Orange, Zain And Their Towers Of Babel Outside My Home!

We live on a hilltop in Amman and usually cell phone reception is pretty good. I remember a few years ago people would actually park outside our house and make calls. This we thought was strange at first, until of course we discovered it was a hot spot for calling international and getting a clear signal.

Since 2005, our building had agreed to put an Xpress cell phone tower up on the roof in exchange for annual payments. This didn’t really affect my reception with Orange. I should mention now that I have a good (and brand spanking new) phone and that I’m a subscriber with Mobilecom, or what is now called Orange.

I came back to Jordan in January of this year and for several weeks, companies such as Mobilecom (orange), Fastlink (zain) and Umniah (umniah), were debating with the tenants to let them put another tower on top of our roof. Negotiations fell through, I think over a price they were unwilling to pay, which was actually quite average.

A few weeks later both Fastlink and Mobilecom discovered a better solution to the problem these stubborn and uncooperative neighbors posed.

They set up these trailer park boxcars with large antennas, just across the street from us, on the tip of the hip, just off the street.

So basically, within 100 meters of our apartment (if not less), there are two, yes two, giant cell phone antennas.

Now I’ll be the first to confess that what I know of cell phone technology is limited but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that my sudden loss of signals (and by sudden I mean the moment after they began operating) has something to do with all these antennas.

I get messages often times an hour after they were sent. Phone calls are a constant struggle to not move my head because I’ve tilted it just in the right position to hear the other person barely talking to me on the other end. In my room, the far right corner, in the 40 centimeter gap between my closet and the wall, is the only place where I can get some sort of reception.

The same can be said of most of the house.

I’ve tried several phones to no avail.

Any one who comes over, experiences the same problem.

At first it was just a daily nuisance that I figured would resolve itself. Many of the neighbors stopped by to ask whoever they saw working near these boxcars, what the heck they were doing and when they’d be taking them down. They were typically told to mind their own business. At one point, a female neighbor of ours almost got into a fight with one of these workers. Essentially, we all concluded it was temporary; that they were testing out the area or something. But then months rolled by and the towers of Babel remain

So I call up Orange, because they’re my mobile carrier and land line operator after all. They tell me “we’ll get back to you”.

I hung up knowing they wouldn’t.

So I waited outside (in the bushes) until one of the technicians came by to check on the trailer. I ambushed him with several questions to see what information I could get. These are the following points from our conversation in the order of the discussion:

Are you aware of the problem?
1) Don’t worry about it. It will better in a little while (today).

Why is the reception so bad?
2) This area has become condensed with more building (obstructions) and more cell phone users. So that leads to bad reception and that’s why we need more of these towers in the area.

But I used to get great reception before you put these up a few months ago. Plus, I live across the street on the highest building around here.
3) Then it’s not from us. It’s probably from Fastlink (Zain).

Why have these towers here on the ground anyways?
4) No one is willing to rent out their rooftop so we were forced to put them here. How else are we supposed to serve our customers?

But I’m one of your customers and not only am I not being served, I’m being hurt!

5) There’s nothing we can do about that. Try and convince one of your neighbors to let us put it on their roof.

Do you have a license?

6) There is no license, we don’t need a license. It’s not your land.

Who do I call or who can I talk to?

7) The CEO of Orange.

So apparently, at Orange, you have to talk to their CEO if you’re having reception problems. Also, what they do is they hold a neighbourhood hostage, essentially allowing for bad reception to continue until someone caves and allows them to put it on their roof. This conclusion is drawn on the basis that some of our neighbors, specifically those who are not living above the towers on the third or fourth floor, have approached the Orange people over these past few months and gotten similar answers to the similar questions I posed.

We have all called and called them over and over again.

They’ll get back to us.

For the longest time I blamed the GAM and/or the Ministry of Telecommunications for giving these people some sort of license that allowed them to operate on the curbside. But apparently they didn’t do that. However, their reluctance to do anything despite the complaints they’ve received, indicates to me one of two things: either they don’t care or certain strings have been pulled to ensure the situation continues.

So what’s the solution?

In a country whose economy is witnessing the beginnings of a service-led industry, and in a country where that service industry believes that the customer is never ever right; what do you do?

I’m not trying to change the nature of democracy here.

I just want to make a decent telephone call without having to do a headstand.

29 Comments

  • This problem is surely not solved by changing the mobile line, it will need some serious research.

    I mean, who knows what health impact they have on people! does the company have the right to put them there in the first place as you said, what kind of authority do they think they have to make people agree to put their satellites on their building with the offer that suits them!

    Hope this will not fall on deaf ears

  • Man i changed to Umnia ages ago, not only the prices are just beoynd way much cheaper for the same services, but the network is more advanced technology wise, its the only provider that give give you internet of 256kbps right to your handset, or to your laptop if using your mobile as a modem (Assuming your mobile ias EDGE technology). all other networks give you up to 128!

    and believe me, i really dont have complains about the signal at all. promotions and gifts are much better too.

    switch to umnia man i am telling you!

