Morocco to launch 4G services


The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) will invite bids for 4G licences by year's end. Officials with the agency expect Moroccan 4G services to go live next year.

The decision to open up the telecom market to 4G was "a must" that came in response to consumer demands, ANRT chief Azzeddinne Al Mountassir Billah said on May 21st.

"This is not a luxury. The aims of adopting 4G for mobile phones are firstly to maintain the growth of this sector and secondly to improve service quality," he said.

The government also is seeking to improve broadband coverage while bridging a Morocco digital divide between urban, rural and remote areas.

Nearly 16.5 million people, or 51 per cent of the Moroccan population, use the internet, according to ANRT figures. At the end of March, the number of people who subscribed to internet services topped 4 million, growing by nearly a quarter in a year.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane last month approved the budget for the agency to pursue 4G technology.

The arrival of 4G is just one step in a 10-year national plan to build up Morocco broadband services and make digital connections throughout the kingdom super-fast.

"The introduction of 4G technology will be a steep change, which will meet the expectations of customers and future requirements in terms of capacity and speed,'' telecom engineer Safia Labriz told Magharebia.

All of Morocco's telecom service providers will be scrambling to compete for the new services, Khalid Bendouah, a marketing officer for another telecom company, told Magharebia.

"4G is vital for the big operators which want to offer their customers speed and capacity which can cope with data-intensive applications," he said.

The country's current 3G service often is a target of complaints from young Moroccans – a big segment of the mobile phone customer base. They say that the older technology is too slow and prone to frequent disconnections.

And in today's social and political climate, experts and young consumers agree that communication is more important than ever.

The internet and online social networks are becoming an ideal space for young people to express themselves in total freedom, without taboos or red lines, said Brahim Qaraoui, a journalist who specialises in information technology.

"A better connection allows internet users nowadays to react better to the questions that concern the development of society," he said.