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Our history

From telegraphy to the Internet of Things

Since 1881, KPN has been helping the Netherlands to progress with technological innovation. From the telegraph to 4G and from telephone operator to Internet of Things. This is the rich history of KPN.

Since 1881, KPN has been helping the Netherlands to progress with technological innovation. From the telegraph to 4G and from telephone operator to Internet of Things. This is the rich history of KPN.

KPN milestones

The history of our company is closely linked to that of our country. Below you will find
the most memorable moments from 1881 to date.

1881

De Groote Club
De Groote Club The building on the right (with the tower) housed ‘De Groote Club’: the location from where the first telephone call in the Netherlands took place. The building was demolished around 1912.

‘I’ll connect you’

Several years after Alexander Bell applied for a patent on the telephone in 1876, the invention reached the Netherlands. On 1 June 1881, the first public telephone network in the Netherlands became operational in Amsterdam. In the attic of the ‘De Groote Club’ society, on the corner of the Kalverstraat and the Dam, a telephone operator from the Nederlandsche Bell-Telephoon Maatschappij (NBTM) connected the 49 subscribers to each other. ‘I’ll connect you’ were the legendary words of the first telephone call in the Netherlands. 

Several years later, in 1888, the NBTM established the first long distance connection in the Netherlands, between Amsterdam and Haarlem. The first steps on the way to a widespread network.

1893

Establishment of the Administratie der Posterijen en Telegrafie (P and T), an independent organization funded by the Ministry of Water Management, Trade & Industry.

1904

More and more Dutch people get a telephone connection following the introduction of the Telegraph and Telephone Law.

1915

More than 75,000 subscribers are connected to the telephone network. The telephone operator establishes a connection.

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1928

A new law gives P and T another name: Staatsbedrijf der Posterijen, Telegrafie en Telefonie (PTT).

1929

First telephone call with the Dutch East Indies. At 12,000 kilometers, the longest telephone connection in the world.

1931

The Netherlands gets acquainted with the telephone kiosk

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In 1931, Amsterdam’s Valeriusplein had the honor of having the first telephone kiosk on a public road in the Netherlands, an automatic coin-operated device for local calls. The telephone kiosk on the Valeriusplein did not yet have the famous green color; that was only introduced in 1965. Around the year of 2000 there were some 20,000 telephone kiosks in our country. In January 2011, KPN announced that it would discontinue operation of public telephone kiosks.

1945

One third of all automatic telephone exchanges were destroyed during World War Two: a capacity of almost 85,000 numbers.

1953

By dialing 003, callers can listen to an automated weather forecast from the KNMI via the telephone.

1960

From the 1960s, the telephone becomes accessible to everyone. The number of subscribers doubles from 1 to 2 million.

Historical moment
Historical moment Minister Henk Korthals of Traffic and Water Management calls for the last time via a manually operated exchange. He gives the instruction to activate an automatic variant. On the left-hand side is Mr. G.H. Bast, Director-General of the PTT.
1962

Minister bids farewell to the telephone operator

Warffum was the last municipality in the Netherlands to be connected to a fully automated telephone network. From this date, all callers could establish the right connection using the dial on their telephone. It meant the end of the telephone operator in telephone exchanges. At the peak, around 1930, there were more than 2,000 telephone operators manually connecting all the calls in the Netherlands.

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1965

Launch of the iconic T65 phone. First gray, and then in other colors.

1970

The first Dutch roadside emergency telephones are activated, between Hoevelaken and Zwolle. The emergency phones are a collaboration of the PTT, ANWB and Rijkswaterstaat.

1980

An important step on the way to mobile telephony: the introduction of the car phone, connected via the ATF-1 network.

1981

On the 100th anniversary of telephony, there are 500 million telephone connections worldwide. Currently 5 million of these are in the Netherlands.

1981

Bij het 100-jarige jubileum van telefonie zijn er wereldwijd 500 miljoen telefoonaansluitingen. Nederland telt er op dat moment 5 miljoen.

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1989

Standing on its own feet

On 1 January 1989, PTT got a new name: Koninklijke PTT Nederland NV, or KPN. This was the first step in the transition from state-owned company to full independence. The shares remained in the hands of the state, but from this date the organization itself was responsible for business operations. Wim Dik became Chairman of the Board of Management and was given the task of turning KPN into a commercial concern. PTT Post and PTT Telecom were the most important elements of KPN.

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1992

Calling with Kermit

From early on, KPN saw the enormous potential of mobile calling. Greenpoint was a network of 5,000 contact points located at, among others, post offices and gas stations. With a special telephone, the Greenhopper, subscribers could make mobile calls at these locations. Greenpoint was designed as a cheap alternative to the expensive carphone network. Initially, the striking Greenhopper was called Kermit, after Kermit the Frog. In 1996, Greenpoint had 60,000 subscribers. With the advent of GSM, Greenpoint became obsolete. KPN discontinued this network in 1999.

1993

Internet makes its debut: for the first time, it’s possible to send messages via electronic post. Or: e-mail.

1994

The first GSM network means that callers are now accessible all the time and everywhere via their mobile phone.

1994

KPN shares are issued on the Amsterdam stock exchange. This is followed by listings on the New York, London and Frankfurt exchanges. Since 2008, the stock is no longer internationally listed.