  • and!
    man where do you get that energy to post all that much from?! and where all all the piasters for my thoughts? are you keeping track?

  • I would be much worried about RF exposure than losing your coverage. I would raise the issue from a “health concern” aspect. There have been many (still ongoing) research regarding the hazards of RF exposure. There have been no confirmation yet, but looking @ what happens when food is put in a microwave oven (granted, a much exaggerated citing) would give you an idea. The key word(s) here are “long term constant exposure).

  • For everyone who mentioned the health aspect, I completely agree. This is something I chose not to mention simply because I am not well versed in the extent of their threat.

    I also did not mention the fact that these two towers come on top of box cars which have some sort of machine in them that is incredibly loud!

    For everyone who mentioned I should switch carriers. As Ohoud said, I don’t think that will solve the problem. My friend is with umniah and will get bad reception at my house where there is now a tower for every other cell phone carrier in the country.

    [Khalid: most of my posts these days were prepared before ramadan and are scheduled to be released now. i usually do that when i know i have a busy week ahead of me. And yes, I am keeping track of all the piasters brother. You’re at about half a JD now 😀 ]

  • Nas, I think the reason your reception is very bad is because the two new towers are for carriers that both use the same frequency (GSM 900). This probably causes too much interference seen by your phone, which makes it relatively unable to have its own conversation with the Orange tower.

    Umniah is a GSM 1800 carrier, so it probably never interfered with your Mobilecom of FastLink service, whichever one you had before.

  • Actually,I think you should be more concerned about the health issues.

    I’ve always wondered what the law got to say about your adjacent neighbor putting one of those over their home. And don’t these towers got elec. generators mounted on a trailer? Are they noisy too? Well you know now where to get Diesel in the winter (yes the generators trailers got diesel tanks inside :D)

    Anyways, I thought this was about people vs. corporations thing,I’m a little bit disappointed. I would have loved it to see people lobbying, pressuring the parliament to come up with laws to protect their health. Apparently they are mostly concerned about the quality of their calls.

    As for the reception issue, and I am a tad ignorant when it comes to communications, using directional or bi-directional antennas mean those living right beneath will have issues. I think there is no LOS established or something, ok I better not “atfalsafing”,,,,

  • Ok I’ve just read your reply now NAS.

    These loud things are ELec Generators, they run on Diesel.

    If you need their blueprints….you know who to talk with 😀

  • I found it funny that so many ppl suggested you swtich carriers as a solution, even though you are (or were!) very happy with your current carrier.
    Isn’t it sad how our mindset is? It used to be that the companies really didn’t give a crap about customers because they knew you had no choice: they were the sole providers of the service, so you had to shut up and take it if you wanted the service.
    But now, especially with cell phone service, there is alot of choice and competition (in fact, ALOT of choice given the number of cell phone companies and the size of Jordan!!) that customer service should really be getting better and better instead of worse.

    Its not enough to be polite when you’re calling, but to actually feel that the person on the other end is willing to do something (and actually does!) to fix your problem because they care..

    But yes, until we have a country where you don’t need to (quoting you) “pull certain strings” and actually have to play by the rules, we are never going to start that trek uphill.

  • Firas: thanks for the comments, but I should note that I do feel a health concern but I dont know enough about it to articulate that. That issue aside, the quality of calls is important to me. I make and receive very important work-related calls and I can’t be screaming at important people “can you hear me now?!”

  • Yeah that didn’t cross my mind since I’ve never suffered from this (Overpriced Zain rules).
    When I’ve read the title first I was too excited, I thought we’ll be seeing some action in Jordan, a little bit jealous of Egypt http://www.echr.org/en/ws/02/cellphone.htm
    The last time some people inside Jordan’s Elec authority blow the whistle on high power grids ,they were laid off.
    Nevertheless, anyone who lives under these grids have been offered some money in return of signing a release form (and it was a success for them! A 1000 lera means a lot for many people).

    Aren’t these generators too loud? Call the ministry of environment, if that didn’t work, call some petrol station and tell them about the Disel tanks, they’ll be happy to pump it out at 4am…send these companies a message that they are in the wrong neighborhood .

    Happy Ramadan btw.

  • Nas, how about this…
    Find out who the land owner is where they have the Vans parked, and call them and let them know that someone is illegally parking their trucks on their land.
    If that doesn’t work, then invest in one of those nice little pump guns, and practice shooting on their expensive antennas 🙂

    Good luck, I really hope someone from Orange reads this and actually does something about it! Instead of intimidating customers like that

  • yay no9 nera 😀

    and the loud noise comes from the generator, thats what makes the loud noise, electricity generator to operate the towers of babel.

    btw, hehe, i went with dad couple of months ago to see Babel bil cenima, all the rest of the family was msafreen. we thought that its about babylon, so we watched patiently waiting for the movie to reach the part about Babylon, and waited and waited, and then we forgot the babylon part and indamajna bil filim, after the end and when we left…dad looked at me and said: 6b shoo 3ilaqtoh il filim fi babel?
    hahaha:D

    you reminded me of that now:)

    babel is a nice movie, late i know, you probably watched it already by now:)

    biddi a6ayif 🙁

  • B: thanks! very helpful

    Firas: they’re not as loud as for example those ones they get for construction but they are loud yes.

