During the First World War, Sweden had great difficulties with issues such as maintaining contact with the outside world, especially over long distances. Most of the international telegrams were sent via cables, which were both vulnerable and also expensive to maintain, and the radio transmitters in Sweden were only suitable for transmitting over short distances. So, once peace came, a search was initiated to identify solutions that would avoid a similar situation in the future.

In 1920, a proposal was made that the Royal Telegraph Agency was to focus on making the connection across the Atlantic, to the United States, wireless by building a new “big radio station”. Such a direct link, it was felt, would help promote business deals and state affairs concerning the major country in the west, as well as facilitating contact between the many Swedish people in the US and their old homeland. The proposal was met with approval and presented to Parliament, which voted to allocate funds to it. The Telegraph Agency then began to look at possible radio systems and ultimately chose one provided by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The reasons for this were that it basically had a monopoly on radio transmissions to and from the East Coast of the United States, and by using that system from the start the risks of possible compatibility problems would be reduced. The fact that it was Swedish-born inventor Ernst Alexanderson who was behind the system may have also helped.

“We negotiated according to the old customs, and as both Gustav and I were quite accommodating…by around noon, when 4-5 farmers had been visited, we found ourselves in a very pleasant mood.”

Excerpt from engineer Nils Norén’s report on the land negotiations

It was immediately clear that the new big radio station would be built on the west coast of Sweden, as the aim was to be as close as possible to the United States, while at the same time allowing the signal to travel freely by Norway, Denmark and Scotland. This meant a location in central Halland, and the exact location was determined in autumn 1922, when the engineer Nils Norén visited a number of potential sites in the area. The choice was made to build on a number of fields in the Grimeton and Hunnestad parishes that met the requirements, and after a series of liquid negotiations with the landowners, the area was secured for the Telegraph Agency. Construction began at the end of the year and two years later, in winter 1924, the station was ready.

On December 1, 1924, the station, which was assigned the call sign SAQ, was put into operation and almost immediately came to account for 95% of Swedish telegram traffic to the United States. It was also possible to reduce transmission times, and in May 1925 it took an average of only 17 minutes from the time a “normal” telegram was submitted in Sweden until it was received by RCA in New York. The high speeds made it possible to take full advantage of the window where the Swedish and American office hours overlapped.

The two original RCA long-wave transmitters remained in widespread use until the late 1930s and early 1940s, although by then they faced competition from more modern and efficient short-wave transmitters. These were placed alongside the old machines and in 1945 they accounted for almost all the traffic that passed through Grimeton. Nevertheless, the long-wave transmitters were kept in reserve, largely because of their reliability. One of these was scrapped in the 1960s, but the other was left as it was and can still be seen in the station’s Transmission Room. Although it is approaching its centenary, it is still in full working order.