London IEEE Members with plaque

London IEEE Members with plaque

The IEEE Region 7 London Section and LMAG celebrated the placement of IEEE Milestone plaques on the Bell Canada office at 725 Colborne Street in London, Canada, this July 2022. This Milestone commemorates the completion of the Trans-Canada Microwave System, which was officially completed on 1 July 1958 and provided direct-mailed telephone and television service for Canadians from coast to coast.

Trans-Canada Microwave System

During the early-1950’s, the operational feasibility of using inter-city microwave relays for telephone and television transmission was proven, first in Atlantic Canada and later in Central Canada. The effort soon shifted to overcoming the various financial and regulatory hurdles that made deploying a coast-to-coast telephone and television network a truly daunting task.

On 8 March 1955, the construction of the national system began. The system was officially opened on 1 July 1958 via a live coast-to-coast television broadcast called “A Memo to Champlain” and celebrated with a commemorative booklet. Just over three years later, on 18 June 1958, the operation of the entire network was successfully demonstrated.

At the time of completion, the Trans Canada Microwave System was the longest microwave relay network in the world. The number of microwave relay towers (139) required to span the great distances involved meant that the deployment cost was higher than that of a regional network. Installing microwave towers in wilderness and mountainous areas far removed from roads and other infrastructure added to the difficulty and cost.

A Contribution to History

No other engineering achievement of the past century has had a more significant impact on Canada, its society, its economy, and individual Canadians. On 17 January 2022, the IEEE Board of Directors approved the recognition of the completion of the Trans-Canada Microwave System in 1958 as Canada’s 18th IEEE Milestone with the following citation:

R7 Bell London Colborne CO - TCMS Milestone Plaques

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialed long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometers, it was, at the time of completion, the longest such network in the world. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on Canada’s society and economy.

The route followed by the system as shown in Fig. 1 (reprinted from J. W. Noyes, G. et al “Development of transcontinental communications in Canada,” Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Part I: Communication and Electronics, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 342-352, July 1956) went coast to coast touching many sections. Milestone plaques are installed in 19 sections across Canada that were on the original route or subsequent extensions.

R7 milestone map

Content provided by Murray MacDonald, London Section Life Members Chair