Magazine article Geographical

What Is the Telecom Tower's Current Function?

Magazine article Geographical

What Is the Telecom Tower's Current Function?

Article excerpt

When it was completed in 1964, the General Post Office Tower was the tallest building in London and a symbol of the white heat of technology that Labour leader Harold Wilson had spoken about enthusiastically the previous year. At the time, one of the main functions of the tower was to transmit telephone calls to other towers dotted around the UK from microwave antennas, the white dishes that form a collar around the building.

Unlike radio waves, microwave transmissions need an unbroken line of sight, and if the dishes don't line up correctly, the signals get scrambled. In order to ensure this didn't happen, the architects had to be certain that the tower wouldn't move by more than 20 centimetres in any direction--hence its circular, chimney-stack design. Although British Telecom, the tower's current owner, now uses mostly underground fibre-optic cables for its network, the microwave dishes are still used to send some calls to satellite transmitters. …

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