Now that France Telecom owns a slice of Infonet, the network and network services operating arm of Computer Sciences Corp, El Segundo, work is going full steam ahead to soften up the US market for the French Minitel viewdata system. The two have formed a joint venture, Minitel Services, and are pulling out all the […]
Now that France Telecom owns a slice of Infonet, the network and network services operating arm of Computer Sciences Corp, El Segundo, work is going full steam ahead to soften up the US market for the French Minitel viewdata system. The two have formed a joint venture, Minitel Services, and are pulling out all the stops to win access to Bell company viewdata gateways and the allegiance of information providers. President Joseph Mazzeo told the Newsbytes electronic weekly that Minitel Services, which already serves Houston, Texas through US Videotel, will go live on the entire US West phone system on August 1, while the iffy deal on getting into New York via Nynex Corp’s InfoLook gateway is also looking more promising. Negotiations continue with Bell Atlantic, which recently opened its Bell Atlantic Gateway, and with BellSouth, although as it serves the conservative – and how – south, BellSouth is holding out for a block on Aline, the sexually-oriented service that is the most widely dialled service in the Minitel system in France. Access to the Bell gateways is vital to Minitel because it will mean that subscribers US-wide will be able to access its services with a local phone call, using Minitel emulation software in their MS-DOS or Apple II boxes, or lashing out $500 on a Minitel terminal. The terminal emulation software for micros is being offered free, and Minitel says that it will provide a gateway to viewdata networks in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Finland by the end of 1989. Anyone wanting to be an information provider on Minitel Services simply needs an AT-alike – preferably with 80386 CPU, with an X25 packet assembler-disassembler board, and dedicated phone line. Information providers pay $1,000 up-front plus $1,000 a month network access charge, and will hope to clean up from their share of the 17 cents a minute, $10.20 per hour, that Minitel will charge subscribers. Minitel, which handles all the billing, takes $1.20 an hour for that service, plus another $4.50 an hour for itself, leaving the information providers with $4.50 per hour plus any additional transaction charges they choose to impose. You need people to spend 200 hours a month looking at your fascinating information before you start making money – so it’s unlikely that Computergram will be going up on the system yetawhiles.