Morocco is an advanced player in the African telecommunications landscape, featuring a privatised, profitable incumbent and several fixed and mobile network operators. Increasing traffic in both voice and online communications has led operators to upgrade their fibre optic backbone networks as well as their international connections. In combination with upgraded fibre, LTE services were launched in mid-2015 to facilitate the expansion of mobile broadband coverage in rural areas.
Morocco had a 61% Internet penetration rate, which is well above the continent’s average. The country has a good telecommunications system composed of open-wire lines, cables, and microwave radio relay links. The main switching centers are located in Casablanca and the capital, Rabat. The national network is already almost 100% digital using fiber-optic links. Rural connections, while still sub-standard, has recently improved significantly thanks to microwave radio. Internet is still expensive for the vast majority of the Moroccan population. There are coaxial cable and microwave radio relays to Algeria and a fiber-optic cable link from Agadir to Algeria and Tunisia.
Morocco is one of the most advanced telecommunications markets in Africa, despite there being relatively little competition in the fixed-line broadband sector. Competition in the provision of DSL services is expected to intensify during 2016 following the launch of new services by a couple of corporate newcomers. Most of the new broadband connections are wireless and increasingly converging with mobile services. Actually, the dominance of mobile internet access is likely to continue given the improvements in LTE reach and capabilities, and the preference among consumers to adopt mobile solutions for both voice and data. The National Communications Regulatory Agency is the public body, endowed with a legal personality and financial autonomy, that is responsible for the control and regulation of the telecommunications sector in Morocco.
Morocco has capitalized on its proximity to Europe and relatively low labor costs to build a diverse, open, market-oriented economy. Key sectors of the economy include agriculture, tourism, aerospace, phosphates, textiles, apparel, and subcomponents. Morocco has increased investment in its port, transportation, and industrial infrastructure to position itself as a center and broker for business throughout Africa. Industrial development strategies and infrastructure improvements – most visibly illustrated by a new port and free trade zone near Tangier – are improving Morocco’s competitiveness.
Despite Morocco’s economic progress, the country suffers from high unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy, particularly in rural areas. Key economic challenges for Morocco include reforming the education system and the judiciary.
Maroc Telecom (also known as Ittisalat Al Maghrib or IAM), is the main telecommunication company in Morocco with more than 200 branch offices and near 12,000 employees. Privatization of the company started in 2001, and the Emirates-based Etisalat purchased the majority of its shares in 2013. Since then, the company has undergone a strategic review to provide for services in several markets in the region. These additional international markets are expected to account for more than half of the company’s overall revenue within the next few years.