April 18, 2006

Fastlink’s success is the highlight of the Jordanian consumer failure!

During my last trip to Amman, I called an electrician to come and fix something & when I gave him my mobile number –not on Fastlink (Zain)- he reiterated in protest “ما في عندك خط فاست؟” “Haven’t you got a Fast number?”… I paused for a second & thought to myself; either Fastlink (Zain) has a one hell of a cult-following inducing marketing strategy or we are just a bunch of easily milked taken-for-granted consumers!

We stand today at a market place were –technically- four different mobile operators are burning themselves out to the verge of bankruptcy to keep their pace in the competition to lock-in as many customers as possible, yet what we get in the end is an erratic –guesstimate- market share of 61% Fastlink (Zain), 27% MobileCom, 9% Umniah & 3% XPress!

Have it been the case that Fastlink (Zain) is a decent operator that provides a quality service with a matching customer service & fair competitive pricing; I wouldn’t have given it a flying thought if Fastlink is leading the market or not, I’ll even applaud their success!

Yet Fastlink (Zain) treat its taken-for-granted customers like old mules (Examples from the blogsphere: here & here), their network performance is poor (despite the comprehensive coverage they boost) & their pricing is based on the premise that everyone is using Fastlink & no other network exist!

Allow me to elaborate by briefly –not- telling the Mobile story of little Jordan:

Once upon a time, a company called Fastlink was granted a license to operate a mobile network in a lovely little country called Jordan, at the time, the cost of building, operating & maintaining such a network was costly, so obviously their target customers were a niche, hence the vulnerability of their business that required it to be protected by a 5-year exclusive monopoly over the market.

During those 5 year golden years, Fastlink (Zain) managed to milk the slowly growing niche of customers with a ridiculously high pricing & no emphasize on the service it offered or the quality of it... but everything has an ending, and so did its monopoly by the entry of another operator MobileCom, both took part in a duet of a further 5 years of duopoly with exclusivity over the market place.

At the time, Fastlink (Zain) recognized it will be loosing it’s customers rapidly, after all the advent of competition is tempting for the previously choice-less punters, so they did overhaul their service, most notably was the introduction of a real customer service call-center with adequate number of sweet-talking agents to meet the demand of their 85k punters at the time.

Yet Fastlink (Zain) found itself in a situation facing an incompetent competitor unable to penetrate the market while competing over simple-minded consumers! Fastlink (Zain) spared no effort in capitalizing on those two underlying factors.

By launching a new pricing plan that made it ridiculously expensive to call anyone not on Fastlink (Zain) in comparison with the relatively cheaper – but still expensive- price for calling its own customers, they rendered any good rate plan offered by MobileCom irrelevant because punters who sign up with MobileCom assumed that they will not be called by their Fastlink (Zain) counterparts!

How imbecilic is that! Since when the feasibility of anything is based on the savings made for others! If company A charges you a very high for calling company B & charging less for calling its own, while company B is charging you adequately to call both, which one will you choose?

Why should you care if 100k out of a potentially growing market were initially signed up with company A out of no choice, why not create a balance in the market place to keep a truly dynamic competition in place!

Our incompetence as Jordanian consumers stemmed from the fact that we allowed ourselves to be restrained into a thinking pattern that jstified our worrisome if those who will call us will refrain from doing so because they’ll be charged a premium!

Why should we care if those calling us made the wrong choice by opting for the company that charges a premium while they had the CHOICE otherwise!

Yes, MobileCom didn't capitalize the full potential of it being a new entrant or utilize the environment dictated by the duopoly they enjoyed along with Fastlink (Zain)!

It’s out-of-place marketing strategy & complex –yet cheaper- pricing did not make it easier for punters to make the choice either, so MobileCom is liable within this context.

Whether the government came to the aid of MobileCom, or the latter came up with the novel idea of offering the army personnel a special rate-plans -something that was almost unheard of in this industry-; the strategy worked & the company stayed afloat… until today!

The failure of the Jordanian consumer turned Fastlink (Zain) into a mammoth that enjoyed 5 years of monopoly charging premiums for a service that rapidly cost-ed less to offer, with further 5 years of pity competition that could’ve been more considerable!

And even today, while MobileCom is boosting the best network quality a GSM network can offer, & while Umniah is literally burning prices beyond feasibility (trust me on this one: any cross-network minute sold under 5 piasters doesn’t cover its cost) & XPress is offering a differentiated flat-rate professional service to corporate customers that does actually save money and improve the way business is done, yet with all that on offer you still find a cult-like following for Fastlink (Zain)!

Mr. Electritian, if Fastlink (Zain) is charging you so much for doing the unthinkable act of calling punters on other networks, then for Allah’s sake switch to another provider that charges you fairly for calling anyone!

Damn this number of yours that you have cherished for oh-my 2 years or so… no one cares if you changed it, your prestige will not shatter into pieces at the gates of dunes club, no one will think that you’re a Hafartali except for this insignificant lady, and definitely you’ll earn more by saving on your telephony costs!

