The Socioeconomics Of Faster Internet In Jordan

A bit of news has been spreading like wildfire these past few days in Amman: the new 8mb ADSL Internet connection from Orange. The advertisements have been popping up all over town and it naturally got me thinking about what such a leap in speed might mean for Jordan. Yes, it is not the most significant event, but in a country this small the ripple effects of such a move can be pretty interesting.

Internet is not a commodity that is, as of yet, wide spread in the Kingdom. While many people do have access to the Internet through their workplace, through Internet cafes, through schools, universities and various other places, Internet penetration, as defined by the number of subscribers, remains relatively low. So for those who do have, say, Internet access at home, the pool is some what small.

The number of those people who have ADSL connections is even smaller.

The number of those people who have the fastest ADSL connection available is even smaller.

You can probably pinpoint the locations of Internet connections based on demographics versus connection speed. Faster connections are more expensive and so the richer you are, the more likely you are to have a faster connection. Wealth equals speed in this equation.

So with the leap now being made from a 2mb connection all the way to an 8mb – taking the price from around 300JDs to 600JDs a year – we can probably use Google Maps to pinpoint the very homes and places that will have the latest gift of high-speed Internet access.

And it makes me wonder whether this is giving way to a form of elitism (even though I hate that word lately) when it comes to Internet access.

My argument here is not against having faster Internet connections in the country, but rather suggesting that the direction this technology is advancing should be more towards making the Internet more affordable and therefore, more widespread, as opposed to more expensive and therefore more refined demographically.

You have to ask yourself, when it comes to the direction this online, inter-connected world is moving in right now, right this minute – is it right to package the Internet as a commodity of luxury, affordable only to the few?

Why can’t policymakers find a way to allow for free and/or very affordable Internet to various neighborhoods around the country? I’m not saying that all of Jordan should become a hot-spot (although that would be my ideal dream in the absence of private sector control) but, for right now, I think there are ways to turn specific areas in to “Internet Zones”. I would not mind my tax money paying for it. I’d admire more private sector companies picking up the tab with a little advertisement in it for them. Heck, how about a group of companies teaming up with a single Internet service provider?

Think about this for a minute: places that offer the public free WiFi are typically located where? Cafes, restaurants, Wakalat Street in Swefieh? You don’t see too many patrons of these places going there for the Internet. Do you know why? Because they have it at home and it’s probably faster! The country isn’t loaded with many public libraries, at least not the sort where the ordinary citizen can come in and enjoy free public Internet. So this makes even public venues more constricted to (shudder) elitist neighborhoods. Many Jordanians, as I mentioned earlier, do find a way to get connected for brief moments in a given day, but, it shouldn’t have to be such a struggle.

And on a second note:

While the goal of the private sector is to offer faster and thus, pricier, Internet connections, I’m just as concerned with maintaining the speeds we already have! Our current networks are already unsustainable. Rarely do you get the speed that you pay for. Internet disruptions are frequent and sometimes lengthy. In the past they may have been brushed off as minor inconveniences, similar to one’s telephone being disconnected. But today, so much of what we do, our education, our communication, our business activities, our transfer of knowledge, is all done on a minute-by-minute basis, every single day. When the connections slow down or come to a halt, it can be chaotic.

It is the 21st century, and there should be a recognition that there is indeed a correlation between Internet penetration and the advancement of a country. There is a great deal of untapped potential for a country like Jordan simply because the net is not affordable to so many people, nor is it sustainable for those who have it. That’s a deadly combination when we are striving to become members of a globalized community that is increasingly, if not almost completely reliant on being interconnected via the Web.

 This Post Was Inspired By: Ahmad Humeid

20 thoughts on “The Socioeconomics Of Faster Internet In Jordan

  1. Well, it is obvious that after Zain entered the internet market, the competition is fierce! batelco is no where to be seen, others are satisfied with the retention of its customers base, the struggle is now limited to Orange and Zain, while another battle is goin on with WIMAX and WI-Tribe, but they are still way behind. though while writing this comment, im considering switching to the wireless companies.

