Late in the evening on Monday, July 25th, Maroc Telecom published a press release. The information, succinct, was intended to inform the public that the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), had just imposed a heavy fine on it, by taking down a record amount of fines of 2, 45 billion dirhams. This is on top of the 3.3 billion dirhams already paid in January 2020 for “abusing a dominant position” in the fixed telecom services market.
Paying a fine proves first and foremost that the sector governance body, ANRT and its management committee, demonstrate their strong will through actions to enforce the law, even when it is a strong company like Maroc Telecom, in which the Moroccan state continues to hold a significant stake, and thus can influence governance bodies Her own.
The decision is useful because it concerns a topic that affects all internet users in Morocco. In fact, if the Internet penetration in Morocco increased from 83% to 93% between 2020 and 2021, reaching a total of 33.86 million subscribers, all technologies combined, then the fixed Internet barely exceeds 5.6%, with activity below 2 million. lines. This situation is explained by Maroc Telecom’s categorical refusal to allow its competitors to use its fixed infrastructure, so that they can develop fixed Internet offerings without having to create the infrastructures themselves, including Maroc Telecom, which inherited the previous monopoly from which telecom operator PTT came.
Even worse, the number of fixed internet lines in Morocco in 2022 is still less than the number of fixed lines in Morocco at the end of the 1990s, when the sector was opened to competition. However, Morocco has built a lot over the past twenty years. The stock of new housing should be about 3 to 4 million units, all of which are equipped with infrastructure by developers and delivered free of charge to the existing operator. Thus, the potential market for eligible households for fixed internet should be around five million. All of these families were denied access to fixed internet, for the simple reason that Maroc Telecom decided to maintain its monopoly on this market, thus depriving millions of families of a service that nonetheless became convenient for Al Qaeda. This is the situation that has made the Internet access boxes developed by competitors Maroc Telecom, which has nearly a million customers, a success.
“Mobile technologies remain more expensive with performance that cannot match fixed performance,” asserts a telecommunications expert who requested anonymity. But Maroc Telecom finds its account doubly in this case. “It manages the scarcity of fixed services by offering an annual stipend, the same source adds, while exhausting the investment capabilities of its competitors, and forcing them to devote all their resources to developing mobile networks alone.” But who cares, as long as Maroc Telecom continues to publish unparalleled financial results in the telecom sector worldwide.
In light of all these elements, the regulator has a thousand times the right to punish Maroc Telecom. Moreover, the seriousness of the situation even requires regular monitoring, in order to punish this incumbent operator as it should, and according to the terms of the law, so that its top management adheres and finally agrees to open the constant, so that consumers can finally. They have fixed internet access in a free competition, which would satisfy their needs.
Some voices are also being raised in support of the idea of creating a neutral infrastructure operator capable of solving the problem of static access to the Internet. “This new crisis is an opportunity that enhances the scenario (which has been studied by the National Agency for the Regulatory of Telecommunications) for the creation of a national telecom infrastructure operator, which would play the role of the missing link in the telecom ecosystem in Morocco. ANRT should focus on this scenario and accelerate its implementation,” he said. It is suggested, in a message posted on LinkedIn, by Khaled Al-Zayani, an ICT expert.
“With regard to the budget, the fines of 2.5 billion dirhams paid by Maroc Telecom to the public treasury should be used to finance this new national telecom infrastructure operator to enable it to accelerate the country’s transition plan to optical fiber and 5G,” he said. explained.
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In an interview with Le360, many seasoned telecom observers believe that using a neutral operator is a false good idea that has been tested in many countries around the world, but has led to costly and ineffective failures.
A simple example can already illustrate this point: the National Agency for the Regulation of Telecommunications wants five million households to have access to the Internet via optical fibers. However, in all countries of the world where FTTH has developed, players are beginning to equip dense territories. Specifically, however, all the dense areas of Morocco have fixed infrastructures operated by Maroc Telecom. Thus, a new operator who will deploy new infrastructure in these neighborhoods will only duplicate assets at high costs, which can only increase prices for the end consumer.
It is clear that a solution that has been proven worldwide is the application of the terms of the law by the existing operator, so that consumers, as well as public services and businesses, can finally have access to a stable, high-quality Internet.
However, will Abdessalam Ahizoun, who has presided over the fates of Maroc Telecom since its inception (or even before), after two heavy financial penalties representing nearly a year of net results for the company, take measures to finally open the fixed-line market? Le360 has interviewed people who know him. The answer is unanimous: No. So it will likely be necessary to look for a solution elsewhere.