Some 1.4 million Moroccans own mobile phones, according to official sources, and the figure is expected to rise to 5 million by the end of 2002. The private mobile phone operator, Meditel, last week announced it expects to control half of Morocco's GSM market by 2003, as the number of its subscribers more than doubled since May 1999, reaching 375,000.
“Meditel has reached 375,000 subscribers, of which 90 percent are pre-paid card subscriptions,” Meditel's general director, Julian Barrenchea, stated at a news conference. The firm launched its services in April and its customers reached 160,000 by the end of May, Barrenchea said.
Based in the economic and financial center of Casablanca, Meditel was launched last year, after it was awarded a $1.1 billion GSM phone license, by a consortium led by Spain's Telefonica and Morocco's BMCE Bank.
From the outset, Meditel faced fierce competition from the state-owned Maroc Telecom over control of the Moroccan telecom market, considered the fastest growing in the Arab world. As a result, mobile phone pack prices were reduced by 60 percent and communication costs were decreased by almost 40 percent over the last two years.
Competition also yielded a dispute between Meditel and Maroc Telecom which risks being handed over to the courts. The bone of contention between the two companies is the marketing of a competitive service, ran by Maroc Telecom under the name "family and friends" and by Meditel as "friends and family."
Meditel executive Saeed Bedidi said his company has already registered the trademark with the Moroccan authorities in three languages — Arabic, French and English — before Maroc-Telecom started marketing the same service.
Competition between the two companies intensified this summer, as Maroc Telecom doubled call time on its pre-paid cards but left the price of the cards unchanged. Meditel retaliated by granting free mobile phone sets in its pre-paid packages.
“The Moroccan market is experiencing expansion and growth... It will continue to surprise us... It is expected to reach three to four million subscribers in the three coming years, of which around half will be Meditel clients," Barrenchea said.
Meditel's network currently covers 60 percent of Morocco's territory and is to reach a 100 percent coverage in four years time. “We have reached 60 percent after five months of activity and we commit ourselves to ensure full coverage in four years," Barrenchea stated.
Last week, Meditel and Maroc Telecom both launched a new service, offering subscribers a fixed discount on calls to selected numbers.
Official figures show that Morocco has a phone density of only five lines per 100 inhabitants. The total phone subscribers figure stood at two million in the first half of 2000, with 1.5 million connected to public and private GSM mobile phones. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )