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Our history

From telegraphy to the Internet of Things

Since 1881, KPN has been helping the Netherlands to progress with technological innovation. From the telegraph to 4G and from telephone operator to Internet of Things. This is the rich history of KPN.

Since 1881, KPN has been helping the Netherlands to progress with technological innovation. From the telegraph to 4G and from telephone operator to Internet of Things. This is the rich history of KPN.

KPN milestones

The history of our company is closely linked to that of our country. Below you will find
the most memorable moments from 1881 to date.


De Groote Club
De Groote Club The building on the right (with the tower) housed ‘De Groote Club’: the location from where the first telephone call in the Netherlands took place. The building was demolished around 1912.

‘I’ll connect you’

Several years after Alexander Bell applied for a patent on the telephone in 1876, the invention reached the Netherlands. On 1 June 1881, the first public telephone network in the Netherlands became operational in Amsterdam. In the attic of the ‘De Groote Club’ society, on the corner of the Kalverstraat and the Dam, a telephone operator from the Nederlandsche Bell-Telephoon Maatschappij (NBTM) connected the 49 subscribers to each other. ‘I’ll connect you’ were the legendary words of the first telephone call in the Netherlands.

Several years later, in 1888, the NBTM established the first long distance connection in the Netherlands, between Amsterdam and Haarlem. The first steps on the way to a widespread network.


Establishment of the Administratie der Posterijen en Telegrafie (P and T), an independent organization funded by the Ministry of Water Management, Trade & Industry.


More and more Dutch people get a telephone connection following the introduction of the Telegraph and Telephone Law.


More than 75,000 subscribers are connected to the telephone network. The telephone operator establishes a connection.

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A new law gives P and T another name: Staatsbedrijf der Posterijen, Telegrafie en Telefonie (PTT).


First telephone call with the Dutch East Indies. At 12,000 kilometers, the longest telephone connection in the world.


The Netherlands gets acquainted with the telephone kiosk

1 5 1931

In 1931, Amsterdam’s Valeriusplein had the honor of having the first telephone kiosk on a public road in the Netherlands, an automatic coin-operated device for local calls. The telephone kiosk on the Valeriusplein did not yet have the famous green color; that was only introduced in 1965. Around the year of 2000 there were some 20,000 telephone kiosks in our country. In January 2011, KPN announced that it would discontinue operation of public telephone kiosks.


One third of all automatic telephone exchanges were destroyed during World War Two: a capacity of almost 85,000 numbers.


By dialing 003, callers can listen to an automated weather forecast from the KNMI via the telephone.


From the 1960s, the telephone becomes accessible to everyone. The number of subscribers doubles from 1 to 2 million.

Historical moment
Historical moment Minister Henk Korthals of Traffic and Water Management calls for the last time via a manually operated exchange. He gives the instruction to activate an automatic variant. On the left-hand side is Mr. G.H. Bast, Director-General of the PTT.

Minister bids farewell to the telephone operator

Warffum was the last municipality in the Netherlands to be connected to a fully automated telephone network. From this date, all callers could establish the right connection using the dial on their telephone. It meant the end of the telephone operator in telephone exchanges. At the peak, around 1930, there were more than 2,000 telephone operators manually connecting all the calls in the Netherlands.

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Launch of the iconic T65 phone. First gray, and then in other colors.


The first Dutch roadside emergency telephones are activated, between Hoevelaken and Zwolle. The emergency phones are a collaboration of the PTT, ANWB and Rijkswaterstaat.


An important step on the way to mobile telephony: the introduction of the car phone, connected via the ATF-1 network.


On the 100th anniversary of telephony, there are 500 million telephone connections worldwide. Currently 5 million of these are in the Netherlands.

1 5 1989

Standing on its own feet

On 1 January 1989, PTT got a new name: Koninklijke PTT Nederland NV, or KPN. This was the first step in the transition from state-owned company to full independence. The shares remained in the hands of the state, but from this date the organization itself was responsible for business operations. Wim Dik became Chairman of the Board of Management and was given the task of turning KPN into a commercial concern. PTT Post and PTT Telecom were the most important elements of KPN.

