The extraordinary success of the commercial beam wireless services between Britain and its Dominions, which opened in the 1920s, had far-reaching impacts on communications. Outside Australia, it led to the merger of Britain's cable and wireless interests into the company that would come to be known as Cable and Wireless. The merged entity resisted the expansion of direct wireless services from Australia to non-British countries, including the US and Japan. Inside Australia, the beam service's success encouraged those in government who had always thought wireless should be publicly controlled to redouble their efforts to wrest it from the part-public, part-private Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), AWA. This paper draws on research in the National Archives of Australia and Commonwealth telecommunications papers in Cambridge to explore the extent to which the domestic battle over public or private control of wireless in Australia, and the international battle over the extent of Australia's wireless network, together frustrated the development of a larger and more competitive international telecommunications sector in Australia between the wars.
Paper presented at the Australian Media Traditions Conference, Canberra, Australia, 24-25 November 2005