The IT and telecommunications market is currently being supported by the broadband, wireless and mobile telephony sectors, which should continue their rapid growth and further drive the industry. The French broadband market is going through an amazing phase of growth and convergence. The number of traditional wire line broadband connections to French residences is increasing steadily, dominated by ADSL. Use of broadband-capable, also known as “Third Generation,” cell phones, is also growing, as they aggressively target a maturing French mobile sector. Wireless broadband connectivity is increasing as well, especially through the spread of public hot spots. France is among the five largest markets – the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – which experienced robust growth in broadband penetration. All five countries now have a per-capita penetration rate of higher than 15 percent.
For consumers, this rising access to broadband is enabling and driven by the growth of e-commerce and e-media consumption in France. For businesses, broadband connectivity is an increasingly integral part of marketing, communication and distribution strategies. The trend in French Internet consumption continues to be more connectivity and better services for less. The number of Internet subscriptions has increased to 19 million as of September 2008, of which 93.6% are for high-speed connections.
The new field of competition for Internet providers in France lies in the convergence of services offered. Most Internet providers now offer VoIP and or Triple Play services (data, television, voice). Mobile usage in France has traditionally lagged behind the European average, but the country has been catching up in recent years. The number of mobile subscribers as of September 2008 reached 57.6 million, and 15% subscribe to 3G services. A further development in the mobile sector is the appearance of MVNOs or Virtual Mobile Network Operators. MVNOs buy minutes from one of the major operators (in this case, Orange, SFR or Bouygues) and then redistribute those minutes to consumers. As of September 2008, MVNOs represented 2.8 million and 5.1 percent of the market.
The telecommunications and IT sectors already play a central role in the French economy. As these sectors experience further growth, the market for infrastructure and equipment and services will continue to offer opportunities to U.S. companies.
General French business and consumer commitment to mobility and broadband consumption is clear. French consumers, particularly the young generation, seem to adapt fully to the continuing convergence of technologies. Consumer demand for mobile products, broadband technology, and services such as video on demand, mobile television and videophones is increasing. Also the exact combination of standards (UMTS, Wi-Fi, WiMax, RFID, etc) within France telecom’s infrastructure is being rapidly established.
As broadband and wireless demand matures the French market for telecom infrastructure, equipment and support services will offer many exciting prospects for American exporters. Security is a major concern of the French consumer in regards to their online activities. French consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for equipment or services, with better security. As broadband usage increases, so will the demand for protection of online transactions, and the need for evolving solutions to old and new Internet menaces (spam, viruses, fraud etc.). Indeed, if demand for security is not satisfied, it may threaten the growth of demand for broadband in general. American companies have historically been more efficient at meeting client demand.