19 April: Telefónica’s centenary

On 19 April 2024 Telefónica celebrates its first century of life. What have been the most important milestones of these 100 years? Find out in this article!

100 years telefónica
Communication Team


Reading time: 5 min

On 19 April 2024 Telefónica will be 100 years old, a first century of life that you can look back on year by year on our centenary website: https://www.telefonica100.com/.

Over the last few weeks we have been publishing a series of articles with the most relevant milestones decade by decade. Let’s see what they are.

The 1920s: Telefónica is born

In 1924, on 19 April to be precise, as we have just mentioned, Telefónica was born, under the name of CTNE: Compañía Telefónica Nacional de España. It was founded with a capital of one million pesetas and came to organise an already existing service, that of telephony, which at the time offered something as revolutionary for the time as remote telephony.

Throughout this decade another series of events of great importance for the company took place, such as the installation of the first 100,000 telephones (in 1926) or the first transatlantic call, with a conversation on 13 October 1928 between the Spanish monarch Alfonso XIII and the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge.

A year later, in 1929, the iconic building at Gran Vía 28 in Madrid opened its doors.

The 1930s: telemedicine?

Telefónica has always been at the forefront of technology and as early as 1930 (yes, 1930) a telephone call was made between Madrid and Buenos Aires for a series of medical tests in an event that could be considered one of the origins of telemedicine.

In a decade marked by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the company managed shortly before (in 1935) to reach the figure of 20 million calls, conferences which at that time were not made but “put on”.

The 1940s: the State acquires almost 80% of the shares

In 1945, a significant change took place in the company: the State acquired 79% of the company’s shares for almost 600 million pesetas. In addition, a new contract was signed between the two parties that rewrote the relationship between Telefónica and the new majority shareholder.

Three years later, in 1948, more than 500,000 telephones were in service and in 1949 the record number of telephones installed in a year was broken, specifically 54,077 new lines. However, given the exponential growth in demand, the waiting list was still 145,000 lines.

The 1950s: one million telephones installed

Although it may seem more recent, the first vehicle telephony tests took place as early as 1952. A year later, in 1953, another novelty arrived: automatic calls between subscribers without the need for a telephone operator.

In this same decade, specifically in 1955, another milestone was reached: one million telephones were installed.

The 1960s: Telefónica helps to reach the Moon

In 1963, telephone booths began to be installed in Madrid and Barcelona, devices that for decades were part of the history of our country’s landscape and silent witnesses to numerous confidences, conversations and testimonies.

In 1969, the whole planet was watching the arrival of the human being on the moon, an event of enormous magnitude in which Telefónica played a role that perhaps not everyone knows about.

The 1970s: the arrival of mobile telephony in Spain

The 1970s were marked by numerous technological advances. One of these came in 1976, when mobile telephony arrived in Spain for the first time.

In 1977, 95% of telephone lines were already automatic. A year later, in 1978, another important figure in the company’s history was reached: for the first time more than 10 million telephones were installed.

The 1980s: farewell to telephone operators

1984 was accompanied by the first change of logo in the company’s history. A year later, in 1985, one of the company’s most emblematic advertisements was launched: yes, it was obvious, but the year 2000 was 15 years away.

The symbol that we were facing new times came in 1988: from the town of Polopos (Granada), a part of the company’s history came to an end. Magdalena Martín became the last telephone operator to make a manual call.

The 1990s: Telefónica becomes 100% private

In a decade in which, at the beginning, Spain experienced two world events in which Telefónica was responsible for communications: the Barcelona Olympic Games and the 1992 Universal Exhibition in Seville.

The same decade saw the emergence of mobile telephony and the Internet, with the birth of Movistar (1995) and the arrival of ADSL in Europe in 1999, with Spain being the first country to use this technology to connect to the network.

In addition, in 1997 Telefónica once again became a 100% private company.

The 2000s: unstoppable internationalisation

The first decade of the 21st century was marked by unstoppable internationalisation with two major milestones: in 2004 Telefónica became the first mobile operator in Latin America and in 2006 the purchase of O2 was the largest foreign operation by a Spanish company.

Two other major moments in the company’s history occurred during this decade: in 2007 Telefónica was the first operator to market the iPhone in Europe, specifically in the United Kingdom. In addition, the following year (2008) the company moved its corporate headquarters to Telefónica District.

2010: fibre overtakes ADSL

This decade was marked by the birth of numerous initiatives and programmes that are now part of the company’s day-to-day business, such as Wayra, Talentum, Espacio Fundación Telefónica, enligthED and the arrival of 42 in Spain. It also saw all services in Spain being operated under the Movistar brand in 2010.

Also in this decade, in 2016, the current chairman, José María Álvarez-Pallete, replaced his predecessor, César Alierta, 16 years later.

2020: We are 100 years old!

The current decade began marked at all levels by the Covid-19 pandemic, in a year 2020 that we will not soon forget, and in which Telefónica carried out numerous activities of different kinds in an attempt to mitigate the harsh consequences of the social, economic and health crisis.

2021 also saw the birth of Europe’s largest Innovation and Talent Hub, on the eve of the beginning of the disappearance of phone booths from Spanish streets in 2022.

The 2024 page of this centenary history is still being written, so we encourage you not to miss all the information about Telefónica’s history on our centenary website.


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