The French Connection

Can an American ASP cross the big pond?

Pascal LeTiec, a longtime integration executive in France, had a notion that the application service provider (ASP) model would be the next big thing.

So last year, he started talking to executives at New York-based Mi8 Corp., an ASP specializing in messaging. The discussions first focused on partnering, but ultimately the parties decided that LeTiec would spearhead Mi8s French operations. Mi8 announced the launch of Mi8 France last week and has inked deals with 45 customers.

Patrick Fetterman, Mi8s VP of marketing, credits LeTiecs ties to the French IT market for the fast start. "He has an established connection into the IT community," says Fetterman.

But a surging French market for broadband technology doesnt hurt either. Fetterman notes that Paris has overtaken London and is "moving more quickly" in broadband adoption. Mi8 opened a subsidiary in the United Kingdom in 1999.

LeTiec, managing director of Mi8s French business, says France Telecom is hustling to sign up DSL customers "before the local loop is deployed by their competitors." He says DSL service is affordable. A DSL line with 128Kbps upload and 500Kbps download speeds is priced at 300 francs (about $40) a month. A higher-end service featuring 256Kbps upload and 1,000Kbps download speeds costs 700 francs (about $93), according to LeTiec.

The fast access makes the ASPs offering attractive in the French market, he says.

Paris and its suburbs represent a market of some 15 million people.

LeTiec and Mi8 hope to bring many of them into the ASP fold.