Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mobile in Morocco

View of the Mediterranean from my flat in Tangiers

I'm investing in an apartment in Tangiers, 100 m from the beach and in a prime position overlooking McD's. Look to the right out of the window and you will see not only the new train station but also the site where Tanger City Center will rise.

I'm excited about Tanger City Center. My experience of both Muscat and Dubai City Centers is that these developments are nice places to shop, with lots of outlets, including Carrefour. They attract lots of footfall.

I hope it will also offer free wifi connections where I can go and sip coffee and check my mail and Google Reader, whether on my new Android phone, yes, I bought one, or my netbook.

Although I will have net connection in my flat across the road.

I'm very happy with my new HTC Desire, albeit I have to put up with 3mobile in the UK, but it's a 30 day contract, so I could, theoretically, switch to a new provider at any time.

Don't you just feel for the guys in the States who are locked into service providers with the iPhone? Their gain is that iPhones and Android phones are so much more ridiculously cheap there than in UK. Undoubtedly because it's a bigger market.

I still haven't actually found out if an HTC Desire bought in UK would work in the States with a US provider. When I visited Florida in 2006, I had to buy a different phone for my US sim because, as they would, the Americans use a different transmission protocol. CDMA/EVDO instead of UMTS/HSPA.

So what about mobile net surfing in Morocco? Phone charges are high from your provider and extortionate for data transfer. 3mobile would have charged £5.50 per Mb for data roaming.

The solution is to buy a local sim for your phone and a USB Internet modem for your laptop. Foreigners can buy on showing their passports.

Both Maroc Telecom and Méditel offer a European compatible modem at £22 ($33) with one month's unlimited Internet. I chose Maroc Telecom because that was the nearest shop when I was looking. There are outlets all over Tangiers. The 3G signal was great in Tangiers and also halfway up a hill around 30km to the west. But the signal dips when you're in the valleys. This is also a problem with a plain old ordinary sim in your phone. For one night, I was connected continuously to Movistar of Spain. I suspect that Maroc Telecom may have a more comprehensive network than Méditel. In both cases, connections are likely to be more erratic in rural areas.

The newly rebranded company INWI (formerly WANA) does not offer internet data sim-only deals, because its phones and modems use the American CDMA/EVDO protocol and won't work on European networks. In May, INWI was charging around $57 for a Huawei USB modem including one month of free Internet access.

Only Maroc Telecom offers a 3G prepay Sim card (Menara) to enable your mobile for the web. Read this extremely informative article about where to buy and how to set it up.

It's an internet only service, so you need a Jawal sim in another phone to be able to use voice services. Complicated, I know. But in country charges are reasonable, you can top up, and if are going to be visiting regularly, as I intend, then you can keep the number going.

Just one thing, iPhone is not officially supported in Morocco at the time that I write. I shared tweets with a young Moroccan lady who commutes between Casablanca and Florida. She sold her iPhone to her cousin and let him get on with unlocking it to insert a Moroccan sim.

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