By Ahmed Naser
MobileCom will come out kicking and screaming this coming September when it launches its services to the public, according to statements made by company officials at a press conference on Monday.
"We want to take 50 percent of new customers before the end of the year," Jean-Luc Vuillemin, MobileCom's CEO told reporters at a press conference.
"We expect to have between 40,000 to 50,000 subscribers by the end of the year," he added.
MobileCom estimates that there will be a total number of 240,000 subscribers by the end of the year.
To date, incumbent operator Fastlink, according to insiders, has 150,000 subscribers, of which 74,000 are EZ-Link, prepaid customers. Fastlink appears to be moving away from focusing on post-paid deals to prepaid as its coming strategy to face-up to MobileCom. In June alone, Fastlink sold 21,000 new EZ-Link subscriptions, according to the insider.
MobileCom, according to Vuillemin will adopt post-paid within its strategy. "Cheap and effective."
As to whether or not MobileCom will cut rates, Vuillemin said "we will compete on all sectors, all segments, all services," without divulging tariff related issues.
MobileCom has so far not given clear statements regarding per-minute charges or other related tariffs.
The firm, however, has issued statements saying that its service would be "better" due to a more advanced network and more attention directed towards customer care related issues, while adopting the mantra that recent price cuts from Fastlink are a result of their expected entrance into the market.
"Now we can see that the price of mobile telephony is coming down, not fast enough but slowly, to its real value," Vuillemin told reporters during the press conference.
Indeed, Fastlink, which enjoyed a five-year exclusivity period dropped rates earlier this year after negotiations with the government on interconnect and frequency related issues. The settlement between Fastlink and the government was reached after three years of on and off negotiations. An outcome of the negotiations are discounts of over 50 percent on interconnect rates, tax exemptions on telecom infrastructure equipment till the year 2003 and a drop in revenue sharing from 20 to 10 percent.
According to MobileCom's license, it enjoys the same benefits and when it launches on September 15, with a full portfolio of services, according to company officials, it will have 94 percent coverage of Jordan with over 200 base-stations and a total wireless bandwidth of an eight megahertz pair.
MobileCom has built its network using gear it purchased through Ericsson, the Swedish telecom infrastructure giant, in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth $35 million in March. According to sources inside MobileCom, the firm started testing its network earlier this month.
Meanwhile, one of the start-up operator's marketing toys may have been put to bed. At its inception, MobileCom, which will use the 077- prefix may not be given number slots starting with 5, 6, 7 and 8 -- currently in use by Fastlink. Industry sources told Albawaba.com that the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) would offer MobileCom number slots beginning with 2, 3 and 4, to inhibit external churn between Fastlink and MobileCom. Later on, when MobileCom filled up these slots, the TRC would allow it to use the 5,6,7,8, etc. number slots.
At the press conference on Monday, Vuillemin said that this was a "small problem and that it had not been settled with the TRC yet."
MobileCom is a subsidiary of Jordan Telecom, the majority state-owned fixed lines monopoly that is 40 percent owned by France Telecom. According to Reuters, MobileCom recently raised its capital by an extra $50.7 million from an initial equity of around $79 million. Vuillemin has been quoted as saying that the firm anticipates around $500 million of investments in expanding MobileCom's network over the next three years to cater for fast growing demand in Jordan.
MobileCom forecast Jordan's mobile penetration rate rising to at least 10 percent within the next 2-3 years from a current 2.5 percent -- (Albawaba.com)
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