The Jordanian telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), has awarded the country’s third GSM licence to Umniah Telecommunications and Technology Company (Umniah), a joint venture led by Kuwaiti conglomerate Alghanim Industries. According to Umniah’s CEO Michael Dagher, formerly the top man at rival cellco Fastlink, his new employer plans to invest JOD250 million in its network, employing 500 direct and 1,500 indirect staff. Umniah is believed to have struck partnership arrangements with, amongst others, Huawei Technologies of China. Huawei will aid Umniah with the roll out of its network infrastructure; other partners include HP Hewlett Packard and BRIDGE Consulting.
Six companies initially expressed an interest in bidding for the Jordanian licence and in January 2004 four were invited to enter the tender. In addition to the eventual winner, the three other parties were Bahrainian telco Batelco, a joint venture between Lebanon’s Investcom and Luxembourg’s Scancom, and a consortium involving Saudi Arabia’s Oger Corp, Inquam and Qualcomm.
Umniah will enter a market already occupied by three players; MTC-Vodafone’s Fastlink, Jordan Telecom’s Mobilecom and Xpress, an iDEN-based operator which is expected to launch services later this month. In terms of penetration, at the end of December 2003 Jordan was home to 1.29 million wireless customers, representing a penetration rate of 24.9%. Fastlink maintains a firm grip on the sector with 930,000 customers at the end of the year, compared to Mobilecom’s 356,000.