden age of telex. The peak year was 1985 with about 8 500 telex subscriptions. In the 90s, however, new teleservices began to penetrate the telex market. The popularity of telefax devices, in particular, rose quickly and their number in 1987 exceeded the number of telex machines in Finland.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute: the first and the last user

The Finnish Meteorological Institute, which began using telex in 1945, was among the first users of the service. In international weather traffic, e-mail and fast data transfer networks have by now replaced the service.

Maija Virkki of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, who actively used telex in the 1970s, reminisces about the golden age of the punched tape:

“In those days, telex was used a lot and the biggest job was to write different kinds of weather forecasts on punched tape to send to the customers. At best, the same report was sent to as many as 50 places, in which multitelex, that is, multi-address sending was of major help. Customers in those days included the Finnish Defence Forces, coastal radio stations, regional emergency centers, road districts and ice service,” says Maija.

The first thing I was taught when I started working for the Finnish Meteorological Institute was: when you use telex, you have to be polite. When you set up a telex connection, always remember to ask ‘who’s there?’ Of course, also remember to say that ‘it’s me at this end.’ This way, we were instructed to include identifiers at the beginning and at the end of the telex transmission. I learnt it so thoroughly that I still haven’t forgot it. Even later on, it was the first thing they taught new employees,” Maija remembers.

For more information:

Tuomo Ahonen, Senior Product Manager, TeliaSonera Finland Oyj
Tel. + 358 2040 23676, + 358 40 5508575

Pictures of the Telex service: / Press / Kuva-arkisto / Telex

TeliaSonera TeliaSonera Finland Oyj, the Finnish profit centre of TeliaSonera, offers products and services under the Sonera brand. TeliaSonera is the leading telecommunications company in the Nordic and Baltic regions. At the end of December 2003 TeliaSonera had 11,957,000 mobile customers (37,610,000 incl associated companies) and 8,061,000 fixed customers (9,160,000 incl associated companies) and 1,631,000 internet customers (1,691,000 incl associated companies). Outside the home markets TeliaSonera has extensive interests in the growth markets in Russia, Turkey and Eurasia. TeliaSonera is listed on the Stockholm Exchange and the Helsinki Exchanges. Pro forma net sales January-December 2003 amounted to SEK 81.7 billion (EUR 9.01 billion). The number of employees was 26,694.