Batelco Jordan sets new goals, lowers prices
Jordanian net surfers can finally start to reap the benefits of a significant decrease in leased line prices announced by the Kingdom's telecommunications company at the beginning of the year.
One of Jordan's eight Internet service providers (ISPs) launched on Saturday a new subscription package starting from 16.5 Jordanian dinars per month for unlimited Internet usage.
The move comes amid growing efforts by the government and private sector to increase the so far disappointing Internet penetration, and rise by five-fold the current number of users to reach the set goal of 500,000 within the next two years.
“This is our response to Jordan Telecom's [decision] to lower corporate prices by [some] 50 percent,” said Marwan Juma, CEO of the newly established Batelco Jordan, providing Internet services under the NETS name.
Juma told a press conference that the packages now in offer for JD16.5-JD19 were previously sold at around JD40: The decrease in prices would therefore be more than 50 percent. NETS were the first successful case of acquisition on Jordan's ISP scene.
With a more than JD10 million deal, the Bahrain Telecommunication Company (Batelco) formed in November a pioneering merger deal with local ISPs First Telecommunication Group (Firstnet) and NETS.
Under the deal, Batelco — owned 80 percent by the Bahrain government, together with banks and Gulf Cooperation Council countries' investors, and 20 percent by Cable & Wireless — has acquired 51 percent of the new Batelco Jordan, while NETS and Firstnet own the remaining shares.
Having gathered the 2,600 clients of Firstnet and the more than 6,000 customers of NETS (in addition to some 100 corporate accounts), Batelco-Jordan boasts that it is now the country's largest ISP, with some 9,000 clients out of a total of 25,000 subscribers across the Kingdom.
The company, Juma said, will be announcing more packages and initiatives in the near future, while concentrating on further developing Internet content. “We were the first to work on content and will develop that even further. We already have a team working to expand it and will soon bring in new people.”
Shortly after the acquisition of NETS by Batelco — finalized only recently, but in the works since the first IT Forum, convened by King Abdullah last March — another acquisition hit the relatively small local IT scene.
Jordan Telecom announced last month a $12.8 million deal to buy Global One, another leading ISP. Information technology firms have said they managed to attract some $60 million in foreign direct investment over the past year and a half.
But IT entrepreneurs remain skeptical about the possibility of dramatically raising Internet penetration, in a country where one third of the population lives below the poverty line. Not only are personal computers still prohibitively expensive for many, but ISPs have also complained that local call rates — currently at 10 fils per minute during daytime and 10 fils per 86 seconds at night and on public holidays — are too high.
Post and Telecommunications Minister Fawwaz Zu'bi announced late last week that he had asked the Postal Savings Fund to come up with ideas to offer financing schemes enabling customers to buy PCs through small monthly installments (JD10-15 per month). — ( Jordan Times )
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)