Orange is a provider of integrated communications that has, since entering the Jordanian market in 1998, become a leader and a staple of the telecommunications sector in Jordan. Venture spoke with Orange Jordan CEO Jérôme Hénique about the origin of Orange’s Jordanian presence, its journey to becoming an indispensible part of the sectors in which it is involved (which have expanded beyond just ICT and now include social outreach), and what’s in store for its future in Jordan.
It has been 17 years since Orange first entered the Jordanian market. What were the main attractions that you saw in the market at the time, and, in hindsight, how do you regard the decision to invest in Jordan today?
There were numerous things that initially attracted us to the Jordanian market. Jordan is characterized by its overall stability despite various regional challenges. We were very much encouraged by His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision of transforming the Kingdom into an ICT hub, thereby contributing to the growth of the country. Additionally, we find that Jordan harbors much talent, as its people have high levels of education, expertise, and passion for what they do in their respective fields. We still remain confident today that our decision to invest in Jordan was well made.
What challenges have you faced since entering the market? How have you overcome them?
Things have changed a lot over the past 17 years, but our primary concern is those challenges that have affected us recently. For example, beginning three years ago, there was a 150% increase in energy costs, in addition to a surge in tax rates and spectrum costs, as well as the lack of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). We have worked diligently to ensure that the adverse effects of these challenges have minimal impact on our operations, including embarking on a revolutionary solar farm project that will drastically decrease our energy expenditures. We are also confident that, with time, the government, the TRC, and all other related entities will be able to find solutions to these issues and enhance the telecommunications industry on a national level.
What has Orange, as a foreign investor, contributed to the Jordanian market?
Historically, Orange has been the backbone of the ICT sector in Jordan, always being the first to introduce the newest technologies in the Kingdom and ensure that the infrastructure is prepared for them, whether they be fixed network, fixed lines, ADSL, fiber, or mobile networks.
Orange Jordan started with 2G, was the first to introduce 3G, successfully launched 4G in 2015, and since then has refurbished its 2G and 3G networks. Moving ahead and motivated by our five-year corporate strategy Essentials 2020 since its launch, we are focusing on Next Generation Networks, which are a new era of networks representing the future of connectivity, including LTE, Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) for individual subscribers, Fiber-To-The-Business (FTTB) for enterprise customers, and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem).
Along with reaching 95% 4G/LTE coverage, we have also already deployed 6,000 kilometers of FTTB cable and are in process of installing more than 700 kilometers of FTTH cable by the end of year, collectively covering a majority of the Kingdom and connecting people to the fastest internet speeds via advanced fiber optic technology.
Additionally, we were the first in the country to launch an IP Point-of-Presence (PoP) back in July, which boasts an impressive capacity of 60Gbps as a starting point and guarantees an enhanced internet experience. Accordingly, we, backed by our global expertise, are successfully enabling these new networks to bring not only businesses but also consumers closer to meeting their connectivity needs with smart homes and offices to make their operations more efficient and effective, positively contributing to the economy. The total amount of investments made by Orange Jordan since 2000 is around USD2 billion.
You’ve shown great interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) recently, and have placed great importance on it in your strategies for upcoming years. Why is CSR so important to Orange?
Along with working to maintain our position as Jordan’s leading high-speed internet provider, we also support national efforts to boost internet penetration and cultivate a knowledge-based economy as part of our refocused CSR strategy, of which one of the key pillars is being a committed operator by serving socioeconomic development with innovative digital services.
We are dedicated to developing fully sustainable CSR programs to give back to the community by focusing on several aspects, such as social solidarity through our longstanding partnerships with Generations for Peace, Tkiyet Um Ali, and the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development. We focus heavily on corporate entrepreneurship responsibility through a variety of initiatives, including sponsorship of students at Princess Sumaya University for Technology, the Orange Yarmouk Innovation Lab at Yarmouk University, and our Business Innovation Growth (BIG) growth-mode startup accelerator program at the King Hussein Business Park.
How is Orange ensuring that it will remain one of the lead innovators in its field in the Jordanian market?
Since the very beginning, we at Orange Jordan have had it as a main goal of ours to reach the top of our field in all aspects, and especially in innovation. We are committed to bringing about an excellent customer experience by providing our subscribers with the most advanced telecommunications services, all backed by the global expertise of Orange Group.
Also, the Orange Jordan Technocentre, our flagship research and development facility, is the platform through which we create, innovate, and bring our ideas into the local market, ensuring that we are one step ahead of our competitors.
In 2013, we launched our Customer Testing Center (CTC) which helps measure customer satisfaction before and after the introduction of new services and offers into the market, and in 2015, BIG was introduced to work hand in hand with Jordanian startups, securing our position as a leading supporter of innovation in the Kingdom.
Moreover, as a reinvigorated vision of ours that was launched with Essentials 2020, we reflect an intrinsic commitment to listening and responding to our customers, providing them with both an unparalleled and unforgettable experience.
This is part nine of a nine-piece story. Other pieces include: