Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Telco Turmoil as CEO is Fired

Yesterday, on The View From Fez, we speculated on the fallout from the VoIP ban fiasco and wrote "the ARNT management has been damaged by the ineptitude of their handling of the issue. If so, as one Moroccan commentator put it, "there may well be a reshuffling of the deck chairs". It appears that is already taking place
Azzedine El Mountassir Billahet, DG ANRT (left) and Mr. Ahizoune, president of Morocco Telecom (right)

Yesterday, (Tuesday, October 25, 2016) the head of the National Telecom Regulatory Agency (ANRT), Azzedine El Mountassir Billah was fired. The cause, according to informed sources, were numerous breaches of the rules of good management which were found by the auditors.

However, Moroccan media point out that his dismissal is probably due to a number of factors and that it is a "curious time for a dismissal".

Azzedine El Mountassir Billah, 59, was director of the ANRT for 8 years.

Moroccan telecoms have been in turmoil for several years and Azzedine El Mountassir Billah was at the forefront of several prominent disputes, particularly over the issue of to equable treatment for all telcos in the Kingdom.

Morocco Telecom, in which the state still holds a large share, still controls more than 95% of the market, including broadband internet (ADSL). Azzedine El Mountassir Billah focused on unbundling and giving access to the local infrastructure for fixed lines.

Access to network infrastructure to other telecom operators has been a legal requirement since 2007. However, nine years on, the ANRT has been criticising Morocco Telecom for obstructing it.

The battle between the ANRT and Morocco Telecom over unbundling recently heated up with the release on September 26th, and published on October 20th in the Official Bulletin, of a warning by the Agency to Morocco Telecom. The warning points out Morocco Telecom's "partial failure to fulfil its specific regulatory obligations as operator with significant power on the wholesale market for access to infrastructure".

It is natural, therefore that much of the Moroccan press sees the ANRT CEO's dismissal as the end result of the confrontation between the boss of the ANRT and Maroc Telecom's Mr. Ahizoune.

The news site, also points to the fact that the ANRT earlier this year approved the ban in Morocco of IP voice services (VoIP), making it impossible to Moroccan access (except to go through a VPN) Skype, Viber or Whatsapp, resulting in widespread anger. In the legislative elections some parties including WFP (which finished second) promised to reverse the ban. But the news site suggests that the lifting of the ban is only for the duration of COP22 (7-18 November) to allow foreign delegates to communicate.


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