    Qwaider: I think 9a7eb il 2ard is maf8ood. in other words, missing in action. one of those pieces of land that was inherited by various people all of whom are somewhere else. i’ve suggest the pump gun but my father insists on a slingshot. i’d like to end this without the violence and vigilantism, despites it being some times necessary in Jordan.

    Khalid: loool brother…you are all over the place after ftoor! 😀

  • ** shy face **

    i have a flue and slept after f6oor and woke up with nothing to do while everyone is asleep :*(

    sorry 🙁

  • man i have the same problem back in amman … and the fatlink guys came and checked it … the problem is when u have two or more access points available from your house … and none of them is dominant … any movement of the phone causes a hand-over between the two sources which results in a loss of connection … if u want to be sure thats the case use a headset and keep the mobile on a table or sth ,,, if the calls are clear … then this is ur problem ,,,

    hope i can help

  • just go live somewhere else.. I think it should be easier… you might wanna go back to Canada, the reception must be better there (or go to Karak, they have amazing reception)..see.. many practical solutions that could be easier than getting the company to do anything… I have complained so many times that my Zain reception is very bad, but no one listened! The TRC recently put an ad in the paper asking people to write to them if they have any network problems.. u might wanna try them!

  • Well Nas, ever since your panoramic photo experiment from the roof of your apartment building, I realized that you live in the very building that hosts one of XPress “base stations” that I’ve supervised its erection back in 04, what a juncture, but let me clarify few things and recommend some other:

    – Cellular networks base-stations have yet to prove any health risk to humans, the only “side-effect” to the exposure to its transmitted waves when at “close proximity” is a phenomena called “muscle tissue heating”, its what happens to your ear after a prolong chat on the phone, reddish skin and literally feeling your ear warmed up, and that’s about it.
    – In general, if the antennas (the white rectangular finger-like shape at the tip of the structure) are 6 meters away from the roof and clears 6-meters away from the nearest building(s), that should be enough to avoid being in “close proximity” from the powerful parts of the transmission field of the base-station.
    – and for the health conscious/savvy, a mobile phone transmitting next to one’s head is far too “dangerous” in comparison to a base-station transmitting at the top of the roof of one’s building or the building next door, including those CoWs (Cell-on-Wheels) in front of your house, note that to date, the “danger” of mobile phones and its networks is still a matter of perspective, google “the Stewart report” if you fancy an impartial, official & detailed read into this.

    Back to your dilemma… as some suggested, file a complaint at the environmental police (rangers) against the loud noise generated from the on-board electricity generators of these CoWs. They should’ve used silenced generators when deploying such stations at residential areas.

    And if you’re really devoted to this issue, you can verify if the two companies hold valid municipality and TRC approvals for these locations, the TRC is not very keen with the four operators littering Jordan with unauthorized base-stations.

    As far as the issue of coverage, your best bet as many suggested is to switch operator and have your existing number forward calls to your new one until the matter is resolved, as Isam explain above, your phone is bouncing between two base-stations at close proximity (from your roof: look towards the French school you’ll spot one for Zain and another for Orange) along with the ones in front of your house.

    And by this, I conclude another unnecessary lengthy comment to get-through this part of a Ramadan day (time tend to freeze between Asr and Maghreb).

  • Basem,

    With all do respect:

    1. research has not been able to prove is due to lack of interest rather than lack of evidence.

    2. the 6 meter clearance ensures short term safety. Nothing is said about being exposure to RF (even at lower powers) for hours and days and year, as in living next to an antenna panel.

    3. while mobile phone antennas are also dangerous, you are exposed to the MUCH smaller antennas for much shorter of a time (during a call).

    I am not anti wireless industry, but a country should have laws about where towers are placed, perform EMF studies before setting up the towers, and have hearings about towers as it is done elsewhere.

  • Good Day All,

    I am seeing from previous comments were posted that 1800 MHz is advance technelogy for GSM.

    But i am talking from technical perspective that 900 MHz is much better in serving In-door covarge. the factor of panatration RF signal through building and construction material for 900 MHz is much better.

    New Technologies were built bosed on 2100 Mhz for UMTS service is not effecient such as used on lower frequency range. They commity of standarization for UMTS is Formulating New standard for UMTS based on 900 MHz that already used at GSM.

    So, My advice for you. Use Network having 900 MHz in operation such Zain or Orange.

  • SubhanAllah. Yesterday I went to visit a friend who had moved, and I drove right past this! I was like, wow, there is Naseem’s house. Anyway, my friend lives behind you and down the hill. Outside of her house, I tried to call her and THERE WAS NO RECEPTION! So, you are still right. Ugh. Small world.

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