In the line of fire

At the beginning of September, Mickael Ghossein assumed the role of chief executive officer of consolidated telco Jordan Telecom Group. With a controlling strategic investor in France Telecom, and an eye on repelling the bruising domestic telecoms market, Ghossein is betting the future prospects of the telco on integrated services.

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By  Published  October 31, 2006

Make no mistake, Jordan Telecom Group (JTG) CEO Mickael Ghossien believes there are too many players in the Jordanian telecoms market, and he does not like it.

“There are already too many competitors in the market.

You know when you go somewhere like Egypt with a population of 70 million, there are two incumbent mobile operators and they have opened the market to one or two international gateway providers,” Ghossein contends.

Jordan in comparison has three GSM operators, an iDEN provider, and in total 22 licences to offer various types of telecoms services in a population of just 6 million inhabitants.

A standard question CommsMEA puts to incoming business leaders upon their appointment is what their priorities are for the organisations they have taken over.

Ghossein is in little doubt what his are.

“My priority is to oversee the integration of the businesses of Jordan Telecom Group, which have now come together under one company,” he explains.

“I am directly responsible for overseeing the integration of all these various units — Jordan Telecom, MobileCom, Wanadoo and e-Dimension into a single unit,” he adds.

Thus Ghossein's mandate will be to continue the work begun by his predecessor Laurent Mialet who helped introduce the programme of restructuring of JTG and the integration of the businesses under a single umbrella, a development that was announced in February.

At the time of announcement, a single management structure was established, with Ghossein, who had formerly been CEO of mobile operator MobileCom, promoted to executive vice president of JTG. Majd Shweikeh assumed the position of CEO of MobileCom.

Under the single management structure, Nicolas Baudin was appointed general manager of fixed services, while the wholesale business is headed by Clement Charron, with Sami Smeirat confirmed as CEO of the internet and data unit (Wanadoo).

Tamouh Khauli was ratified as CEO of contents (e- Dimension).

Despite the crushing level of competition in the Jordanian telecoms sector, Ghossein is satisfied that his company has a strong position from which it can embark on a valiant defence of its market position.

“JTG's competitive advantages are primarily threefold,” Ghossein asserts.

“The operator's name in the market, its quality of service, and the infrastructure it has already deployed.

We have been improving our services and as a result we are reaping the benefits with subscribers who had previously churned from JTG coming back.”

With operators such as Batelco Jordan and Umniah leveraging cutting edge technologies in order to reduce operational expenses and become more competitive, JTG is being forced to be at the top of its game in order to counter these efforts.

“Competition is good for the consumer and it is good for the companies.

If you are a monopoly you sleep, nothing will happen.

We should take care in how many operators should be in the market when competition arrives,” Ghossein comments.

The looming threat of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) as a consumer proposition has loomed large in the Jordanian market earlier than most in the region given the large degree of deregulation in the domestic telecoms sector.

JTG has tackled the threat posed by VoIP headon, last year launching its own voice offering over broadband, the Livebox.

However, Ghossein still does expect revenue leakages as a result of the uptake of consumer VoIP services.

“VoIP has definitely impacted revenues, but there are ways of limiting the impact,” suggests Ghossein.

“There are two kinds of VoIP services and JTG is already strong in the market for VoIP for internal use in businesses and enterprises.

The operator already has between 1,000 - 1,500 (corporate) customers. The second type of VoIP is the international traffic and this is where revenue leakages occur.

The offer of bundled services is one way to counter such services,” he adds.

Another clear value-driver that Ghossein sees is the Jordanian telco's association with leading European telco France Telecom.

As a result of a transaction finalised in July, France Telecom assumed a majority interest in Jordan Telecom, together with an option to purchase a further 1% in Jordan Telecom's capital, for a maximum consideration of JOD12.9 million (US$18.2 million).

“The benefit of France Telecom's controlling stake is to integrate JTG into the France Telecom family.

JTG's 3,000 employees have now been incorporated into a larger France Telecom family that has a presence in 220 countries,” Ghossein explains.

In September, JTG adopted the ampersand logo synonymous with the France Telecom Group, marking a first move towards aligning itself with the French telco, and Ghossein confirms the full Orange brand will be adopted in Jordan, in line with France Telecom's moves to extend the Orange brand across all of its activities.

“The Orange brand is more than a name.

It is set of values and will be rolled out in Jordan within a year,” asserts Ghossein.

“Market acceptance trials are already underway.”

A year ago, former Jordan Telecom CEO Mialet told CommsMEA, “In my mind, Jordan Telecom Group is or will very soon be a wholly-owned subsidiary of France Telecom. So we are totally linked to the future of France Telecom.”

At the time, he spoke of France Telecom's improved financial standing, which had freed Jordan Telecom to become more acquisitive in its outlook.

He said that he and his management team had been given the authority to seek investment opportunities throughout the Levant, Gulf and Egypt.

“The important point is that money is back in the (France Telecom) Group.

So there is money to develop products, to develop business and it is back to expansion because as the value of each market declines, the Group has to expand to ensure growth,” Mialet said at the time.

Ghossein has a slightly different vision of JTG's role in the search for investment opportunities in the region.

Mialet had identified Bahrain and Egypt as two countries that Jordan Telecom was interested in entering, as part of a competitive play, given that operators from these two markets were present in Jordan and challenging Jordan Telecom at home.

“We are not ready to sign anything yet...but the markets we are interested in are Bahrain and Egypt because they attacked us.

Batelco and Telecom Egypt are in Jordan. So we must go to their countries and make them weaker.”

Today, JTG's expansion ambitions appear significantly more muted.

“France Telecom will pursue opportunities in the region in consultation and cooperation with JTG, but at the France Telecom level, not at JTG level,” says Ghossein.

“ JTG is more interested in pursuing more affordable opportunities like international gateway licences in the region,” he adds.

“There are already too many competitors in the market.

You know when you go somewhere like Egypt with a population of 70 million, there are two incumbent mobile operators and they have opened the market to one or two international gateway providers”


“The Orange brand is more than a name.

It is set of values and will be rolled out in Jordan within a year”

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