(Jordan Times ) — MobileCom, Jordan’s second mobile operator owned by Jordan Telecom (60 percent) and France Telecom (40 percent), announced Monday that it will launch its services on September 15.
The top executives of the company told at a press conference that as of the first day of operations, MobileCom's GSM network would cover 94 percent of the population, mainly through the installation of additional sites on the main desert corridor connecting the Kingdom to Iraq.
MobileCom CEO Jean-Luc Vuillemin said services offered as of September 15 would include pre-paid and post-paid lines, voice-mail, SMS service, and fax-data solutions. Vuillemin also anticipated that MobileCom would soon tread the new territory of WAP technology (Wireless Application Protocol), thus allowing subscribers to access the Internet, banking, and a host of other services through mobile phones.
"Only five months ago, we committed ourselves before His Majesty King Abdullah and all Jordanians to provide an alternative mobile operator," Jordan Telecom Director General Shabib Ammari proudly told journalists, referring to Jordan's first IT Forum, in March. "Though I always wanted to believe it, it seemed impossible, too ambitious. But here we are today."
Ammari noted that the equipment utilized and installed by MobileCom was "the year 2000 vintage by Ericcson," provided by Sweden's mobile telephony giant to only another five networks throughout the world.
"Do not forget that 60 percent of MobileCom belongs to the people of this country," Ammari stressed, referring to the shares owned by the government through the Social Security Corporation.
But Jordan's second, in chronological terms, mobile operator counts on other strategies to lure customers from its rival, Fastlink, than touching Jordanians' nationalistic chord. "Jordanians can already see the benefits of competition," Vuillemin said. "Prices are dropping, new offers are appearing and new services are developing. But the best is still to come, and in the end, mobile telephony will be more friendly, simple, and affordable for all."
Nearing the end of its five-year exclusivity period, Fastlink—a totally private enterprise owned by giant Motorola and Arab shareholders—has launched an aggressive expansion drive. It recently signed a JD20 million-loan agreement with the Housing Bank for Trade and Finance, to finance the development and expansion of its network, investments in equipment, as well as an intensive training scheme to enhance the performance and skills of its employees.
With 160,000 declared subscribers and 350 employees, Fastlink has in the past few weeks opened new shops and launched an SMS service.
But MobileCom promises a very fierce battle. "We want to take at least 50 percent of new customers by the end of the year. We are not here to be number two but number one," Vuillemin said. He estimated that, due to competition and consequently lower prices, the total number of subscribers could reach 240,000 by year-end. According to his market targets, MobileCom would count 45-50,000 users by that time.
"We have already started training personnel on customer care, because we believe that this is one of the most important aspects," Vuillemin said. The company, which prides itself with being "a local company with a tiny French touch" since the arrival of a handful of France Telecom veterans, including Vuillemin, has so far employed 240 Jordanians. "But we are still recruiting, said Chief Marketing Officer Vincent Brunet.
Fastlink and MobileCom will duel alone until 2004, when, according to the licenses granted to them under the Telecommunications Law, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission will be free to authorize new mobile operators.
By Francesca Ciriaci
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )