“The Telegraphic Journal” published in April, 1864 provides an idea of the ‘state-of-the-art’ in that period.
Telegraph lines had been laid for a considerable distance in India. In that respect it was even better than the situation in England.
A brief report in the journal talks about the inverse correlation between increased telegraph lines and the number of railway accidents/casualties.
The Electric Telegraph And The Railway System.—It was stated that 27 per cent, of the accidents in England were due to the want of the telegraph. As all the Indian railways had telegraphs, this percentage might be assumed to be erased from their quota of casualties. It would appear from the parliamentary returns, that out of 4,225,240 passengers carried in lndia during the year 1860, none had been killed from causes beyond their own control, while 94 per million only were injured. On comparing this with the English returns, it appeared that out of an annual average of 139,000,000 passengers carried, 15 per million were killed, while 319 were injured. According to the returns for 1862 the passengers carried were 173,721,238, while the number killed, were 36 per million, and 450 per million received injury. It also appears that one-half of the accidents on the English lines arose from collisions, while on the Indian railroads one-seventh only emanated from the same cause. This .proved that collisions which might be looked upon as preventable accidents, to a certain extent, were less frequent in India, and necessarily so owing to the aid afforded by the electric telegraph in regulating the traffic.
Sir W.O.S.Brooke who had introduced the telegraph in India had said:
There is a great future before the Telegraph in India. By perseverance and determination it should be made the best in the world, inasmuch as it possesses an unity of organization unattainable elsewhere, with all the resources of the empire to promote its extension and improvement. In two, or at most three years from this time, the lines should yield a clear profit, and an uniform minimum charge for messages may then be adopted for all India. This, with the general use of some simple cypher by habitual correspondents, will enable the Telegraph to perform much of the present business of the post-office. Meanwhile, we have at our disposal, at a moderate cost, an instrument of such miraculous power that, by a single message, it has already saved our Indian Empire; while day by day, and hour by hour, it is busy in the promotion of commerce and the furtherance of private interest of every kind. In my extended tours over all parts of India I have seldom met a family who had not some anecdote to tell of the services the Telegraph had done them. There are few Europeans in India who have not experienced a thrill of pleasure when they meet our masts and wires on the margin of every road, and know that these true tokens of science, and civilization, and power, traverse our Indian Empire to its utmost limit. Should I see them no more, I can truly say that I shall ever continue to take the most heartfelt interest in the prosperity and improvement of the department, and feel proud and happy that it has been my lot to bring it even to its present imperfect state."
Incidentally, in the same journal, a small snippet appears about the telephone. This was a good 10-15 years before Alexander Bell came up with his device.
Mr. Reis' Acoustic Telephone.—It has long been known that a magnetic current will produce a sound in wires of iron and other metal. Mr. Reis takes up this fact, and has constructed an acoustic telegraph or telephone, an instrument which delivers a message by sounds of different pitch. As yet it is far from perfect, and to many ears there is no perceptible difference in the tones, but as the possibility of communicating between different places by sounds has been demonstrated, we may expect to hear again of the subject.
I checked up on Reis.. Apparently, he was a German who was the first to transmit signals across the telephone as early as 1860. As Edison explained later, he transmitted musical notes, whereas it was Bell who demonstrated two-way verbal communication in 1875. (source)
Crying foul, BBC published this article in 2003, claiming that archives that had been recently unearthed showed that “successful tests on a German device manufactured in 1863 were covered up to maintain the Scot's reputation. They show the "Telephon", developed by German research scientist Philipp Reis, could transmit and receive speech.
The first spoken words on Reis’ phone were, “ This horse does not eat cucumber salad”. (source)