1995

On 10 October (the ‘tenth of the tenth’) all telephone numbers become 10 digits. The large re-numbering campaign is called Operation DeciBel and is necessary in order to guarantee that sufficient telephone numbers can be created in the future.

1996 

The Nokia 9000 Communicator is one of the very first smartphones introduced to the Netherlands. Users can call, e-mail, surf the internet and fax. 

1996

Introduction of the Hi brand, which is focused on young people and mobile telephony. It is a highly successful provider of mobile telephony for many years. It continues until 2015, and then becomes part of KPN. 

1998 

PTT Post and PTT Telecom go their separate ways. PTT Telecom then becomes known as KPN NV.

1998

Internet provider XS4ALL becomes part of KPN. XS4ALL was started in 1993 as a pilot by the Dutch hackers organization Hack-Tic.

1998

De wegen van PTT Post en PTT Telecom scheiden. PTT Telecom gaat vanaf dat moment door het leven als KPN NV.

1998

Internetprovider XS4ALL wordt onderdeel van KPN. XS4ALL was in 1993 als proef opgericht door de Nederlandse hackersorganisatie Hack-Tic.

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1998

'A mobile phone? No, I don’t need one'

It’s now become an iconic video: in 1998, program maker Frans Bromet questioned people on the street about the usefulness of a mobile phone. Without exception those interviewed answered that existing means of communication – landline telephone, answerphone, letter – were more than sufficient. 

It is difficult to comprehend that at that moment we were on the eve of a mobile revolution: in 1998 there were 3 million mobile connections, 10 years later this was 20 million.

1999

With the introduction of the Blackberry, the growth of business data traffic via the smartphone explodes.

2001

Ad Scheepbouwer is appointed as new CEO with the mission to secure the future of KPN. A large-scale reorganization reduces debts and increases trust.

2004

KPN acquires a stake in Digitenne and now offers, in addition to telephone calls and internet, digital TV as well.

2004

The Olympic Games in Athens are an opportunity for a special experiment by KPN and the NOS: the images of the sporting event are made available via the internet.

2005

Following the acquisition of Telfort KPN gains an additional 2 million customers.

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2005

Experiment and innovate

At the start of the 21st century, KPN is leading the way in digital innovations. For example, the Netherlands is the first country in Europe to experiment with i-mode, an early generation mobile internet. KPN also looks into new features such as watching TV via your mobile phone. Many firsts follow: Catch-up TV (2006), Live pausing (2010), watching online TV anywhere via Play (2015) and contactless mobile payments (2016).

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2006

Now the viewer decides

In 2006, KPN introduced ‘Mine’, which quickly gets the name Interactive TV. From now on, subscribers are free to decide what and when they watch. In addition to a large number of digital channels, customers can also simply record programs. What’s more, customers are given Catch-up TV, an Electronic Program Guide and access to On Demand films. Since its introduction, KPN continues to add services to Interactive TV, such as apps, Netflix and viewing via telephone or tablet.

2007

The launch of the first iPhone by Apple’s Steve Jobs. It will be the definitive breakthrough of the smartphone among the general public.

2007

With digitization, telephony and ICT increasingly converge. Telecommunication becomes data communication. Consequently, KPN acquires the ICT company Getronics in order to expand into a full-service ICT service provider.

2007

Launch of C2000, the system that enables all national emergency services to be connected with each other, all the time and everywhere.

From calling to apps
From calling to apps With the advent of new communication devices, the street scene is also changing: we are now looking at our screens instead of calling.
2009

From calling to apps

Consumers are increasingly connected to each other 24/7. Lots of free programs are introduced onto the market, such as WhatsApp in 2009. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also grow into popular forms of communication. As a result, the numbers of calls and SMSs sent decrease sharply; meanwhile data traffic grows massively. Even more because tablets and smartphones are rapidly taken over the Netherlands.

2010

KPN offers customers the possibility to save their data in the cloud. So no longer on a hard disk on the computer, but on servers in secure data centers.

2011

Eelco Blok succeeds Scheepbouwer as CEO.

2011

KPN expands its fiber network and at the same time improves its wide-ranging copper network in order to handle the rapidly growing data traffic.

2013

KPN is the first Dutch provider of national 4G coverage, which facilitates the rapid sending of data.

2014

With a new commercial and strategy, KPN is forging a new path. The pay-off: ‘Voel je vrij’ (feel free). 

2015

Despite a structural increase in data traffic, KPN is able to reduce its energy consumption every year. In 2015, KPN becomes totally climate neutral.

2015

With the creation of two new divisions, KPN Ventures and KPN Technology Labs, KPN is fully committed to innovation. On the one hand by investing in promising companies, on the other hand by developing new applications itself.

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2015

Talking devices

Launch of LoRa, which stands for: ‘long range low power’. With this, KPN is anticipating the growing number of devices that can communicate independently: the Internet of Things. Via this technology, it is, for example, possible to see which garbage containers are full and need to be emptied. And it can help vets check the health of cows remotely. In this way, LoRa makes it possible for a large number of places to work faster and work smarter.

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History of tomorrow

No one can predict the future. But KPN continues to work on new milestones, as we have been doing since 1881. Inventions that develop the Netherlands. In ‘The Technology Book’, we define the most important trends: from 5G to Blockchain.

Download The Technology book