The Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (National Telecommunications Enterprise, or ENTel) was an Argentine state owned company which had the monopoly on public telecommunications in the country until its privatization in 1990.
It was originally set-up in 1948 during the government of President Juan Perón, nationalizing all the assets and services of the private companies that had operated Argentina's telephone services until that point.
On creation, the unit was originally known as Teléfonos del Estado (State Telephones). In 1957, this was changed to ENTel, the name it retained until its dissolution, apart from a brief interval in 1960, when it was known as the Empresa Nacional de Teléfonos (National Telephone Company).
ENTel oversaw an expansion and modernisation of the country's telecommunications, but with arrival of the military dictatorship of 1976-83 began a period of stagnation which had an adverse effect on the quality of service and on waiting lists for service and repairs, to the point that to get a phone line had to wait up to 15 years. The Raúl Alfonsín administration attempted to modernize and expand service at ENTel with the Megatel plan, though the effort was ultimately hampered by the company's financial difficulties, which included losses of half a million dollars daily, and debts of over US$370 million.
Access to telephone service in Argentina remained low in comparison with nations of similar income level, with around 3.5 million lines for 8.5 million households, as well as antiquated, as seven out of eight units were rotary phones. The company, in 1990, was among the first proposed for privatization during the government of President Carlos Menem.
ENTel was privatised by being split into two companies: Sociedad Licenciataria Norte S.A. and Sociedad Licenciataria Sur S.A.. These, in turn, were sold to France Télécom and Telefónica de España (both State enterprises themselves, at the time) during a 1990 bidding process presided over by Menem's appointed receiver, María Julia Alsogaray. Upon their transfer, these entities became known as Telecom Argentina and Telefónica de Argentina, respectively. The total value of the sale reached US$7.3 billion, and included the retirement of US$5 billion in foreign debt.
Purchasing a divided national phone market along roughly equal sides of a north-south line, each company was given an initial, 7 year monopoly beginning November 8, 1990. At the same time, other companies were given exclusive licences for international long distance, telex and cellular phone service. ENTel remained in existence for a number of years as a residuary body, running off existing contracts and completing the details of its sale.
- Clarín. February 12, 1989.
- Argentina: From Insolvency to Growth. World Bank Press, 1993.