1 5 1992 2

Calling with Kermit

From early on, KPN saw the enormous potential of mobile calling. Greenpoint was a network of 5,000 contact points located at, among others, post offices and gas stations. With a special telephone, the Greenhopper, subscribers could make mobile calls at these locations. Greenpoint was designed as a cheap alternative to the expensive carphone network. Initially, the striking Greenhopper was called Kermit, after Kermit the Frog. In 1996, Greenpoint had 60,000 subscribers. With the advent of GSM, Greenpoint became obsolete. KPN discontinued this network in 1999.


Internet makes its debut: for the first time, it’s possible to send messages via electronic post. Or: e-mail.


The first GSM network means that callers are now accessible all the time and everywhere via their mobile phone.


KPN shares are issued on the Amsterdam stock exchange. This is followed by listings on the New York, London and Frankfurt exchanges. Since 2008, the stock is no longer internationally listed.


On 10 October (the ‘tenth of the tenth’) all telephone numbers become 10 digits. The large re-numbering campaign is called Operation DeciBel and is necessary in order to guarantee that sufficient telephone numbers can be created in the future.


The Nokia 9000 Communicator is one of the very first smartphones introduced to the Netherlands. Users can call, e-mail, surf the internet and fax.


Introduction of the Hi brand, which is focused on young people and mobile telephony. It is a highly successful provider of mobile telephony for many years. It continues until 2015, and then becomes part of KPN.


PTT Post and PTT Telecom go their separate ways. PTT Telecom then becomes known as KPN NV.


Internet provider XS4ALL becomes part of KPN. XS4ALL was started in 1993 as a pilot by the Dutch hackers organization Hack-Tic.


De wegen van PTT Post en PTT Telecom scheiden. PTT Telecom gaat vanaf dat moment door het leven als KPN NV.


Internetprovider XS4ALL wordt onderdeel van KPN. XS4ALL was in 1993 als proef opgericht door de Nederlandse hackersorganisatie Hack-Tic.

1 5 1998

'A mobile phone? No, I don’t need one'

It’s now become an iconic video: in 1998, program maker Frans Bromet questioned people on the street about the usefulness of a mobile phone. Without exception those interviewed answered that existing means of communication – landline telephone, answerphone, letter – were more than sufficient.

It is difficult to comprehend that at that moment we were on the eve of a mobile revolution: in 1998 there were 3 million mobile connections, 10 years later this was 20 million.


With the introduction of the Blackberry, the growth of business data traffic via the smartphone explodes.


Ad Scheepbouwer is appointed as new CEO with the mission to secure the future of KPN. A large-scale reorganization reduces debts and increases trust.


KPN acquires a stake in Digitenne and now offers, in addition to telephone calls and internet, digital TV as well.


The Olympic Games in Athens are an opportunity for a special experiment by KPN and the NOS: the images of the sporting event are made available via the internet.


Following the acquisition of Telfort KPN gains an additional 2 million customers.

1 5 2005

Experiment and innovate

At the start of the 21st century, KPN is leading the way in digital innovations. For example, the Netherlands is the first country in Europe to experiment with i-mode, an early generation mobile internet. KPN also looks into new features such as watching TV via your mobile phone. Many firsts follow: Catch-up TV (2006), Live pausing (2010), watching online TV anywhere via Play (2015) and contactless mobile payments (2016).

1 5 2006

Now the viewer decides

In 2006, KPN introduced ‘Mine’, which quickly gets the name Interactive TV. From now on, subscribers are free to decide what and when they watch. In addition to a large number of digital channels, customers can also simply record programs. What’s more, customers are given Catch-up TV, an Electronic Program Guide and access to On Demand films. Since its introduction, KPN continues to add services to Interactive TV, such as apps, Netflix and viewing via telephone or tablet.


The launch of the first iPhone by Apple’s Steve Jobs. It will be the definitive breakthrough of the smartphone among the general public.


With digitization, telephony and ICT increasingly converge. Telecommunication becomes data communication. Consequently, KPN acquires the ICT company Getronics in order to expand into a full-service ICT service provider.


Launch of C2000, the system that enables all national emergency services to be connected with each other, all the time and everywhere.

