[LINK] Weekend Magazine - Wireless Telephony - 1900 - Cost per minute STD Calls

Tom Koltai tomk at unwired.com.au
Sun Oct 9 12:58:57 AEDT 2011

Came across the following historical article from the Age Archives:


Please note the proposed cost of STD call from Sydney to Melbourne. 
...1/- (shilling) per minute

In 1900, the average weekly blue collar wage was 9 pence. (UK parish
(And copper was only a pound per tonne whereas yesterday it was $6635)

So essentially, in today's currency, without market forces (competition)
a one minute call would cost $1350.00.

In actual fact, the price of phone call between Sydney and Melbourne is
1,824 times cheaper today than 111 years ago, whereas the price of
copper (even after the recent correction) is 3,318 times higher.


Wireless Telephony

Source: The Age Date: September 1900 


LONDON, 10th September.
Sir William Preece, formerly Chief Electric Engineer to the Imperial
Post Office has brought to a successful issue the experiments on which
he has been engaged for a considerable time past in respect to the
electric transmission of sound without wires. He has discovered a method
of telephoning without wires, and has succeeded in thus transmitting
sound messages for a distance of 8 miles across the sea.

[When Mr. Howard, of the Victorian Postal department, was in England he
was made acquainted with the fact that Sir William Preece was
experimenting with a view to the discovery of an effective system of
wireless telephony. The experiments were, however, conducted in perfect
secrecy. News as to the results obtained was awaited with keen interest
by scientists throughout the Empire, for it was recognised that
telephony without wires would be much more valuable than wireless
telegraphy. It was fully anticipated by scientists, Mr. Howard observes,
that Sir William Preece would be successful.]

In accordance with instructions from the Postmaster General, Mr Jenvey,
electrical engineer of the Postal department, has submitted a report
relative to the cost of connecting Melbourne and Sydney by telephone.
Mr. Jenvey points out that the distance between Melbourne and Albury is
190 and a half miles, and between Albury and Sydney 386 miles, making a
total requisite length of line of 576 and a half miles. The exisiting
quadruplex poles, which now carry four wires, between Melbourne and
Albury could be utilised, and would give a height to the telephone wires
of 14 feet. The Sydney electrician considers, however, that it will be
necessary for his department to repole the lines right through from
Sydney to Albury with 30-foot wooden posts, as the existing iron poles
are overloaded. The late Mr. Geo. Smibert in August, 1887, estimated the
total cost of the line at £23, 690. Mr. Jenvey thinks, however, that Mr.
Smibert did not contemplate the erection of new poles on the New South
Wales side, and computed his estimates when copper was much cheaper than
it is at present. Mr. Simbert also thought that No. 8 wire, which weighs
409lb. per mile, would be suitable, but Mr. Jenvey considers that this
class of wire would not give a circuit sufficiently powerful for
commercial conversions, and he therefore advises that No. 6 wire,
weighing 590lb. to the mile, should be used. Copper wire is now worth
about £100 per ton, and the cost of the No. 6 would therefore be £26.34
per mile. For a double line between Melbourne and Albury 381 miles, or
100.09 tons, would be required. The cost of the line to Albury is
therefore set forth as follows:—
100.09 tons of wire at £100: £10,009
Brackets and insulators: 627
Labor—12 men, 200 days at 9 / : 1,080 
Cartage and freight: 200
Supervision: 100
Total of Victoria's contribution: £12, 016

The cost of New South Wales for the line between Sydney and Albury, 386
miles, would be:—
204 tons of wire at £100: 20,409
Erection, including 8492 poles: 12,710
Total of new South Wales's contribution: £33,110
Grand total cost: £45,126

It has been suggested that a fee of 5/ should be charged for each
conversation of five minutes, but these charges would depend largely
upon the use made of the line. If the wire were continuously used 12
hours each day for 313 days in the year, a fee of 3/ per conversation
would return £6765 per annum or 15 per cent., on the total cost, and
provide for interest, maintenance and working.

Mr. Watt has forwarded a copy of Mr. Jenvey's report to the
Postmaster-General of New South Wales, and will be largely guided by the
terms of Mr. Crick's answer. The long distance telephones erected up to
the present have all been profitable undertakings, and Mr. Watt sees no
reason why intercolonial wires should not be paying concerns as well as
the source of considerable public convenience.

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