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Morocco has experienced an incredible rise in its mobile penetration rate, between 2000 and 2015, going from 8% to 128%, according to sector watchdog the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (Agence Nationale de Réglementation des Télécommunications - ANRT) and has seen ICT infrastructure and competition improve over the last two decades. 

Telecom Sector Structure:

Morocco underwent, over the last 15 years, a critical liberalisation of its telecommunication sector. At the dawn of the new millennium, Morocco made a commitment to the World Trade Organization to liberalize its telecommunication sector. In order to fulfil said commitment, the country contracted a $101 million-loan from the World Bank, referred to as the “Telecommunication, Post and Information Technology Sector Adjustment Loan (TPI-SAL). By doing so, the kingdom was expected to deliver on a number of goals, amongst them was the introduction of “competition in its telecommunications sector”, the development of “effective regulatory capacity in telecommunications” and the preparation of “the incumbent operator for privatization”. Furthermore, it was also aimed at expanding the access to communications “in poor and rural communities”.

In an unprecedented move, it allowed for the emergence of two telecom companies - Médi Telecom  and Inwi -  in addition to the historic and previously state-owned Maroc Telecom. As of today Maroc Telecom is now owned by the United Arab Emirates’ telecom company Etisalat following a 20 billion dollar investment on their part, giving Etisalat control of 53% of the shares, and the Moroccan state that has maintained 30% ownership. MediTelecom, which was owned by Spain’s Telefonica has been acquired, in 2015, in full by France’s telecom giant Orange, which had previously been a shareholder at 40% since 2010 and a sizeable investment of 640 million Euros. Finally, Inwi, formerly known as Wana, was the last licensed telecom and Internet provider, created in 2004, which has had, since its creation, as a key shareholder the royal holding consortium Société Nationale d’Investissements (SNI) now known as Al Mada. In 2009, the Kuwaiti telecom Zain acquired 31% of Inwi’s caital.

All three major telecommunication companies are also the only three licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country. Unlike many other countries in the region, they do not face any significant restrictions or constraints in the operations or access to infrastructure.

 

Smartphone and networks:

For the past decade, in alignment with the global trend in communication technologies, fixed lines usage has seen a slight reduction in numbers. In fact, a study conducted during the last 3 months of 2017 reveals that 90% of households who are recurring subscribers to a fixed-line telephony service are solely interested in accessing the internet with it rather than using it for phone calls. This same study suggests that 99.8% of households are equipped with at least one mobile phone, a statistic confirmed by a number of sources, some claiming a mobile penetration rate of over 100%. As for the Internet penetration rate, as of 2018, it had reached 64.2% of households and the country accounts for 41.4% Facebook users according to IWS.

However there remains a significant disparity in network coverage between rural and urban areas. The latter tend to benefit from greater investments on the part of telecommunication companies at the expense of rural areas, where financial profitability may not be a given.

While most of the cable infrastructure remains under the control of the kingdom’s first and formerly state-owned telecom company Maroc Telecom, it is expected of the ANRT, the regulatory body entrusted with the liberalization of the telecommunications sector and its regulations, to ensure fair access to said cables by Maroc Telecom’s two competitors, Orange and Inwi. As such, competitivity is ensured to be quite fair and internet access and use have remained affordable. The main internet connections used in Morocco are via DSL, Cable, and Fiber Optic with an aim to increase investments into the latter, as explained in the government 2018 Strategy for ICT.

The government has, over the past two decades, continuously supported the expansion of telecommunication infrastructure, allowing the country to be competitive in this sector and have a strong market in comparison to others in the region. The latest effort and vision laid out by the ANRT has been communicated in their “General Guidelines for the Further Development of the Telecommunications Sector by 2018” lays the groundwork for a new strategy for the development of ICTs in the country. Some of its key elements is a focus on widening the fiber-optic access throughout the nation as well as ensure greater internet access across rural, remote areas that are currently not connected or have poor networks.

 

Online content, Social Media and Censorship:

A 2018 study on social media usage in Morocco, conducted by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), claims that 98.4% of internet users aged between 15 and 24 years old are frequent users of at least one social media. Online activism has continued to grow amongst Morocco’s youth to protest societal issues despite the fact that the authorities have kept on targeting activists or journalists for their online activities. 

A new press code came to be in 2016 (see Legal Context), bringing about a novelty: provisions that apply specifically to online media – which were not included in the previous 2002 code. Journalists working in the online and print press are subject to the same law and press offenses are, under the new code, punishable solely through fines and not jail sentences. However, Moroccan users are still punishable by law for their online activities, under the highly restrictive antiterrorism law passed in 2003. 

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