From calling to apps
From calling to apps With the advent of new communication devices, the street scene is also changing: we are now looking at our screens instead of calling.

From calling to apps

Consumers are increasingly connected to each other 24/7. Lots of free programs are introduced onto the market, such as WhatsApp in 2009. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also grow into popular forms of communication. As a result, the numbers of calls and SMSs sent decrease sharply; meanwhile data traffic grows massively. Even more because tablets and smartphones are rapidly taken over the Netherlands.


KPN offers customers the possibility to save their data in the cloud. So no longer on a hard disk on the computer, but on servers in secure data centers.


Eelco Blok succeeds Scheepbouwer as CEO.


KPN expands its fiber network and at the same time improves its wide-ranging copper network in order to handle the rapidly growing data traffic.


KPN is the first Dutch provider of national 4G coverage, which facilitates the rapid sending of data.


With a new commercial and strategy, KPN is forging a new path. The pay-off: ‘Voel je vrij’ (feel free).


Despite a structural increase in data traffic, KPN is able to reduce its energy consumption every year. In 2015, KPN becomes totally climate neutral.


With the creation of two new divisions, KPN Ventures and KPN Technology Labs, KPN is fully committed to innovation. On the one hand by investing in promising companies, on the other hand by developing new applications itself.

1 5 2015

Talking devices

Launch of LoRa, which stands for: ‘long range low power’. With this, KPN is anticipating the growing number of devices that can communicate independently: the Internet of Things. Via this technology, it is, for example, possible to see which garbage containers are full and need to be emptied. And it can help vets check the health of cows remotely. In this way, LoRa makes it possible for a large number of places to work faster and work smarter.


KPN's new LoRa network will be available throughout the Netherlands in June. This makes the Netherlands the first country in the world to have a nationwide LoRa network for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.


KPN has more than 1 million fixed-mobile customers in October. These are customers who combine at least one product for the home with a mobile subscription.


KPN has been named Sponsor of the Year for the third time. The prize is awarded annually by the Sponsor Rings Foundation. The years of high-level structural sponsorship approach in the field of sport, art & culture and society are rewarded.


KPN is again recognized on the international stage for its sustainable business operations. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) KPN is among the 5% of companies that are leaders in climate issues and in the forefront of reducing emissions and limiting climate change. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index has proclaimed KPN the world’s most sustainable telecom company.

1 5 2017 KPNMCF 10jaar

10 years KPN Mooiste Contact Fonds

KPN Mooiste Contact Fonds has been providing solidarity for 10 years. Social contact is a necessity of life, but it is by no means self-evident for everyone. The KPN Mooiste Contact Fonds has been bringing lonely people back in touch with their environment by impactful projects and the deployment of people, resources and technology from KPN.


KPN completes range of IoT networks with LTE-M nationwide coverage and has now completed its IoT connectivity portfolio. In addition to the LoRa and M2M applications, which make use of the mobile networks, customers can now also use LTE-M, which is particularly suitable for allowing devices to interchange data very frequently in a cost-efficient manner.


Maximo Ibarra starts as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of KPN. He succeeds Eelco Blok, who held this position for 12 years.


KPN maintains worldwide top position on Cyberlympics. The ethical hackers of KPN came third in the Global Cyberlympics final in Oshawa (Canada).


Start of KPN's 5G Field Lab for automotive applications at the Automotive Campus in Helmond, as part of the European Concorda project. The possibilities of connected & automated driving are being tested.

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Modernization of KPN’s headquarters

The renovation and modernization of KPN’s headquarters in Rotterdam has been completed. The striking tower of architect Renzo Piano at the bottom of the Erasmus Bridge on the Kop van Zuid will be named The Link, a reference to the connection that is central to KPN’s services.


KPN appoints Joost Farwerck as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management. He succeeds Maximo Ibarra, who held this position for 1 year.

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History of tomorrow

No one can predict the future. But KPN continues to work on new milestones, as we have been doing since 1881. Inventions that develop the Netherlands. In ‘The Technology Book’, we define the most important trends: from 5G to Blockchain.

Download The Technology book