A fellow blogger once commented on the lack of innovation in the Jordanian telecom market, but I don’t blame the telcos of Jordan, why should they through another dime while they see the incompetence of it’s potential customers whom are happy even when they’re treated like old mules overlooking the choices they have in a competition-driven market-place.

For Allah’s sake we’re content and even easily amused with merely premium SMS & “new” valued-added services (VAS) such as playing a dreadful song instead of the ringing-tone for those who have the courage to call outside Fastlink (Zain)! Why should any of the networks invest in 3G…

At the end, if you’re a Fastlink (Zain) customer, I have some FACTS for you:

Fact No. 1 No, not everyone is on Fastlink (Zain)! that might’ve been the case few years back thanks to people who think like you do.

Fact No. 2 You have a choice of 3 other operators whom will probably give you a free massage if you decide to opt for their service.

Fact No. 3 Yes, Fastlink (Zain) have superior network coverage, but unless you venture allot outside cities & main highways, you shouldn’t be worried to be left in the cold.

Fact No. 4 Their network is congested! Again, thanks to people who think like you do.

Fact No. 5 What’s the point in having a mature regulatory body, compitition & a maturing sector while consumers are not.


Anonymous said...

I loved this blog! Because this explains why I'm with MobileCom and not with Fastlink. It's all about how Fastlink were greedy and cared little when they were monopolizing the market and how they suddenly cared when competition came in (does "minna wa feena" ring a bell? They weren't exactly minna wa feena when they were stealing your money!)

And by the way, MobileCom has better coverage and better quality lines. Who remembers the crash of Fastlink's network when it snowed few years ago? I was worried sick about my boyfriend who was driving from outside Amman. He switched to MobileCom the following week.

Not to say that MobileCom is any better or worse but we do have other options and Fastlink don't deserve the big piece of pie, because they took advantage of us in the worst way.

Anonymous said...


This is Manal ..you are right ,,i was Fastlink customer then i changed to another operator(Mobilcom) because i felt that i was stolen everyday...the worst thing that people here agree to be stolen just for show off..really it is disasterous situation!
Objective writing go a head dear

Sabri said...

God how I hate Fastlink, Im an Umniah guy

Tololy said...

If it's not personal, it's not interesting. I have very little or no faith in Fastlink, as a matter of fact, I generally do not even appear physically in any of their offices to pay my bills. I designate someone to do the job. I would have never, not ever, gotten that bloody number had it not been forced upon me for work-related reasons.

I remember once when my sister, then a Fastlink user, was sort of trapped in her car in the snow and there was no Fastlink-to-the-rescue-flag. No coverage! She had to stay like that for around 6 hours.

MobileCom never failed me, to put in a sharp contrast. And since I am ranting here, I think Fastlink's services are way overpriced for no concrete reason. We got here first? Big deal. Tell that to someone who cares.

Oh, and yes it is indeed pissing to see how people find joy in owning Fastlink numbers. Hello?It's a total rip-off! Then again, you can't expect everyone to be, what's the word?, "sober" enough to really read the monthly bills.

hussein said...

i'm not living in amman.. but i can read from the article the same discussions happened with me all the day, why is your cellphone not Nokia, why your car not Toyota or Nissan, whattttt? u dont have an account on MSN? and ur OS is not windows, no no nooo... sure u kiddin! ur computer is not an IBM (99% from our people still parrots the stupid statement: 100% compatible with IBM).. and so on from the daily war of the MUST-BE-PRESLECTEDBRANDS.


Anonymous said...

For the record, after 3 years of using Fastlink, I have dumped them in favor of MobilCom. No regrets. As for their sweet-talking agents, what good are they of they can never solve your problem. I had a problem and I was given the sweet-run-around by sweet-talking fastlink customer service folks. I switched to mobilcom and the problem is gone.

ABOUD said...

The problem is that sometimes you really can not change your phone number. But I wonder what the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission is doing.

What I know is that this commission was supposed to give you the freedom of selecting the network you like using the same number that you have, cause this number is now owned by the user and not by the provider.

I wonder why mobilcom and Umniah didn't do that until now???

Basem said...

What you’re after is number interpretability! something the regulatory commission (TRC) have already infornced and currently under implementation collectively by the four operators (the project is stagnated but slowly progressing).

In the mean time, you can always ask to be issued a matching number from the company you’re migrating to on top of the free massage!


Motaz the Farmer said...

dear Basem,
Hail to u and xpress. I wasted a lot of money on fastlink the greedy beast but now i'm awake and saw the x sign. May ur campaign on fastlink and the failure of the jordanian consumer ring in the skys and valleys of of dear ghor of safi.
Much respect to ur blog and be easy on the kalimat il si3beh...there is adabi ppl reading ur blog.

Don't forget the 3ajal