The postal service is one of three key sectors which are targeted for liberalisation under the kingdom’s two-year national ICT strategy, which was officially launched on 14 September. Further plans are expected to be announced in early 2005 for the liberalisation of the fixed-line telecoms sector. State-owned Jordan Telecomloses its monopoly on 31 December 2004.

‘At the moment we are working on introducing a licensing process with the regulator, and hopefully by the beginning of January we will be ready to start awarding licences,’ says ICT Minister Fawaz Zubi. ‘We are looking to license carefully in limited areas that use existing resources. I already have four EoIs sitting on my desk, but we are proceeding with a limited number of firms and this will be a closed process.’

The government is also preparing to solicit interest in the local mobile market, where market penetration remains comparatively meagre at under 25 per cent, while draft plans for the liberalisation of the IT sector are expected to be submitted to the cabinet by the end of September.

‘Hopefully this is a formality, then the policy document will go back to the regulatory commission, which will then issue a request for applications,’ says Marwan Juma, chairman of the Information Technology Association of Jordan and chief executive of Batelco Jordan. ‘It will be an open process with an unlimited number of applications, and no limit on the number of service licences on offer – the WTO stipulates that we cannot put a limit on the number of people entering the market. Hopefully, that will enable Jordan to offer services we have not been able to before on a regional basis, such as outsourcing and call centres. You’ll see a lot of changes.

‘I think next year will probably be messy – it always is in these cases – but after that you’ll see the dust settle as competition takes hold and you’re left with a few good players. You’ll see the market settling down towards the end of 2005 and early 2006.’