Minitel - Minitel in Other Countries

Minitel in Other Countries

  • Belgium: Minitel was launched by Belgacom and successfully delivered services led by Teleroute until recently. It suffered a rapid decline following the extensive broadband rollout initiated by the Flemish regional government.
  • Canada: Bell Canada experimented with a Minitel-based system known as AlexTel. The system was technically similar to Minitel, with the exception that the telephone connector was modified to use the Bell System RJ-11 standard connectors. Originally launched experimentally in the Montreal area, "Alex" was then launched in most areas served by Bell Canada (primarily Ontario and Quebec) with offers of a free trial period and terminal. Although branded as a "bilingual" (English and French Canadian) service, the majority of the services offered were the experimental ones originally offered in Quebec and completely Francophone. Retention rates were reportedly close to zero. The service closed down shortly after exiting the experimental stage.
  • Germany: "Bildschirmtext" (BTX) is almost as old as Minitel and technically very similar, but it was largely unsuccessful because consumers had to buy expensive decoders to use it. The German postal service held a monopoly on the decoders that prevented competition and lower prices. Few people bought the boxes, so there was little incentive for companies to post content, which in turn did nothing to further box sales. When the monopoly was loosened, it was too late because PC-based online services had started to appear.
  • Ireland: Minitel was introduced to Ireland by eircom (then called Telecom Eireann) in 1988. The system was based on the French model and Irish services were even accessible from France via the code"36 19 Irlande." A number of major Irish businesses came together to offer a range of online services, including directory information, shopping, banking, hotel reservations, airline reservations, news, weather and information services. The system was also the first platform in Ireland to offer users access to e-mail outside of a corporate setting. Despite being cutting edge for its time, the system failed to capture a large market and was ultimately withdrawn due to lack of commercial interest. The rise of the internet and other global online services in the early to mid 1990s played a major factor in the death of Irish Minitel. Minitel Ireland's terminals were technically identical to their French counterparts, except that they had a Qwerty keyboard and an RJ-11 telephone jack which is the standard telephone connector in Ireland. Terminals could be rented for 5.00 Irish pounds (6.35 euro) per month or purchased for 250.00 Irish pounds (317.43 euro) in 1992.
  • Italy: In 1985 the national telephone operator (SIPSocietà italiana per l'esercizio telefonico now known as Telecom Italia) launched the Videotel service. The system use was charged on a per-page basis. Due to the excessive cost of the hardware and the expensive services, diffusion was very low, leading to the diffusion of a FidoNet-oriented movement. The service was shut down in 1994.
  • Netherlands: The then state-owned phone company PTT (now KPN) operated two platforms: Viditel and Videotex Nederland. The main difference was that Viditel used one big central host where Videotex used a central access system responsible for realizing the correct connection to the required host: owned and managed by others. The Videotex services offered access via several primary rate numbers and the information/service provider could choose the costs for accessing his service. Depending on the number used, the tariff could vary 0–1 Dutch guilders (0.00–0.45 euro) per minute. Some private networks such as Travelnet (for travel-agencies) and RDCNet for automotive industry, used the same platform as Videotex Nl but used dedicated dial-in phone numbers, dedicated access-hardware and also used authentication
    . Although the protocol used in France for Minitel was slightly different than the international standard you could use the 'international' terminal (or PC's with the corerect terminal-emulation software) to access the French services. It was possible to connect to most French Minitel services via the Dutch Videotex network, but the price per minute was considerably higher: most French Minitel services were reachable via the dial-in number 06-7900 which had a tarrif of 1 guilder/minute (approx. € 0,45/minute)
  • South Africa: Videotex was introduced by Telkom in 1986 and named Beltel. The Minitel was introduced later to popularise the service.
  • Spain: Videotex was introduced by Telefónica in 1990 and named Ibertex. The Ibertex was based on the French model.
  • Sweden: Swedish state-owned telephone company Televerket tried to introduce a similar service in 1991. It went out of service in 1993. They called it Teleguide, and their terminals were built by IBM.
  • United Kingdom: The Prestel system was similar in concept to Minitel, using dedicated terminals or software on personal computers to access the network.
  • United States: In the early 1990s US West (previously Qwest now CenturyLink) launched a Minitel service in the Minneapolis and Omaha markets called "CommunityLink". This joint venture of US West and France Télécom provided Minitel content to IBM PC, Commodore 64 and Apple II owners using a Minitel-emulating software application over a dialup modem. Many of the individual services were the same as or similar to those offered by France Télécom to the French market; in fact, some chat services linked up with France Télécom's network in France. The service was fairly short-lived as competing offerings from providers like AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe provided more services targeted at American users for a lower price. Many of US West's Minitel offerings were charged à la carte or hourly while competitors offered monthly all-inclusive pricing.

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