YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesINFOMOBILE PAGING CONSORTIUM BEGINS ERMES SERVICE IN PARIS

INFOMOBILE PAGING CONSORTIUM BEGINS ERMES SERVICE IN PARIS

Preliminary service for the first commercial paging system based on the European Radio Messaging System standard has begun in Paris, according to AirTouch Communications.

Infomobile, a joint venture 18.5 percent owned by Walnut Creek, Calif.-based AirTouch, has launched its ERMES operations in the Paris region. Full commercial service is scheduled to begin next month and the company plans to expand paging service nationwide by 1998.

Infomobile is France’s first private paging operator in France. The nation has four other paging companies, all owned by France Telecom.

ERMES is the European paging standard adopted by 19 European nations. The system operates five times faster than existing paging systems, which allows longer messages to be sent more easily, according to AirTouch. The standard, once implemented throughout Europe, will give customers seamless coverage throughout the continent.

Paging in France is an underdeveloped technology. The country’s penetration rate for paging service is less than 1 percent today, with fewer than 400,000 subscribers. That compares to a penetration rate of more than 8 percent in the United States.

But Sam Ginn, AirTouch’s chairman and chief executive officer, said he expects France’s paging industry to grow. “As consumers experience the benefits of this affordable wireless service, demand continues to flourish,” Ginn said. Two other ERMES networks are scheduled to be launched by year’s end.

Infomobile will offer Parisians new options in paging, such as news headlines, weather forecasts and business news, all free of charge. French paging customers will be able to customize their service package, choosing from a range of offerings that suit their needs, according to AirTouch. Prices are structured to appeal to consumers as well as business users, the company said.

Other Infomobile investors are Bouygues S.A., a public French company with interests in construction, real estate, water and power distribution and communications, owning 55 percent; Veba, a German conglomerate involved in telecommunications, and Societe Generale Capital Developpement, a subsidiary of a large French bank, each owning 10 percent; and Neuflize-Schlumberger-Mallet, a subsidiary of the Dutch financial group ABN-AMRO, holding 6.5 percent of Infomobile.

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