Interview with Jean Francois Thomas – CEO of Orange JO during the MENAICT Forum
I’m back at the MENAICT Forum for the third year in a row, and this year, I got the chance to have a 10 minute one-on-one chat with Mr. Jean Francois Thomas, the CEO of Jordan Telecom/Orange Jordan, to talk about where his company is currently, and where we can see Orange taking us in the future.
Here is a transcript of the interview; if you think there are any other questions I could ask him in future interviews (yes, I’m greedy and hoping for more), write them in the comments below.
JF: So you’re sleepless, I’m sleepless! It’s a touch economy and we have something in common. It takes a lot of my energy to actually solve that equation. I have a different answer to this question; the first is that I believe that we are in a sector that the needs of the people are still growing, so the need is there. The appetite for technology and usage for bandwidth, connectivity, so the question is how to change that into money, into revenue? We are lucky because some sectors are breaking down. Our sector is still growing, yet unfortunately our revenue is going down; mostly because of the high taxes imposed because the government is taking part of the value that we are creating, that’s the way I can put it.
The second is that we have to work on the customer side, to grab market share, but more over than market share, I think there is room for growth in the usage, that’s what I consider the top line. The bottom line is more on optimizing the cost structure and adapting the cost to what the market is able to pay for. This is also difficult, especially in Orange that is an increment operator when it comes to its structure of cost, which is heavy. It’s a small market, but frankly we are working on our cost structure as well, making better deals with suppliers, and trying to optimize a lot of things like office space and things like that.
Why don’t operators in Jordan utilize internet peering, and how does it affect the consumer and the economy if they do?
JF: We are using a technology that is similar to that called content delivery network (CDN); we are working with Google and Akamai technologies with cashing rather than peering. These companies host big memories in our data center, and they are storing locally. So for example, when watching a YouTube video, the first time someone is going to watch a YouTube video he has to grab the video where it is stored, somewhere, in the states for example. The second time someone wants to watch the same video, maybe the same will happen. By the third time, the intelligent system realizes that this video has been requested more than once on the Orange network, and so they store it, so the server algorithm understands that this is on demand in the country, and saves it locally for us. A little bit like your computer if you may say, there is a caching system, so if I am reading a certain book online, Google will no longer have to load it up every time I visit the website, they will have it saves locally on your computer for faster loading and efficiency.
It’s a great economy of bandwidth for the operators; it gives us also a better customer experience.
What investment do we expect to see from Orange regarding in ground infrastructure for home users for FTTH (Fiber to Home)?
JF: We decided to go to a slightly different technology, technically we call it fiber. It’s not fiber to the home; it’s fiber to the cabinet. So we bring fiber to curb[FTTC]; we have our cabinets in the street, and we connect fiber optic to our cabinets in the areas. We then use our copper wires to connect the last couple of meters. We cannot go to 500 MB per second at the time being, but 80 MB I think is pretty ok. It is currently far less costly than to roll out full FTTH network. The cost is not just the fiber itself, but also the in-house cabling.
With those three questions, I concluded my interview with Mr. Jean Francois Thomas during the MENAICT Forum, but the best compliment in my opinion was what he said next:
“I could not guess from your questions if you are an engineer or an economist!”
“Neither!” I said. “I’m in Social Media and Marketing”
What I failed to mention at the time is that I am married to a loving husband who is a software engineer, and keeps up to date on the future of technology all the time.
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