On 29 December 2017, Proximus will definitively end its telegram service.
Used by people for years to announce births, weddings, or deaths, the telegram has gradually been replaced by more modern, less expensive means of communication.
In recent years, the telegram was used by only a handful of residential and business customers.
The end of the telegram marks a turning point in Proximus' history: the electric telegraph entered into service in Belgium in 1846.
In fact, the RTT (the former Proximus) stood for 'National Telegraph and Telephone Company'.
The telegram: a very long history
The history of the telegram in Belgium goes back more than 140 years for the electric telegraph, and more than 200 years for the optical telegraph. In fact, the first electric telegraph service was launched in 1846, along the Brussels-Antwerp railway link, while the first optical telegraph service in Belgium dates back even further, to May 1803. In July 1930, the Telegraph Administration became the autonomous 'National Telegraph and Telephone Company', or the RTT - which was nothing else then the former Proximus.
For decades, the telegram was used by residential customers to announce births, weddings or deaths. In some cases, it was even possible to send a congratulatory message accompanied by a bottle of champagne or a cuddly toy.
For a long time, the telegram was also used for professional purposes in all sectors, especially by lawyers and bailiffs, since the telegrams constituted legal proof, and even by temporary employment agencies to send notices.
Sporadic use in recent years
In the early 1980s, more than 1.5 million telegrams were sent and received per year in Belgium. Many of these telegrams came from Italy, where the service was very popular. But over the years, the telegram began to decline as it was replaced by more modern and less expensive means of communication: first, the fax, then e-mail and text messages, and more recently instant messaging.
In the early 1990s, traffic in Belgium had fallen to about half a million telegrams per year. This figure fell to 150,000 in the early 2000s, and to just 50,000 about 10 years later. In the past few months, Proximus' telegram service was used by about 10 regular business customers and only sporadically by residential customers. In total, a little over 8,000 telegrams were sent and received during the first 11 months of 2017, which represents a decline of over 20% compared to 2016. Of course, the regular business customers have been notified personally and Proximus has offered them alternative solutions.
Like many neighboring countries, therefore, Proximus has decided to end its telegram service, effective as of 29 December 2017. After decades of good, loyal service, it is time for the telegram to give way to new means of communication. More than ever, Proximus is determined to respond optimally to the needs of businesses and citizens by providing digital services and simple and innovative solutions that allow them to live better and work more efficiently. The goal of permanent progress, which was behind the launch of the telegram in the 19th century, continuous to animate the Proximus teams today.