By Marie Carpenter
In 1967, the French telecommunications administration had less than 4 million subscribers, all of them in France. Today, France Télécom Orange has 200 million clients throughout the world. How did this small state utility become one of the world’s global telecom operators?The transformation occurred over a period of decades but a major impetus was given by the program to provide “a telephone for all” in France in the 1970s. This initiative was launched and driven by the director general of the French telecommunication’s administration at the time, Gérard Théry. His memory of the decision to deploy the French telephone network throughout the country is one “driven by politics. It was a deliberate act of industrial policy, along with the Ariane rocket launch, nuclear power and the TGV fast-train network”. Two other major decisions taken at that time involved the complete digitalization of the telecommunications networks and the launch of the Minitel, the French telematics eco-system. France thus pioneered the era of the digital society.
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