Jordan’s newest mobile network operator Umniah Mobile Company (UMC) has selected China’s largest equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies to roll out its GSM-1800 network in time for its planned launch in June 2005; no financial details were disclosed. The deal covers the supply of GSM/GPRS and EDGE equipment designed to facilitate the smooth upgrade to 3G technology. UMC hopes its 1800MHz frequency will provide for superior indoor coverage and enhanced sound quality as it looks to take on the might of Jordan’s two incumbent GSM mobile operators Fastlink and MobileCom, which between them had 1.6 million subscribers at the end of December 2004; a third player, Xpress Mobile, provides an iDEN-based, radio-trunking mobile service.
UMC, a joint venture led by Kuwaiti conglomerate Alghanim Industries, was awarded its concession by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) in June 2004 . Six companies 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. Following the licence award, Umniah’s CEO Michael Dagher, formerly the top man at rival cellco Fastlink, said the newcomer planned to invest JOD250 million in its network, employing 500 direct and 1,500 indirect staff. The cellco plans to focus its efforts on signing up residential and small enterprise customers and hopes to boost Jordan’s cellular penetration rate to around 55% to 60% within seven years, up from around 30% currently.