The move to block Whatsapp, Skype and Viber services in Morocco has evoked an angry reaction from users both in Morocco and around the world. If the National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT) or the telecoms thought that they would get away with it without a fight, they badly misjudged the issue. It is widely believed that the decision will have a negative impact on Moroccan society and business
In many areas Morocco has embraced smart technology and alternative energy production. Yet in the field of telecommunication, the blocking of VoIP services is a retrograde step which will impact on Morocco's international image and competitiveness. Here are some of the reasons.
VoIP is an essential part of many businesses
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a method for taking analog audio signals and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet. Basically, using VoIP allows you to make calls using software on your computer, or hardware connecting your phone to the internet, to make calls over the internet (to the phone numbers you would usually call) at an extremely reduced cost to that you would have otherwise paid, or in some cases, for free.
Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are migrating from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs. A early as 2008, 80% of all new Private Branch Exchange (PBX) lines installed internationally were VoIP.
VoIP solutions aimed at businesses have evolved into unified communications services that treat all communications—phone calls, faxes, voice mail, e-mail, Web conferences, and more—as discrete units that can all be delivered via any means and to any handset, including cellphones. Two kinds of competitors are competing in this space: one set is focused on VoIP for medium to large enterprises, while another is targeting the small-to-medium business (SMB) market.
VoIP allows both voice and data communications to be run over a single network, which can significantly reduce infrastructure costs. Using VoIP is smart business and a country such as Morocco should be embracing this and future technologies, not attempting to force people back to the past.
Users have already purchased bandwidth
Users have been quick to point out that having purchased bandwidth from a provider (Meditel, Maroc Telecom or Inwi) they should be free to use that bandwidth as they please. The "so-called" free calls have in fact been paid for.
The social impacts
VoIP calls on Viber, Whatsapp and Skype are essential for the poorer members of society, who can not afford fixed-line rentals. A huge number of Moroccans use VoIP for staying in touch with relatives both in Morocco and overseas.
Clearer audio communications for people who are hard of hearing is now possible with VoIP services. Two thirds of the frequencies in which the human ear is most sensitive, and 80 percent of the frequencies in which speech occurs, are beyond the capabilities of the public switched telephone networks. VoIP improves video communications for people whose primary mode off communication is sign language.
For sign language VoIP is essential
VoIP services are now regularly used by medical and veterinary professionals for assisting in diagnosis and treatment of patients in remote areas. In such cases VoIP services can mean the difference between life and death.
Another driving force toward VoIP adoption for healthcare organisations is the need for a way to process the hundreds of patient calls received each day. By utilising VoIP and contact centre services, hospitals and doctors offices can process multiple calls at the same time and sort them on a priority basis. VoIP also is now being used to aid communication between doctors and patients by linking them to translators.
The use of Skype for doctors is critical
The use of Skype in education is now recognised universally. In Morocco is it a common teaching resource, particularly in language centres, where it is employed to give students interaction with teachers and native speakers of the languages being taught.
There are now thousands of university courses where on line tutoring and oral examinations use Skype.
Skype in the classroom
The USA takes security seriously and now depends on VoIP in a number of key areas:
The U.S. Commerce Department switched to VoIP for a better emergency broadcast system. Commerce Department VoIP phones allow officials to deliver targeted warnings in an emergency by department — a reverse 9-1-1. And because they are also able to deliver the warnings in text and with flashing lights, even deaf users can be warned.
The US Department of Defence is using VoIP in Iraq and Afghanistan to move communication onto their own more secure networks and for rapid deployment to be more nimble and mobile in times of war. DoD has more than 130 VoIP networks worldwide and is considering a transition agency-wide. The Defence Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) move to VoIP allows them to migrate voice traffic from a network managed by a private company to a private network under total Defence Department control.
The US military has rolled out a VoIP network for the Iraqi police that uses a satellite-based network. This is the only fully functioning Iraqi national command and control network. The VoIP phones and VSAT network were the fastest way to get a network up and running after the toppling of Saddam Hussein by Coalition forces. This VoIP/VSAT network is expected to be used by Iraqi security personnel in various jobs. It enabled calls to be encrypted for secure communications.
The Environmental Protection Agency is using VoIP for its Disaster Recovery Centre. In an emergency, VoIP lets you relocate phones on the fly. EPA chose VoIP as a cost-efficient disaster recovery system. They needed voice and data at a remote Disaster Recovery Centre. They found that deploying VoIP in a normally unmanned building was more cost effective — because implementing a separate voice and data network was expensive and would rarely be used — but it also allowed users to relocate phones on any data network.
The Government in Herndon, VA is using a VoIP system that enables them to broadcast the face of a missing child on all phones.
The Navy has implemented VoIP on all of its active aircraft carriers. VoIP is also supporting a new US Naval Network Operations Centre.
For Arizona’s state agencies, moving from antiquated phone systems to a converged voice over IP network wasn’t merely a good idea, it was the law. They did it to save taxpayer money, of course. But along the way, the state discovered that a converged network not only increases efficiency, it can also boost security. With the old system, fire or police departments who responded to a 911 call, had no way to pinpoint the office from which the call was made. Now their VoIP system automatically identifies the extension, room number and floor, and then notifies capitol security personnel via cell phone or pager
The blame game
For their part the telcos are now shifting the blame and anger away from themselves by claiming the decision to block VoIP calls was the fault of the ANRT. In a statement on January the 6th the CEO of Morocco Telecom, Abdeslam Ahizoune, ducked the issue and apportioned blame to the ANRT, saying that it was the ANRT which is causing the blockage, and not operators.
The National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT) has finally reacted by publishing a statement on January the 7th. The controller invokes the "shortfall" in revenue of operators to explain the recent unexplained blocking service based on VoIP. How one arrives at a "shortfall" given the telecom providers profits is not explained.
For the ANRT, these applications "do not fulfil all the requirements to be in compliance with current regulations," thus justifying that "their suspension is part of the compliance of operators with their obligations obligations under the licenses they hold."
What can the ANRT and Telcos learn from this fiasco?
The ANRT needs to have a serious look at the future of communications, rather than try and remain locked into old technology. The benefits for Moroccan society, the government, business and the telecommunications industry are obvious. Morocco, which is so forward thinking on issues of alternative energy, needs to come to terms with the use of VoIP over any network from any location.
And until the ANRT and the telcos come up with their own free VoIP service, they should step back and revoke all limitations on what are now essential providers of VoIP - Skype, Whatsapp and Viber.