    Orange Telecom is struggling behind Zain and Umniah, and now they are trying to keep up with zain on the internet pricing. the prices will go down even more. and the service level will deteriorate even more (hopefully not)

    I think the only reason we are seeing the 8mb adsl now is because of the 3g mobile license belated talk as it offers high speed internet in UAE, KSA and maybe others in the region.

    I work closely with JTC, and since the beginning of this year, their service level is worse with each passing day, they have a high turnover in staff, and with rumors of layoffs in the near feature.

    If we live in the same building, I am a Zain adsl user, and you are an orange adsl user, we both report an identical problem in the adsl line at the same time, your orange adsl will be fixed and mine will be fixed after yours in a couple of days, JTC are pulling cheap tricks on other ISPs lately, accidentally turning off their switches and routers and so forth, Big corporations will sink that low!

    I’m still 512kb adsl, my brother is on 2MG, in reality the only difference is now he is watching faster youtube vids, and downloading on faster rates, the browsing habits are the same. the quality of web functions are the same, Work wise, corporates need the 8mb to serve its staff, on home usage, i agree it might be indeed elitism to have it

  2. I attended a semenar about communication a while ago, an Irish engineer who is a senior consultant at the British Telecommunication Comapny gave many lectures.

    Alot of the papers he discussed and the lectures he gave are related to what you are talking about. His job basically is to go around the world to third world countries that dont have mobile phones networks and create one. or upgrade existing ones to more modren ones, and that goes to both mobiel phones and land lines. i am an environment engineer so i didnt get some of the technical part, but the bottom line is this: the world is heading towards providing super fast internet to nearly everyone and for super cheap prices.

    The technology they are working on promoting allows home users to get speed up to 100Mbps. yes, you heard me right, one hundred. few days after he told us, and when he went back home, he forwarded me an article published that day, on a major british newspaper promising that service. The more exciting part too, is that there are ways to make fast internet super cheap. one of the technologies is to use the power grid (as in the existing electricity network) to provide internet, all you need is to plug a small device into any electricity source, and you w ill have super fast internet. as simple as that. no costs for infra structure, no need for maintanence, nothing.

    Faster internet opens wide doors. instead of having to have a hospital in every little city with many doctors, that can sometimes be replaced with a small clinic with a nurse and super fast internet, enabling doctors to have the ability to operate remotely using video conference and robots that all require super fast internet to deliver motion precise and on time. no need for a school in every village, one teacher giving a lecture in interactive means with students all over the surrounding villages using super fast internet. the possibilities for fast internet are limitless. But it all requires goverment-scale planning and some time for that technology to get to us. they said maybe next time in the UK. so inshalla within our life time in Amman! By that time, it wont be elitism to have super fast internet, is could be a life necessity just as schools and hospitals are!

    I have a dream! 🙂

  3. The advertising line is so attractive, but is Orange really going to deliver? I wonder.
    Even in the UK, I don’t think people get the full speed they pay for with their contract, and it’s geographically based there as well. Truth is, these advertising campaigns entail more hoax than truth; as the contract starts with a high speed and level of service, and declines as the months pass by! With this particular case; I am expecting the worst, but hoping for the best 🙂

  4. You have a fair argument. I haven’t been to Jordan for a few years so maybe I lost touch, but I don’t remember us being so dependent on the internet. I don’t remember students taking online courses or doing exams thru the internet, or studying from online websites for that matter except on a very limited scale. I don’t remember being able to pay any kind of bill thru the internet or doing bank transactions or shopping using the internet.

  5. I don’t see how a free “mesh” network in the poorer neighbourhoods of Amman would work. If people there are unable to pay for their own home Internet connection, how could they pay for the cost of buying and running a PC to take advantage of the free Internet-goodness?

    I guess the Government would have to offer PCs at massive discounts, with very attractive financing options — 3/4/5JD per week? Presuming, say, 2,000 people take the Government up on this offer, they would be out of pocket for over a million dinars. No small amount. And, let’s not forget, this operation is being run by a Government — it’s not going to go smoothly. What local jobs will it create? And what when breakdowns occur — who coughs up a 100JD for a new hard drive?

