Rabat completed the final stage of its telecoms liberalisation programme on 21 July with the award of three third-generation (3G) licences by national regulator Agence Nationale de Reglementation des Telecommunications (ANRT MEED 21:7:06).

The successful bidders were: Meditel, a joint venture of Spain’s Telefonica and Portugal Telecom; Maroc Telecom, a subsidiary of France’s Vivendi Universal; and the local Maroc Connect. Nejma Telecom Maroc, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Wataniya, also bid.

Meditel and Maroc Telecom will use the UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) standard for their new networks, while Maroc Connect will deploy CDMA-2000 (code division multiple access technology 2000) supplied by China’s ZTE.

ANRT cited experience of the local market as a key factor in the awards. Meditel and Maroc Telecom operate GSM services in the kingdom, while Maroc Connect provides limited mobility services.

All three operators will use proprietary networks to support the new 3G services. The three companies will each pay a fee of MD 360 million ($41.6 million) towards upgrades to the telecoms frequency spectrum. Services will be operational by the end of 2008 at the latest.

Launched in 2004, the liberalisation process saw the granting the following year of licences for local loop, national backbone and international gateway services to Meditel and to Maroc Connect, whose licence also included the provision of limited mobility services (MEED 30:9:05; 15:7:05). It also saw the sale to Vivendi of a 16 per cent share in national operator Maroc Telecom in November 2004 and the initial public offering of a further 14.9 per cent stake the following month (MEED 17:12:04; 26:11:04).