Minitel -- the resistible rise of French videotex

Ewan Sutherland

France Télécom

The national carrier

Formerly the Direction Generale de Postes et de Telecommunications, France Telecom is the national carrier in a very traditional way. It remains either the monopoly provider or service or the dominant provider.

France Telecom continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s. However, it did so without the reduction in staff seen in some PTTs and RBOCs. (See figure)

Figure Profitability of FT

Cute graph

Source: France Télécom

Figure Breakdown of turnover for FT

Cute graph

Source: France Télécom

The future

France Telecom faces three major challenges:

Organisationa reform is a potential minefield as the general strikes in France in 1995 have demonstrated. Like Air France, the need for reform is evident, bu the unions and the political situation makes the reduction in staff numbers almost imnpossible. To complicate matters, many of the staff are technically civil servants and so cannot be dismissed.

Competition in the French market is growing as the European Union directives take effect. While it is not as competitive as Sweden or the UK and not yet attracting the level of interest of Germany. In addition to the usual international players (BT, AT&T, RBOCs, etc) there are many domestic French companies keen to enter the market, some already have entered it:

France Telecom has chosen to enter into a controversial alliance to form telecommunications company. With Deutsche Telekom AG a share swap is being contemplated. Together, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom have bought 20 percent of Sprint (USA) and have an option to purchase a further 20 percent. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether and when these deals will be approved by the relevant regulatory authorities: DG IV, FCC and the Department of Justice.

At the end of August 1995, the French government through the minister for information technology, Monsieur Francois Fillon, announced changes for France Telecom. Marcel Roulet, the chairman for some years, was to be replaced by Francois Henrot, the chairman of Compagnie Bancaire, a financial holding company. Henrot had worked at France Telecom earlier in his career.

Within days Henrot resigned, before formally taking office. The reason being alleged comments by Fillon to the effect that the organisational reform of France Telecom could be further delayed. He was replaced by Marcel Bon, head of the government's unemployment agency.

[ Introduction | Invention | Marketing | French telecommunications | France Télécom | French videotex | Messagerie Conviviale | Unnatural market | Cour des Comptes | Quickening pace of technology and politics | Conclusion | Bibliography | Chronology | Web links ]
Copyright Ewan Sutherland, 1995.

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