Vodafone Group Plc is a British multinational telecommunications company that has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom. As far as revenue is concerned, it is the world's largest mobile telecommunications company, and the world's second-largest measured by subscribers (behind China Mobile). As of September 2011, Vodafone has over 391 million subscribers.
Vodafone owns and operates networks in over 30 countries around the world and has partner networks in over 40 additional countries. It owns 45% of Verizon Wireless, the largest mobile telecommunications company in the United States measured by subscribers. The name Vodafone comes from voice data fone, chosen by the company to "reflect the provision of voice and data services over mobile phones".
In 1980, Sir Ernest Harrison OBE, chairman of Racal Electronics plc's, the UK's largest maker of military radio technology, agreed a deal with Lord Weinstock of General Electric Company plc to allow Racal to access some of GEC's tactical battlefield radio technology. Instructing the head of Racal's military radio division, Gerry Whent, to drive the company into commercial mobile radio, Whent visited GE's factory in Virginia, USA in 1980.
In 1982, Racal's newly formed Racal Strategic Radio Ltd subsidiary won one of two UK cellular telephone network licences. The other licence went to British Telecom. The network, known as Racal Vodafone, was 80% owned by Racal, with Millicom holding 15% and Hambros Technology Trust 5%. Vodafone was launched on 1 January 1985. Racal Strategic Radio was renamed Racal Telecommunications Group Limited in 1985. On 29 December 1986, Racal Electronics bought out the minority shareholders of Vodafone for GB£110 million.
Under stock market pressure to realise full value for shareholders (the mobile unit was being valued at the same amount as the whole Racal group), in September 1988, the company was again renamed Racal Telecom, and on 26 October 1988, Racal Electronics floated 20% of the company. The flotation valued Racal Telecom at GB£1.7 billion. On 16 September 1991, Racal Telecom was demerged from Racal Electronics as Vodafone Group.
In July 1996, Vodafone acquired the two thirds of Talkland it did not already own for £30.6 million. On 19 November 1996, in a defensive move, Vodafone purchased Peoples Phone for £77 million, a 181 store chain whose customers were overwhelmingly using Vodafone's network. In a similar move the company acquired the 80% of Astec Communications that it did not own, a service provider with 21 stores.
In 1997, Vodafone introduced its Speechmark logo, composed of a quotation mark in a circle, with the Os in the Vodafone logotype representing opening and closing quotation marks and suggesting conversation.
On 29 June 1999, Vodafone completed its purchase of AirTouch Communications, Inc. and changed its name to Vodafone Airtouch plc. The merged company commenced trading on 30 June 1999. In order to gain anti-trust approval for the merger, Vodafone sold its 17.2% stake in E-Plus Mobilfunk. The acquisition gave Vodafone a 35% share of Mannesmann, owner of the largest German mobile network.
On 21 September 1999, Vodafone agreed to merge its U.S. wireless assets with those of Bell Atlantic Corp to form Verizon Wireless. The merger was completed on 4 April 2000.
In November 1999, Vodafone made an unsolicited bid for Mannesmann, which was rejected. Vodafone's interest in Mannesmann had been increased by the latter purchase of Orange, the UK mobile operator. Chris Gent would later say Mannesmann's move into the UK broke a "gentleman's agreement" not to compete in each other's home territory. The hostile takeover provoked strong protest in Germany, and a "titanic struggle" which saw Mannesmann resist Vodafone's efforts. However, on 3 February 2000, the Mannesmann board agreed to an increased offer of £112bn, then the largest corporate merger ever. The EU approved the merger in April 2000. The conglomerate was subsequently broken up and all manufacturing related operations sold off.
On 28 July 2000, the Company reverted to its former name, Vodafone Group plc. In April 2001, the first 3G voice call was made on Vodafone United Kingdom's 3G network.
In 2001, the Company acquired Eircell, the largest wireless communications company in the Republic of Ireland, from eircom. Eircell was subsequently rebranded as Vodafone Ireland. Vodafone then went on to acquire Japan's third-largest mobile operator J-Phone, which had introduced camera phones first in Japan.
On 17 December 2001, Vodafone introduced the concept of "Partner Networks", by signing TDC Mobil of Denmark. The new concept involved the introduction of Vodafone international services to the local market, without the need of investment by Vodafone. The concept would be used to extend the Vodafone brand and services into markets where it does not have stakes in local operators. Vodafone services would be marketed under the dual-brand scheme, where the Vodafone brand is added at the end of the local brand (i.e., TDC Mobil-Vodafone etc.).
In 2007, Vodafone entered into a title sponsorship deal with the McLaren Formula One team, which has since traded as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
In May 2011, Vodafone Group Plc bought the rest of the shares of Vodafone Essar from Essar Group Ltd with value of $5 billion and became a solely owned of Vodafone Essar.
July 2012: Vodafone Buys Telstra's New Zealand Subsidiary
In July 2012, Vodafone announced that it had bought Telstra's New Zealand subsidiary for 840m New Zealand dollars ($668m; £431m). Telestra is Australia's biggest telecommunications company.
You can find out more about Vodafone and its history here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodafone.