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21 February 2024 | Posted by Equipo Editorial de PhD

The Origin of Data Networks: How Telefónica Created the World's First Commercial Packet-Switched Data Network

Author: Josep Suñol Capella. Directors: Dr. Francesc Miralles Torner and Dr. Andreu Veà Baró. Court: Dr. Luis Arroyo Galán, Dr. Guiomar Corral Torruella, Dr. Antoni Elias Fusté. Date: Friday, March 1, 2024, Hour: 12 pm, Place: Sala de Graus - La Salle

This thesis deals with the institutional transformation of the Telefónica company due to the technological evolution from the beginning of the transmission of data by switching packets in Spain to the arrival of the Internet.

An analysis of the perspective of institutional logics is carried out to understand the effects of technological change based on the elements that configure the institutional structure of the company. It is considered, when, who and how the decision was made to bet on the transmission of data by switching packets, becoming the world's first operator, commercially offering this service to its customers, without leaving the other circuit switching data transmission services as the rest of the operators were offering.

This network, which was called the Special Data Transmission Network (RETD), along with the RSAN protocol, was created and developed, starting from scratch, initially with general purpose equipment and later creating its own team, the Tesys, by Telefónica engineers after they made a trip to different universities in California (USA), to take an interest in the ArpaNet network being built academically.

The RETD network was not a copy of the ArpaNet network but an evolution to the needs that Telefónica had, being a global advance of all data communications, forcing the ITU and CCITT to create a standard protocol, which was called X.25.

The theoretical framework that has been considered is that proposed by Thornton and Ocasio, who value the three approaches of institutional logics, composed of structural, normative and symbolic elements. This theoretical framework has been used to describe, among other aspects, the institutional culture of the company and the individuals, the organization, the norms, the historical and cultural patterns, the social and geographical factors, the experience of the users, the structure of the different departments, and the relations with the power.

These aspects describe the process that led the president of Telefónica Antonio Barrera de Irimo, to create a new institutional methodology creating a “División de Informática” that was external to Telefónica's central organization chart and had its own institutional logics, so that this new data communications solution could work without being influenced by Telefónica's institutional logics with its own institutional inertia, this led to a heterogeneity of logics, and when I was president Luís Solana, this ended up triggering a situation, which was solved by adjusting to the parameters defined in the institutional isomorphism described by DiMaggio and Powell, producing a homogenization, that resulted in the integration of the different departments that made up ”División de Informática” into the respective departments of Telefónica's Central Directions. Which led to the disappearance of Tesys equipment, and its replacement by equipment from other manufacturers.

In this thesis, the information has been sought in Telefónica's own technical manuals and yearbooks that were published during the entire period of time that the process lasts, at COIT (Official College of Telecommunications Engineers), in Fundesco, at the Telefónica Foundation, in specialized journals, in articles of congresses both national and international, etc., and they have also been carried out personally and in person, interviews in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, to people from both the academic and business fields, that made this communications system possible, people who have given us a vision and data that would have been impossible to obtain in the documents that have been found from the process


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