(Nortel Networks Limited, Brampton, Ontario) Once a world leader in telecommunications products, Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold its CDMA business and LTE assets to Ericsson and its enterprise and government business to Avaya.
Nortel's products included switching, wireless and broadband systems for service providers and carriers, telephones and systems for residential and business users, computer telephony integration, multimedia and telephone network management systems.
With an international history that goes back more than a century, Nortel was a pioneer in telecom. After Alexander Graham Bell's father sold his share in his son's telephone patent to National Bell Telephone of Boston in 1880, a former sea captain, Charles Fleetford Sise, was sent to Montreal to create Bell Telephone Company of Canada. Within two years, the company began to make its own telephones. By 1895, the manufacturing branch was spun off into Northern Electric and Manufacturing, later renamed Northern Electric when it merged with the wire and cable subsidiary of Bell in 1914.
Over the next decades, Northern Electric manufactured equipment designed by Western Electric, which owned as much as 46% of the company at one time. It also made a raft of other products including radios, TVs, amplifiers, Hammond organs, sound equipment and police and fire call boxes. After the 1956 consent decree that caused AT&T to eliminate its partnerships, the company gained technical independence from Western Electric and established its own R&D labs in Ottawa.
In 1971, Northern Electric merged its research and development with Bell Canada to form BNR (Bell Northern Research). A year later, it introduced its first line of computerized PBXs, which evolved into digital PBXs and digital switches.
In 1976, Northern Electric was renamed Northern Telecom. Its DMS line of digital central office telephone switches, introduced a year later, provided explosive growth for the company, especially after the 1984 AT&T breakup. Northern Telecom became the first non-Japanese supplier to Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, and the company took advantage of opportunities in Europe and China.
In 1995, it adopted a new logo and name: NORTEL. In 1998, it added Networks to its name when it merged with Bay Networks, a major manufacturer of hubs and routers. From its roots back to Alexander Graham Bell, Nortel Networks became one of the world's largest suppliers of digital network solutions.
The Creation of Northern Electric
In 1914, the merger of Northern Electric and Imperial Wire and Cable was celebrated at St. Lawrence Hall in Montreal. (Image courtesy of Nortel Networks.)