    Instead, I think this is a greate opportunity for the private sector:

    Open an Internet cafe, charing, say, .75JD per hour? And 250 fils for every hour after that? That’s a 1.5JDs for four hours Internet use. Buy the PCs, desks, AC unit, etc, from local shops to help support local businesses — it’ll help ender you to the neighbourhood. Hire local people to staff it: a lovely receptionist to point people to their PCs, a security guard to watch over things, someone to serve drinks (alternative revenue stream) and another person to make sure things tick over smoothly. That’s four people who didn’t used to have jobs now pushing money into the local economy. Now to mention the thousands you’ve spent doing the place up. And the taxes the Government will earn. And all those new Facebook/Yahoo Mail/news reading, Internet-surfing Jordanians.

    Instead of the Government lavishing money on this mesh network, it should pay a fraction of that cost for local students to take lessons on the cafe’s computers. The cafe could offer courses ranging from a Beginners Course in Computing for people to put on their CVs, all the way to teaching local kids programming — more people can go for better jobs with their boosted CVs, and the local kids can work towards honing their programming skills towards studying Computer Science at the University of Jordan; for a measly amount of JDs in Government money being spent on local classes a kid can go from doing not much to finding out that he just so happens to be gifted with ‘C++’. And that’s got to be an A++ for Jordan.

    I ran some numbers, and it’d be difficult to make work, but it’s definitely possible. Being able to sell Pepsi and Crisps would help the figures. Some patronage from a Higher Up to avoid, er hum, “unforseen costs” popping up at different levels of Government, and you’re on your way. There are other opportunities for revenue, too; and for saving cash. An 8Mbit connection should spread nicely across the cafe’s computers.

    I tell you what: (a) if anyone thinks this is a good idea, (b) knows of a good place (neighbourhood and specific site) to put it, and (c) where it’d be well received and used, I’ll do my best to russle up some financing.

    Thanks.

  6. the government have nothing to do with this, why are you people talking about goverment on this, we get internet from privately owned companies.

    its more of a technical and financial problem thats it, Orange which owns the infrastructre is definitely not going spend huge money improving services while their revenues are not that high, YES Orange have operating expences as well.

    since i have fair knowledge of internet and networking ill go thru a bit technical talk 🙂
    internet Jordan is operating on a single interenational cable which is called FLAG few people may know this,
    while other arab countries are connected through more than 2 cables.
    and the entire internet traffic in jordan goes thru one station, and that station is the backbone that gives all the other isps (that we subsrcribe to) the internet. imo i think the problem is from there, not from the isps.

    there are some plans which i read about in some news that there are companies building new submarine cable stations in jordan, but it needs a couple of years to finnish. so as time goes the internet will hopefully get cheaper and faster speeds.

  7. @ Nazgyl “I’m still 512kb adsl, my brother is on 2MG, in reality the only difference is now he is watching faster youtube vids, and downloading on faster rates, the browsing habits are the same. the quality of web functions are the same, Work wise, corporates need the 8mb to serve its staff, on home usage, i agree it might be indeed elitism to have it”

    having 8mb for homes is mediocre, there are alot of people need fast speed, specially heavy users who download large files, isps in high tech countries offer 50mb and planning to follow japan and offer 100mb, so theres no elitism when it comes to interent speeds because there are people who need high speed to accomodate their needs.

    in japan you can get a 100mb line for like $50. so theres no elitism here.

    its all about investment. we need very large companies to invest in jordan and provide the infrastructre required for better internet services.

  8. @ Nazgyl “I’m still 512kb adsl, my brother is on 2MG, in reality the only difference is now he is watching faster youtube vids, and downloading on faster rates, the browsing habits are the same. the quality of web functions are the same,
    ===

    512,1m,2m,8m etc all have same ping times, latency.. // browsing depends on ping, especially if it contains pics/ads/vids which are linked to many different servers within the same page. so all those dsl speeds will undergo nearly the same performance in browsing(u can disable annoying flash ads/vids/animations[like the heavy flash on the top of this page] using a flash block addon in ur browser, makes browsing faster/safer etc)
    ===

