Jordan Telecom upgrades SDH backbone network

TRENDS

By EDWARD HARROFF

In one of the fastest-growing markets in the Middle East, the national operator, Jordan Telecom, has invested several million dollars to boost its network capacity significantly with a broadband SDH network expansion. These rejuvenated network connections of the national system to all but two major cities provide full broadband services. Jordan's eight Internet service providers (ISPs) took immediate advantage to launch a series of new business services.

The Amman Middle and North Transmission Project has also boosted Jordan Telecom's geographical coverage. It spans more than 1,000 route-km and has deeper node density, which increases the backhaul network to 90 nodes nationally. Jordan Telecom, 40% owned by France Telecom, also awarded further network up grades to Marconi, including a strategic SDH fiber-optic link between the capital of Amman and Al 'Aqabah (a major tourist attraction on the Red Sea), which provides greater bandwidth between these two important cities. This key international telecommunications traffic route has also been reinforced with the completion of the second routing of the same broadband capacity.

Jean-Louis Vareille, chief technical officer at Jordan Telecom, says Marconi's Middle East team secured the contract through a highly proactive, responsive approach: "Marconi's willingness to undertake supply, installation, and commissioning of the new SDH equipment within a tight six-month time scale was a key factor in the win," he explains.

"Jordan is on the verge of explosive technology sector growth," says Michel Bon, CEO of France Telecom. Last year, France Telecom and the Amman-based Arab Bank paid $508 million for a 40% stake in Jordan Telecom and are now investing $400 million in the data network and other telecommunications services like the MobileCom GSM network.

Some companies are planning more extensive regional service. "Jordanians have the technical and financial skills, and we will combine these with Dubai's strategic relationships and Lebanese marketing abilities," says Hazem Malhas, CEO of Aregon, which plans to launch the Middle East's first full transactional business-to-business Internet portal in 2001.

Jordan's two largest ISPs, Global One (Jordan), acquired by Jordan Telecom for $12.8 million in January 2001, and National Equipment & Technical Services, now owned by Bahrain's Batelco, have cut rates to customers. These service groups intend to leverage their Internet access traffic along the enhanced backhaul SDH network. Global One is planning to offer high-speed ADSL services for both residential and corporate customers. Jordanian enterprises are also developing Internet-based services across the network.

Jordan Telecom is the largest operator and provider of telecommunications services in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, since it owns the nationwide network that constitutes the base for the various communications services in the kingdom. The country's young King Abdullah II has decreed that Jordan get its 5.1 million people linked up to the "information highway" as soon as possible.

"With its stable political environment and well-educated workforce, Jordan represents one of the Middle East's most promising regions for growth," says Rod Smith, executive vice president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Marconi.

"By enhancing their SDH national network, Jordan Telecom is making the first step to move to high-speed broadband connectivity that is creating the Digital Divide among nations of today's world," adds Stephane Teral, director of optical transport, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, at market researcher RHK Inc.

The network is based on an IP platform with ATM core switching, built on a version of Jordan Telecom's SDH network. The network will be operated by Jordan Telecom with private companies offering new data services.

Edward Harroff writes on telecommun ications issues from Bellevue, Switzerland, for the GEID Press Agency (Paris).

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