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French Version

Fastlink and Jordan Telecom battle over digits

Fasklink's decision to add a seventh digit to its client's numbers is now temporarily frozen by a verdict made by the Higher Court on 29 October.

Fasklink's decision to add a seventh digit to its client's numbers is now temporarily frozen by a verdict made by the Higher Court on 29 October. Fastlink officials say they are preparing for further legal proceedings to reverse the verdict.

Officials at Jordan Telecom Co (JTC) and MobileCom, the second largest provider of mobile services in the country, believe such a change in Jordan's numbering system may not be necessary. They feel the issue must be researched. If a decision is made in favor of changing the numbers, then more time will be needed to implement it professionally and efficiently.

The debate between Jordan Telecom and Fastlink emerged last September when the latter decided to add a seventh digit to its cellular phone numbers. Officials at Fastlink said the change in the numbering plan is a must to cope with the growth of its client base.

"Fastlink urgently needs to add the seventh digit, since the current number of clients, currently at 650,000, is expected to increase to 700,000 by the end of this year," Michael Dagher, Fastlink's Chief Executive Officer, told reporters in a press conference on 3 November. Dagher pointed out his company will invest $100 million to cope with this which is expected to reach 1.10 million.

Jordan Telecom believes "it's our company's right to have a sufficient period to adjust to the new changes," said Olivier Faure, Chief Marketing Officer at JTC. He, however, didn't specify the amount of time the company needs. "Changing the numbering plan will affect the networks, operators and billing system." If a change in Jordan's numbering system is to occur then all concerned parties should be informed not less than 12 months before," Faure stated.

Fastlink originally sought permission from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) to make the addition. The TRC approved. Jordanians, through the media, were informed such a change would take place on 21 September. However, JTC objected to not being officially informed prior to the date of the change.

The TRC held several meetings with officials from both companies. Negotiations ended with a decision from the TRC to delay the change in the numbering until the beginning of November. But JTC objected again to fixing a date without its prior approval. Then the company filed a case with the Higher Court of Justice to halt the change.

According to the Court's verdict, the change in numbering will be frozen until further notice. The court also imposed a JD 30,000 "judicial warranty" on JTC for potential losses that the defendant, Fastlink, might incur. Dagher, who respects anyone's right to go to court, believes the warranty is not in line with the potential damages that Fastlink will endure. "If the lawsuit remains at court for months and we become unable to serve our clients with new numbers, then the possible damages will be closer to millions of dinars," Dagher said.

The impact of this situation in one of the crucial sectors of the economy was evaluated differently by both sides.

"I believe suspending a decision made by the TRC will badly affect the authority of the commission," Dagher explained. "The TRC is the official body entrusted to organize the telecommunication sector in the country."

Hence, Dagher believes investors might now become skeptical about investing in this form of technology "which is not governed by established rules," he said.

Faure, however, doesn't believe these differences will affect the reputation of telecommunications in the Kingdom. "In all open markets, it's natural to find differences among competitors in the same sector," Faure told The Star.

"What we want to achieve is that legislation in this field should be respected by all the concerned parties." He pointed out there is no intention by JTC to withdraw its case from court.

Dagher told The Star they will abide by the court's verdict and their lawyers plan to resubmit their case to counter the court's decision. *

Ibtisam Awadat
The Star

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