IEEE Communications Society History

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The "roots" of the IEEE Communications Society extend back to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) which was founded in 1884, and the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) which was formed in 1912. These formed the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) on January 1, 1963.

AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers)

The original fields of interest of AIEE were electrical communications and power engineering. Electronics engineering evolved from the radio field and expanded greatly during World War II, overlapping into the communications and (to a lesser extent) the power fields. Methods were developed to foster cooperation and interchange of information among members of each of the original Institutes with their narrow common interests. The AIEE formed "Divisions" with "Communications" as one major entity. No special organization was chartered, although separate Technical Committees (TCs) reviewed papers for, and conducted sessions at broad-based AIEE Conferences. Most of these papers were later published in the AIEE Transactions.

IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers)

During the same era, IRE began organizing specialized Professional Groups (PGs) each with a common interest. The Professional Group on Communications Systems (PGCS) was formed in 1952, producing its own Transactions the following year. PGCS sponsored sessions at major IRE conferences and conventions, and developed its own special conferences. The first such conference was the Aeronautical Communications Symposium, AEROCOM, held for four years in the Rome-Utica, New York area. Renamed the National Communications Symposium, NATCOM, it continued for another five years ending in 1963. Meanwhile, cooperation with the AIEE Communications Division had developed, and a series of joint National Symposiums on Global Communications, GLOBECOMs, were held at various U.S. sites.

IEEE ComTech Group

On July 1, 1964, 18 months after IEEE was formed, the AIEE Communications Division and the IRE PGCS merged to form the IEEE Group on Communication Technology (ComTech) with 4400 members. Seven former AIEE Technical Committees continued operations under the new Group, with former IRE members joining the TCs that focused on their particular interests. A new TC on Communication System Disciplines - Communication Systems Engineering - was formed by ComTech members with special systems interests. The TCs reviewed papers for a new IEEE Transactions On Communication Technology (distributed free to all members), and they organized and moderated papers sessions at various conferences.

ComTech Conferences

The ComTech Group sponsored the Seventh GLOBECOM in 1965, calling it the First Annual IEEE Communications Convention. The following year it was renamed the 1966 IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC) and it has continued annually ever since. ICC is held in late spring or early summer, and in 1984 went overseas for the first time (to Amsterdam). The ComTech Group also took a major role in technical sessions at the general IEEE International Conventions and the National Electronics Conference (NEC) held annually in Chicago. When the latter was canceled suddenly in 1971, ComTech joined the IEEE Chicago Section in co-sponsoring a one-time Fall Electronics Conference (FEC) that proved to be successful.

IEEE Communications Society Founded

During that Fall Electronics Conference meeting, the Administrative Committee of ComTech approved a petition to IEEE seeking elevation to Society status. The request was granted, and the IEEE Communications Society began operations on January 1, 1972, with just over 8000 regular and 800 student members. The key officers of the directing body--a Board of Governors-- are elected by the Society's general membership, replacing the previously self-perpetuating Administrative Committee. A list of current officers is published in our magazines.


Earlier, ComTech had been sponsoring the annual IEEE National Telemetering Conference (NTC). Interest in this area was declining, however, while the need for a second annual communications conference was becoming evident. Thus, the Telemetering Conference became the IEEE National Telecommunications Conference (still called NTC) in 1972. In 1982, the conference was expanded to international scope, becoming the IEEE Global Communications Conference, with the earlier GLOBECOM acronym revived. This conference continued to thrive and, in 1987, was held overseas for the first time, in Tokyo. Since then, GLOBECOM has been held in Singapore, London, Sydney and in Rio de Janeiro in 1999.

Technical Committees

The Telemetering Technical Committee was discontinued in 1974--our first great loss--but two new Technical Committees were added at the same time. A number of other TCs started operations in the ensuing years, each with a specific field of interest. Several Technical Committees have changed their titles and scopes during the years--some more than once--due to expanding and changing interests. The list of Technical Committees and their Chairs are printed in Society publications.

Transactions and Journals

Since 1972, the new IEEE Transactions on Communications, with vigorous leadership, quickly developed a premier position among technical journals, with its own indepen-dent editorial board. Within a few years its frequency of publication went from quarterly to bimonthly to monthly, with special issues being featured from the start.

An additional publication, the IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications, was "spun-off" in 1982. It soon went from quarterly to a nine-issues-per-year distribution and became a monthly publication in 1999 with the addition of the Wireless Communications Series. In 2002 the WCS became the IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, published quarterly.

