The programme the government plans to implement covers telecommunications, postal services and information technology.
The Secretariat of State is of the view that achievement of its telecommunications objectives demands stepped-up liberalization and an expanded role for the private sector, which will require an ongoing effort to adapt regulations to the sector's needs.
Development of telecom infrastructure
Since telecommunications is a key sector and an engine of economic growth in Morocco, the objective is to increase competitiveness and promote the development of a competitive, dynamic telecom industry that can bring Morocco into the information age.
Therefore, the Secretariat of State intends, among other things, to:
Promote the development of the telecommunications infrastructure required for new multimedia applications;
Extend access to telecom services to all segments of the population and to all parts of the country;
Promote competition in all segments of the telecom market;
Revise the regulatory framework for telecommunications services to allow the use of alternative infrastructures and strengthen the competitive environment, so as to spur development of the telecommunications market;
Ensure availability of and access to business services that can increase business competitiveness;
Strengthen Morocco's role as a regional telecommunications platform.
To this end, the following actions will be taken.
Extension of fixed public telecommunications network
Despite the broad geographic reach of the fixed public telecommunications network and coverage of all the rural commune seats and many other centres, sustained effort is still required in order to increase teledensity, particularly in rural areas and the urban periphery.
The government's target in this area is a telephone density of at least 10% by 2005 and 15% by 2012.
Public telephones are to increase from 1.14 per 1,000 people at present to 2 by 2005 and 4 by 2012.
The service quality target, as measured by the malfunction reporting rate per subscriber per year, is 20% by 2005 and 10% by 2012.
Extension of cellular network
Mobile telephony is the segment of the telecommunications market that is posting the strongest growth rates and generating the most value-added.
To meet the growing demand for cellular services, efforts will be made to increase network density, diversify services and improve service quality.
The network density target calls for coverage of all the main roads linking the provinces and the prefectures.
The service quality effort will focus on improving coverage in the urban periphery and inside buildings in urban centres.
The diversification objective is to expand the line of services to include data transmission, Internet access and messaging.
Because of the spectacular growth of mobile telecommunications and demand for broadband multimedia services, the establishment of third generation (IMT-2000) cellular systems must be accelerated. The government's objective in this area is to make frequencies available for such systems and to put in place a system for granting licences and defining licence content.
Development of national high-speed telecommunications infrastructure
In order to create a telecommunications infrastructure capable of carrying the flow of traffic for services that require high transmission speeds, such as high-speed Internet, videoconferencing, radio and television broadcasting, and applications such as medical imaging, the government has set the following medium- and long-term objectives:
Continue rolling out high-speed transmission and switching networks;
Step up the migration of public fixed telecommunications networks to IP based systems;
Link all PBXs to a backbone;
Extend high-speed access "to the doorstep" of all administrative and business customers in the medium term and of all residences in the longer term;
Establish alternative infrastructures;
Conduct a feasibility study for a national multiservice satellite system.
Since the Internet is increasingly becoming the standard for the exchange of all types of economic, commercial and cultural information, the government plans to promote wider Internet use.
In addition to extending the telecommunications infrastructure, certain measures need to be taken specifically to support Internet development:
Improve terms of access to and interconnection with public telecommunications systems for ISPs;
Extend the MARWAN academic network, a high-speed information system designed to promote research and training;
Develop national content on the Internet;
Computerize the schools and introduce IT into education at all levels;
Increase the number of graduates in the field and retrain unemployed graduates in IT;
Implement the "on-line government" programme;
Set up public telecentres with Internet access;
Use IT as a land-use planning tool by launching digital city projects and developing local portals and a unifying national portal;
-Developing telecommunications infrastructures in rural areas will help stabilize the population, provide access to basic services, improve agricultural production and promote the emergence of non-agricultural activities.
The objective here is to achieve teledensity of at least 3.5% by 2005 and 7% by 2012, and to install at least one payphone in every community with a population of more than 250 by 2005 and in every community with a population of more than 100 by 2012.
