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In 1897, the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company, Limited, was founded in London to promote the radio (then known as "wireless telegraphy") inventions of Guglielmo Marconi.
As part of a worldwide expansion, in 1899 American Marconi was organized as a subsidiary company, holding the rights to the use the Marconi patents in the United States and Cuba.
It proved to be superior for transatlantic transmissions to the spark transmitters that had been traditionally used by the Marconi companies. Young, asking that he suspend the pending alternator sales to the Marconi companies.
Marconi officials were so impressed by the capabilities of the Alexanderson alternators that they began making preparations to adopt them as their standard transmitters for international communication. This would leave General Electric without a buyer for its transmitters, so the officers proposed that GE purchase American Marconi, and use the assets to form its own radio communications subsidiary.
This concern was increased by the announcement in late 1918 of the formation of the Pan-American Wireless Telegraph and Telephone Company, a joint venture between American Marconi and the Federal Telegraph Company, with plans to set up service between the United States and South America.
Construction began in July 1920, and the site was dedicated on November 5, 1921, after two of the antenna spokes had been completed, and two of the 200-kilowatt alternators installed.
In 1930, RCA agreed to occupy the yet-to-be-constructed landmark building of the Rockefeller Center complex, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which in 1933 became known as the RCA building (now the Comcast Building).
This lease was critical for enabling the massive project to proceed as a commercially viable venture—David Rockefeller cited RCA's action as being responsible for "the salvation of the project".
Former American Marconi vice president and general manager E. RCA worked closely with the federal government, and felt it deserved to maintain its predominant role in U. in order that he may present and discuss informally the Government's views and interests".
However, American Marconi had been falling behind industry advances, particularly in vacuum tube technology, and GE needed access to additional patents before its new subsidiary could be fully competitive.
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The circular Radio Central site encompassed 10 square miles (25 square kilometers), with a transmission building, located at the hub, projected to ultimately house ten Alexanderson alternator transmitters.