In 1982, Transactions and the Journal were "unbundled" from the dues structure and made available to the membership at moderate subscription rates, thereby keeping the basic dues to a minimum. Both periodicals are, of course, offered to the technical public at a higher, non-member rate, the proceeds providing a substantial portion of the financial base of the Society.

In 1993, the IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, was introduced, and in 1996, another new publication appeared - IEEE Communications Letters. The latest addition to this impressive list of technical journals is IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials, the Society's first electronically published journal started in 1996.

IEEE Communications Magazine

The original IRE PGCS (Professional Group Communications Systems) Newsletter evolved into the IEEE ComTech Newsletter (offered free to members) which then became the IEEE Communications Society Newsletter. In 1975 the Newsletter was expanded into IEEE Communications Magazine with the addition of general technical interest features, the cost being partially subsidized by advertising. Two years later, the magazine was offered to the general public (non-members) by subscription. It became a monthly publication in 1983. In 1994, the "Global Communications Newsletter" was initiated as a regular feature of Communications Magazine.

In 1997, the magazine went online with IEEE Communications Interactive.

Other Publications

IEEE Network--The Magazine of Global Information Exchange was first published by the Communications Society in 1987 and soon became self-sustaining. It is issued on a bimonthly basis, as is IEEE Personal Communications (now IEEE Wireless Communications), which first appeared in 1994. The Communications Society also technically co-sponsors, with other IEEE Societies, additional publications offered to members at special rates. These include IEEE Internet Computing, IEEE Multimedia Magazine, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, IEEE/OSA Journal of Lightwave Technology, IEEE Transactions on Multimedia, IEEE Pervasive Computing, IEEE Sensors Journal, IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, and others.

Online Availability

All ComSoc publications (magazines and journals) have been available online since 1998. An Electronic Periodicals Package (EPP) of ComSoc publications now provides an all-electronic access alternative to print subscriptions at a moderate rate. ComSoc e-News, an electronic newsletter, was initiated in 1998 and is distributed to all ComSoc members who have listed e-mail addresses.

IEEE Communications Society Web Site

In 1996, ComSoc developed an independent web site permitting global access to ComSoc information. Society news, publications, conferences, information on standards, and electronic initiatives can be found easily. The site is updated frequently and includes e-mail contacts for ComSoc officers and staff.

Conference Records

Each major conference sponsored by the Society publishes a Conference Record printed in advance and distributed to conference attendees. These "proceedings" contain copies of every paper presented at the meeting, and are in demand by Technical Libraries and people unable to attend the conference. Proceeds from the sale of the extra copies help with meeting expenses, and surplus funds are divided among the conference sponsors. Several conference proceedings are now available in CD-ROM format.

Technical Books

The Communications Society began sponsoring the publication of books by IEEE Press in 1975, when four books were released. This has continued, with contributions each year and with noted Communications Society members serving as authors and editors.


In addition to ICC and GLOBECOM, the Communications Society sponsors MILCOM--Military Communications Conference--which began in 1982; and NOMS--Network Operations Management Symposium--initiated in 1987. Through the years the Communications Society has also picked up co-sponsorship of other major conferences: INFOCOM-Conference on Computer Communications; IM--International Symposium on Integrated Network Management (formerly ISINM); WCNC--Wireless Communications & Networking Conference (formerly ICUPC); International Phoenix Conference on Computers and Communications (IPCCC), Optical Fiber Communications Conference (OFC), etc. Additionally, between 1990 and 1998 ICC collocated with Supercomm in alternating years. Participation in other international, regional and local conferences on a lesser scale is also widespread.


Through the years the Communications Society Technical Committees have developed their own specialized small-group meetings called "workshops." These workshops provide interaction among engineers working at the "cutting edge" of new developments, while respecting proprietary interests. (Most do not issue symposium records.) Many are listed in the IEEE Communications Magazine Conference Calendar and the IEEE Spectrum Calendar of Coming Events. Another service to Communications Society members is the presentation of Tutorial Sessions at conferences whereby new information on "hot topics" is disseminated to attendees, supplementing the standard paper sessions at the meetings.

The IEEE International Workshop on Quality of Service was launched in 1993.


Prior to 1979, the entire support for Society operations was handled by IEEE Staff, working under the direction of Society Officers and Members who were volunteers. When IEEE Communications Magazine became available to non-members, a Managing Editor was hired to provide closer Society control. This was the beginning of the IEEE Communications Society staff, which now numbers around 21 full-time IEEE employees. The staff is under the direction of an Executive Director, a position established in 1990.