Linkage to global systems
Linking Morocco to global cable and satellite systems will provide the country with a complementary, secure and diversified infrastructure for services (voice, data and image) and global connectivity, and will strengthen its role as a leading regional platform for telecommunications.
To do this, the government intends to implement a policy to facilitate linkage to global systems for Moroccan operators.
Universal service and wide access to basic telecommunications
To promote the welfare of vulnerable populations and reduce regional disparities, the government plans to carry out the following initiatives in the medium and long term:
* Set price caps for universal service;
* Introduce measures that address the following objectives:
Expand local calling areas in order to gradually reduce disparities in access to the fixed public network between residents of large urban centres and subscribers to small- and medium-capacity systems;
Introduce special rates for people with disabilities, the elderly and low income people to provide the following benefits:
Lower subscription rates;
Connection charge payable in instalments;
Adapted communications interfaces for people with disabilities (e.g. voice dialling, TTY);
* Expand and adapt universal service to keep pace with technological change and user requirements.
Strengthening the role of the private sector
Having taken the first major steps of opening up telecommunications services to the private sector and to competition, the priority now is to allow private investment in Itissalat al Maghrib (IAM), the main public telecommunications operator. The government believes this is necessary to enable IAM to position itself effectively in the fast-changing domestic and international telecom markets. An international call for tenders was published in October 2000 in order to select a strategic partner; as a result, Vivendi has acquired a 35% interest in IAM. The transaction will be followed by a public offering of a portion of IAM's stock on international and domestic equity markets. The public offering should help integrate IAM into the world telecommunications market, develop the domestic capital market and strengthen our presence on foreign markets.
To support this process, the government took several measures prior to the call for tenders to choose a strategic investor:
Publication of the revised interconnection agreement, which IAM offers to all new entrants and competitors to ensure consistency with international best practices and with pricing systems in other competitive markets;
Definition of the principles of the universal service and land-use planning system, particularly how it will apply to IAM in the long term and during the transition period which will follow the current situation, in which IAM is the only provider of these services.
Accelerating the liberalization process
The government is of the view that increased competition will yield faster growth in the telecommunications industry as a whole and improved performance. It has therefore decided to speed up the process of liberalization in telecommunications services so that the industry will be completely open in 2002, under rules that are transparent and fair to both new and existing operators.
The following specific measures are planned in order to further liberalize the telecommunications sector:
Expand the range of services that can be offered by simple declaration;
Process all additional GMPCS licence applications;
Grant telecommunications licences in late 2001 for trunked radio systems;
Issue a telecommunications licence in 2001 for the marketing of non-voice systems nationwide and another for non-voice long-distance services; voice services will follow in 2002;
Issue two licences for international telecommunications covering all the services that will be offered in 2002;
As stipulated by its licence, the second GSM operator will be authorized to build its own domestic infrastructure immediately and to provide international service using its own facilities starting January 1, 2002;
More generally, the government intends to grant other licences in order to guarantee users a choice between different operators in all market segments, with a view to total liberalization of the telecom market by 2002.
Improving the regulatory framework for liberalization
While the quality and credibility of the regulatory framework for telecommunications were clearly demonstrated by the successful issuance of the second GSM licence, the Secretariat of State believes the following improvements are necessary:
Amend Act 24/96 in order to (a) allow the national telecommunications regulatory agency (ANRT) to set graduated penalties for violations of the Act, regulations and licences; (b) replace the ANRT's a priori controls with a posteriori controls; (c) finalize the separation of the national postal and telecommunications institute (INPT) from the ANRT;
Ensure consistency between the Competition Act and Act 24/96, and take the necessary steps to permit a smooth transition from specific telecommunications regulations to general competition regulations as the telecom market becomes truly competitive;
- Ensure that the ANRT conducts public consultations and publishes its decisions, including rationale, so as to increase regulatory transparency.