The National Telephone Co. Ltd introduced telephones into the Island in the late 1890's. They tended to install exchanges in locations where there was a demand for individual lines and included call offices, the equivalent of modern telephone kiosk, for the use of unconnected people. They leased premises and, after installing the switchboard etc., recruited a caretaker and switchboard operator, often a member of the caretaker's family.
The 1898 Kelly's street directory lists 3 call offices which were located at local exchanges: Cowes, Newport, and Ryde.
IW County Press, 8 February 1908
In the 1911 street directory 14 towns/villages had exchanges/call offices: Bembridge (The Point); Bonchurch, (call office, Cliff cottage); Brading (public call offices, New road and Station road); Cowes; East Cowes (public call office, Bridge square); Newport (call office, 60 Lugley street); Niton (public call office at Rock cottage, Undercliff); Ryde (exchange and call office, 38 Union street); Sandown (call office, Leed street); Seaview (Arctic Cottage - Mrs. Annie Peach, operator); Shanklin (public call offices, High street and at Ashfield's, chemist, High street, Shanklin lift and Marine hotel, Regent street); Ventnor (public call office, 2 Clarence buildings, High street - Walter Friend, caretaker); Wootton Bridge (Call Office, High Street); Wroxall (public call office at Thomas Gough, butcher).
At the end of 1911, the assets of the National Telephone Company were acquired by the Postmaster General.
The telephone network continued under the General Post Office.
Up until the mid 1930's, all the island telephones were connected to manual switchboards; where the telephone user would be connected to an operator and would ask for the exchange/number they wanted. The operator would then connect to the other exchange, if appropriate, and that second operator would make the connection to the other party.
In the mid 1930's, the GPO began to automate the island exchanges using new, purpose built buildings - the first being the Ryde exchange which was automated in 1936. A gradual roll-out of automatically exchanges continued into the 1960's. As exchanges became automated, users could dial between different areas using dialling codes.
In 1980 the the telephone operations of the GPO were separated out to form British Telecom (BT) and in 1984 BT was privatised by the British Government.
During the 1980's, the system was modernised by the introduction of the 'System X' digital telephone exchange system which removed the need for local dialling codes. This also led to a number of local exchanges being closed.
In 2006 the responsibly for the telephone cable network etc. of BT was taken over by their OpenReach subsidiary which then allowed other telephonic service providers to use the network.
By 2020, the Isle of Wight Telephone exchanges were reduced to 16 - Newport, Ryde, Bembridge, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor, Niton, Chale Green, Godshill, Brighstone, Wootton Bridge, Cowes, Calbourne, Chillerton, Freshwater and Yarmouth
In 2000 the Isle of Wight Cable and Telephone Company (IOWCTC) was formed to provided cable services, including telephones, to Isle of Wight residents. Based it Cowes, they embarked upon a program of laying cables along island roads. The name was changed in 2012 to WightFibre.
The 1898 Kelly's street directory lists a call office, which was located at the local exchanges at Cross Street.
Cowes Telephone System
Newport Telephone System
Ryde Telephone System
Wootton Telephone System