The rise and fall of Nortel Networks – a brief history

Nortel Networks (under its original name of Bell Telephone Company) started out in the late 19th century making telephone and switchboard equipment in Canada only. As popularity for the telephony grew dramatically, so did production and its reputation.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Bell Telephone Company had now become Northern Electric Company and had opened a significantly larger manufacturing plant for both telephony products and wire and cable. The company then played a significant role in WW1 supplying and pioneering its peanut vacuum tube technology incredibly cheaply due to good design. It was at this point the company diversified into a whole host of electrical products including washers, toasters and kettles.

Again the 50’s, 60’s and 1970’s saw changes in name, ownership and direction. Nevertheless out of this emerged Northern Telecom (or Nortel as we now know it) who concentrated more heavily on fiber optic possibilities, and the earliest digital switching systems.

The Digital World, used as a brave declaration by Nortel really demonstrated their intent to dominate in this exciting and rapidly evolving time. This statement encapsulated Nortels ambition as a market leader for the now global market of public and private networks.

Nortel thrived during the boom of the 1990ís acquiring and absorbing technology companies which complimented Nortels brand. Nortel itself flourished with its optical networking range of products in particular flying the flag. In fact, at its height Nortel Networks accounted individually for a third of the value of business on the Toronto stock exchange.

However, with every up follows a down. Nortel Networks have suffered a turbulent period over the past decade, due to financial mis-management and widely labelled as one of the most spectacular casualties, eventually filing for bankruptcy protection in 2009. In the last few years they have subsequently sold off a lot of their established business sectors to the likes of Avaya, Ericsson , Ciena Corporation and Radware, to name just a few.

Sadly enough, its demise was sealed when its last major assets (being its estimated 6,000 patents), were finally sold to a consortium including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony.

Despite all of the politics, and financial issues the general quality of the products produced were never in doubt.  So in terms of quality, Nortel, its offshoots and its re-branded products remain valued and respected brands in the industry, and demand remains high for Nortel equipment.

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