IBTC rapidly evolved into an important European telephone service provider and manufacturer, with major operations in several countries.
AT&T, its U.S. parent, later sold its entire European division and IBTC's subsidiaries to the International Telephone & Telegraph Company of Cuba in 1925, ending a 46-year presence on the Continent.
In 1879 Gardiner Hubbard, father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell and the first president of the Bell Telephone Company, founded the International Bell Telephone Company in order to promote sales of its telephone equipment throughout Europe. During his tour of the continent the Belgian government offered him the greatest financial incentives to establish his European subsidiary's headquarters in their country.
The International Bell Telephone Company (IBTC) shortly evolved into a holding company for its various telephone service and production divisions, with its major manufacturing arm being the Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company (BTMC), which was founded in Antwerp, Belgium, on 26 April 1882. BTMC was created as a joint venture by the International Bell Telephone Company of New York and the Western Electric Company of Chicago. BTMC then established la Compagnie Belge du Téléphone Bell (Bell Telephone Company of Belgium) in the same year as its Belgian operating subsidiary, one of several companies that provided telephone services in the country, the others having evolved principally from telegraph carriers.
BTMC came under majority ownership by the telephone manufacturer Western Electric, and also established multiple other divisions as national companies across Continental Europe and Russia. Western Electric was itself later majority owned by the American Bell Telephone Company, returning control of BTMC back to the Bell organization.