The History of Vodafone

Knowing the history of a company can change your overall outlook on not just the company itself, but also the people behind it. Here, we will be exploring the history of one UK company in particular; Vodafone.

To start with, the name Vodafone comes from “voice data fone”, and was chosen by the company to “reflect the provision of voice and data services over mobile phones.” The evolution of ‘Vodafone’ began in 1982 with the establishment of the ‘Racal Strategic Radio Ltd’ subsidiary of Racal Electronics plc, which was the UK’s biggest creator of military radio technology. They, in turn, formed a joint venture with Millicom called ‘Racal’, which eventually evolved into the present-day, Vodafone.

After some terms and agreements were settled and finalized, Vodafone was officially launched January 1st, 1985 under their new name of Racal-Vodafone (Holdings) Ltd. The company’s first office was located in the Courtyard in Newbury, Berkshire. After that, Racal Strategic Radio was renamed Racal Telecommunications Group Limited. December 29th, 1986, Racal Electronics issued shares to minority shareholders of Vodafone which totals GB£110 million. Vodafone has officially become a fully owned brand of Racal. In October of 1988, the Racal Telecom majority (held by Racal Electronics); went public on the London Stock Exchange, having 20% of the company’s stock floated. This flotation, in turn, led to a position where Racal’s stake in Racal Telecom being valued at higher than all of Racal Electronics. Under the pressure of the stock market to realise the full value for shareholders, Racal split from Racal Telecom in 1991.

In July of 1996, Vodafone acquired the remaining 2/3 of Talkland it didn’t already own for £30.6 million. In November of the same year, Vodafone purchased People’s Phone (a 181 store chain whose customers were already using Vodafone) for £77 million. And additionally acquired the remaining 80% of Astec Communications (a service provider with 21 stores) that it didn’t previously own.

On June 29th, 1999, Vodafone purchased, AirTouch Communications, Inc. changing its name to Vodafone Airtouch plc. In order to gain antitrust approval for the merger, Vodafone sold their 17.2% stake in E-Plus Mobilfunk. Which gave Vodafone a 35% share of Mannesmann (owner of the largest German mobile network). In September 1999, Vodafone settled to merge its U.S. wireless assets with Bell Atlantic Corp to form Verizon Wireless and the merger was completed in April 2000. In July 2000, the company reverted to its former name, Vodafone Group plc.

In 2001, the Company acquired Eircell (Ireland’s largest wireless communications company) from Eircom and was renamed, Vodafone Ireland. Vodafone moved to acquire Japan’s third-largest mobile operator J-Phone. December 2001 led Vodafone to introduce the concept of “Partner Networks”, via signing TDC Mobil (Denmark). Partner Networks allowed for the introduction of Vodafone international services to a local area market, without the required investment of Vodafone. This was utilized to extend Vodafone’s brand and services into markets where it did not previously have stakes in local operators. Their services could be marketed under the dual-brand scheme, where the Vodafone brand is added at the end of the local brand.

In 2007, Vodafone joined a title sponsorship deal with the McLaren Formula One team, deemed “Vodafone McLaren Mercedes” until the sponsorship ended in the 2013 season. In May of 2011, Vodafone Group Plc purchased remaining shares of Vodafone Essar from Essar Group Ltd for $5 billion. And in December, it acquired the Reading-based Bluefish Communications Ltd (an ICT consultancy company). This, in turn, formulated the core of a new Unified Communications and Collaboration practice within its subsidiary, Vodafone Global Enterprise, and focused on implementing key strategies and solutions in cloud computing, while also strengthening its professional services offering.

In April 2012, Vodafone announced it sought to acquire Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) for £1.04 billion.This would give Vodafone access to CWW’s fibre network for businesses, which would permit it to take over unified communications solutions to larger enterprises in UK (and worldwide). In June of 2012, Cable & Wireless’ shareholders voted in favour of Vodafone’s offer, which exceeded the 75% of shares needed for the deal to proceed. In June the following year, Vodafone purchased the German cable company, Kabel Deutschland, valued at €7.7 billion, and was recommended over a bid of rival company Liberty Global. In September, Vodafone announced they were selling its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications for $130 billion, making it one of the biggest deals in corporate history.

To this day, they remain the world’s leading mobile communications providers, having operations in 26 countries and partnerships with networks in more than 55 countries. On a global level, they boast nearly 444 million customers and 19.5 million in the UK. They even made the world’s first ever mobile call on January 1st, 1985 from London to their Newbury headquarters, where they are still located.The company additionally employs over 13,000 people across the UK, of which many are Vodafone customer service and sales representatives. The free number can be found on their official website. With some incredibly smart investments and innovative ideas, Vodafone truly has an astounding history.