    @ khalid jarrar, this dream can be a easly reached, and needed much in jordan(limited human resources), but ofc it will take atleast 50 countries to try it first, before jordan even thinks about considering it..
    ==

    i own a 2mb line, and its EX TERMLY expensive, given its only 10gb(no comment) limit, actually i just considered it as a 512kb connection… anywayz excluding the daily down times and lame customers services, the ping speed of orange and its download rate isnt that bad really, i mean 210 out of 240 is pretty satisfactory , especially if the servers are in US/EU..
    ==
    its about time for companies in jordan to offer some unlimited packages already, i mean the 128 is a joke honestly, and i dont wanna start with that.
    introducing a min affordable cheap 256 unlimited with like a 20jd in total… would attract half the nation..

    its only few hundred thousands subscribers, and customer services in most companies can barely handle them,

    still i dont see why all business sectors goes for “small and expensive amount” instead of “cheap and massive”

    competition? maybe u mean which company tries to aim for the highest price? i honestly cant understand this market its so weird.. over 7 internet companies and not a single one offers a serious deal.

    im leaving Jordan in about 5 years(isa), and i just hope i will have the chance to witness an unlimited 1mb or so beforethat .. jordan is a great country with great ppl, it had a huge potential 10 years ago(when i left it ).. but i was surprised to find it just the same way , except its older with more cars and trash(it was CLEAN!) :S..

  9. Everything which costs money can be considered “elitist”…which means basically everything in life (I sound like a MasterCard ad :)) I mean with the prices these days something as essential as food can be elitist.

    Anyway this is how technology works…it starts at the high end then trickles downward to the mainstream when it gets cheaper.
    I remember Link.NET, which is now part of Zain, making an exceptional offer (at the time) of offering 512k connection for 512 JD/year! Now the 2mb is for about 300JDs.

    With enough competition technology will get cheap enough for everyone to own…
    Anyone remembers the price of the first mobile phone in Jordan? How many actually bought it? 🙂

  10. Ali: I spoke to Orange, and they told me that if you sign up for the 8Mbit this month you’ll get on their Unlimited service: no GB caps. You’ll probably still be subject to a Fair Usage Policy — as you are even in rich world countries — but it’s got to work out better than a measly 10GB limit. Although the new all day Friday and after 10PM until 7AM on other days being ‘free’ in terms of download limits makes a 10GB limit bearable.

    For all Jordan’s limited financial resources, there’s plenty of choice, and you can use Umniah of wi-tribe to completely bypass Jordan Telecom — try avoiding British Telecom in the U.K.; there’s enough speed to make the Web useable, try and get faster speeds in rural America; and falling prices, though they are still *high*, are falling. We can look at the Far East with awe, but those countries are massively and densley populated, staggeringly wealthy and way advanced in many, many areas. They make America and Western Europe look positively stone age.

    For those bemoaning Jordan’s Internet situation: take a look at Aussie’s crapy speeds. Not to mention all their restrictions. Overall, I can’t think of a place in the Arab Middle East with better Internet than Jordan*. Dubai has faster service (not serviceS, since it’s monopolistic over there)? Yeah, for the sites they’ll let you browse — try visiting a competitor to Etisalat. Same for the other Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    I say: Go Jordan — the little country (with no** oil) that can!

    (*Maybe Oman?)
    (**Five barrels a day?)

  11. Mos: Egypt , they got 2mb unlimited cheaper than orange’s limited one :(….
    and all speeds are offered as 2 packages, either limited or un..

    Jordan is way much less populated, 5 million or, but still the companies are only aiming at that small sector which can afford paying at high prices while cares enough to do that.

    the Internet Quality here is pretty good compared to Middle-eastern countries, but the prices and the limited amount of packages to choose from just sucks…

    Mos, i dont have a phone atm, do u mind explaining whats the no limit ? i mean for 8mb unlimited? and for how much time im gonna be like that? etc…

  12. Ali: I didn’t know that about Egypt. I wonder though, just how Limited is that unlimited Internet? I’ve heard quite distressing stories of pressure on bloggers — I imagine there’s a fair bit of censorship on what you can do online there, too. Not that Jordan is completely free of such issues, but the King here does an amazing job of keeping what could be just another authoritian Middle Eastern State — a la Syria, Egypt or even Dubai — open and free.

    I don’t have a phone line atm, either; I’m waiting for JT to get my line up and running. I went to the Swefieh brach of JT, just down the road from Safeway, and the guy told me just that: if you sign up for their 8Mbit service this month, you’ll get Unlimited Internet for the duration of your contract. The whole way through. He said it costs 59JD per month: I’m not sure if this is with or without tax, but I guess it is to remain competitive with Zain. Zain offers their 8Mbit service, incl. tax, for 646.92JD — albeit with an 10GB cap.

    With:

    1) this 8Mbit offer;
    2) the current waiving of the 70JD ADSL “setup fee” (I know of JT and Zain doing this);
    3) “Free” download after 10PM-7AM and all day Fridays;
    4) Zain including JT’s Line Rental fees in their newest plans — a very nice offer;
    5) an increase by some ISPs on some of their plans up to 16GB;
    6) Umniah’s UMAX and wi-tribe’s ability to ignore JT more than other ISPs;

    I think we’re seeing a relatively speedy progression in Jordan towards better, faster Internet.

    In the U.K., Orange used to (and perhaps still does?) use the slogan: the future’s bright, the future’s Orange. The future is certainly bright, but perhaps it’s not Orange. Perhaps it’s Zain’s deep or Umniah’s fluorescent green. Or wi-tribe’s purple?

    Or perhaps an ISP that’s yet to be set up?

  13. You know, we moved here from the backwoods of the US (Louisiana) and one of the little bitty towns there actually has a town-wide hotspot. Free wireless throughout this super-accesible city. Can you imagine? They started first with Fiber to the Home, then moved on to free wireless throughout the municipality. Talk about a dream…

    Oh, and I personally think that the offerings here are overpriced, the customer service is laughably bad, and the options are beyond limited. When the Orange customer services lines have two operating modes (1. we’re too busy, so for your covenience call back. Click. 2. Your call will be answered in two minutes. After 1.45 minutes, Click.), you know they are bad. In the US, when my internet went down, I called and complained and they gave me a credit for that day. I ended up with over a month’s credit when they took the internet down for a week (technical issues) and I complained very loudly. Here, the only answer you get is “hayk”.

    But, I’m glad to see Hazim is on my “Yes We Can Jordan” band wagon :).

  14. Mos: there are about 3 leading internet providers(linkdsl,tedata, and now or soon vodaphone(like Zain in jordan))… and about 30 smaller isp providers.. so the completion there is pretty high..

    Customer service there is pretty overloaded.. Central(the equivalent of JTC) SUCKS big time, and most probably all of the companies have over subscribed bandwidth..

    anyways, as for the 3 main companies, the net is fast and up most of the time.. not excellent but acceptable really(remember they are 80million, and i dont need to mention the routine in each company, especially Central)
    regarding transparency and free speech, you can open most of the stuff/watch porn etc, but yea, u got to watch what you’re typing, especially in Arabic based sites.. it depends on the degree of your blog(u can insult the government as long as u dont “name” a personal there, or even refer to)..

    anyways the week i left Egypt, the isp market burst into competition, was really annoying..

    i really hope i see a change here too in Jordan soon ^^, but seems history will repeat it self, and the real nice deasl would come the day i leave it :)… and when i finally hit back to Yemen, i will have to relive the nightmare all over again…
    ===
    thanks for the info,
    i wouldnt go for 8mb, its still not affordable, plus as you mentioned the market should have nice deals soon, dont want to take the risk just yet…

    im MUCH outdated atm, but one more noobish question:

    “3) “Free” download after 10PM-7AM and all day Fridays”
    is this Orange or Zain? both?

    thanks ..

  15. Ali: Both Orange and Zain are doing this; Batelco (Umniah) are also. I’m not *sure*, but I’d guess wi-tribe are doing it as well.

    If I *really* get an 8Mbit service, I’m willing to cough up for it. However, I’m thinking 4Mbit may be the safer bet.

    MommaBean: I barely, if ever, call any ISP or mobile operator to get information from them anymore. Orange, Zain, Umniah and wi-tribe have shops dotted around Amman where it’s easy enough to just walk in and ask a question/file a complaint. Oh, and wi-tribe have excellent phone support and a rather awesome Customer Service department in general. They also credit you for down time.

  16. “Ali: Both Orange and Zain are doing this; Batelco (Umniah) are also. I’m not *sure*, but I’d guess wi-tribe are doing it as well.”

    Finally something! :D, nice….

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