Since a few years Morocco has extended it’s cellular / mobile phone network with 3G high speed internet access. As a visitor, traveler or tourist it’s now possible to connect your laptop, netbook or notebook to 3G internet through a prepay, PAYG contract. Here’s the story about Maroc Telecom Menara 3G prépayé – a internet simcard that works in a Smartphone, iPhone or 3G USB stick.
Menara prepay 3G simcard from Maroc Telecom
The Menara prepay PAYG 3G simcard (Pay-As-You-Go) goes for 200 MAD (€ 18,- / US$ 23.50) in April 2010. The offer is for unlimited 3,5G HSPA internet access during 1 month.
|3G prepay PAYG from Maroc Telecom, the Menara simcard|
Recharge, top-up is done in tele-boutiques, supermarkets in for several for 10,20, 50, 100 and 200 MAD. The latter allows 1 month unlimited 3G access, which is a pretty good deal compared to European rates.
Connecting to Maroc Telecom with 3G
The menara prepay PAYG 3G simcard was bought at the Maroc Telecom Branche in the Marjane Supermarket in Tetouan, next to the airport. Buying the 3G simcard requires 200 MAD (€ 20 / 26 US$) and a passport copy.
After 15 minutes the Maroc Telecom Menara 3G prépayé was connected with the cellular 3G network using a Nokia N95 smart-phone.
The access points iaminternet, iamwap are shipped automatically, no need to call the helpdesk for the settings. Unfortunately, none of the settings worked out of the box. Because it’s a internet simcard, it’s not possible to call with it to the helpdesk through number 888.
Luckily, the sales person at the Maroc Telecom branche in the Marjane Supermarket in Tetouan could tell what was wrong based on the shipped APN. (Access Point name)
The shipped APN is for fixed contract holders, not for PAYG, prepay contacts. The APN should be changed from www.iamgprs1.ma to www.iamgprs2.ma. Impossible to figure that out without help – probably there are many facing this issue from start.
|Voice prepay PAYG from Maroc Telecom, the Jawal simcard|
It might prove worth to buy a normal prepay simcard also for 20 MAD to be able to call the helpdesk and have a local cellphone number. International calling rates are reasonable compared to roaming rates with most European providers.
Menara 3G balance recharge and balance check
Maroc Telecom Menara 3G prepaid internet simcard can be recharged with a JAWAL prepaid scratch-card. The 14 digit recharge number is shipped with a text / SMS message to 555. Recharging only adds more time, moving the expiration date of the 3G simcard further in the future.
|3G prepay PAYG recharge card JAWAL from Maroc Telecom|
In may 2010 an attempt was made to add another month to the time balance. However the promised recharge notification text / sms message was not received. It seemed the recharge system didn't work like this. The 3G menara card can not be used to call the helpdesk, its'a data only 3G simcard.
Asking around at a Maroc Telecom service shop showed that the recharge text / SMS message did work, though the recharge notification text / sms message is not sent. It's possible to check the 3G menara card expiration date by sending an empty text / SMS message to 580.
3G load shedding in weekends
Without doubt the 3G internet service of Maroc Telecom is quite popular. Unlimited bandwidth for just 200 MAD (€ 20,-) sounds just to good to be true. During weekends demand rises and responsiveness drops. At Chefchaouan (North of Morocco) the 3G internet service started with load shedding round midday on weekends (Saturday / Sunday). Packet data services (GPRS and 3G) disappeared from the cellular network for an hour or so. Not very surprising, overbooked network capacity is usually upgraded slowly.
|3,5G hspa Maroc Telecom internet-connection in morocco with a Nokia N95 8Gb|
Read how to share a 3G connection with others over WIFI.
3G coverage and performance with Maroc Telecom
Not surprisingly, 3G internet access is primarily located in area’s where there’s a minimum population to access the service. Outside towns 3G – UMTS switches back to GSM – GPRS. The faster EDGE variant for hasn’t been seen so far, making the speed / performance gap rather large. Also GPRS isn't always available as a packet data service.
|3G prepay PAYG internet access in Chefchaouan in the Atlas mountains in Morocco|
During peak hours at the end of the afternoon the responsiveness of the service degrades, sometimes not responding at all. However, outside rush hours the price / performance ration is more than reasonable.
Skype - VOIP calls over 3G internet in Morocco
The 3G network in Fez - the 3rd biggest city of Morocco - in may 2010 was fast enough for flawless VOIP calls with Skype. As a precaution the VOIP call was made through a commercial VPN tunnel. Sounds quality was excellent without interruptions on a Saturday morning. On more remote locations with 3G coverage VOIP calls were impossible because of poor network performance.
Google Earth in Morocco
Google Earth is blocked by Maroc Telecom since 2006 for unknown reasons. When starting the Google Earth application it can't connect to the imaging servers. There are a few reports of Meditel blocking access too, though not (yet) from INWI (formerly known WANA). Using a VPN tunnel or proxy makes Google Earth accessible again. With this blockade Morocco joins Bahrain in a nationwide blockade. Also Iran and Sudan have restrictions but only imposed by external embargo's.
Issues with Maroc Telecom
The IP address handed out by Maroc Telecom for the Menara 3G PAYG / Prepay service is blacklisted in April 2010. This means the IP address has been used for either spamming or other malicious activities. The consequence is usually not being able to send e-mail to mailservers which use blacklists to protect their clients.
For example the Dutch internet provider KPN (hetnet.nl or kpnplanet.nl) rejects mail sent from this IP address. Usually the mail bounces back in your mailbox. This is the case when using SMTP servers for sending e-mail directly from Outlook or similar.
Workaround is either using webmail or using a VPN service relocating your point of access to the internet to a different location away from Maroc Telecom.
3G coverage in Morocco
Exact 3G coverage by Maroc Telecom (and also Meditel and Wana) is apparently a trade secret. None of the 3 have made the reach of their 3G network public, except for classic GSM coverage which can be found at GsmWorld. Look here for coverage of the Maroc Telecom GSM network and here for an outdated coverage map of the Meditel GSM network. 3G coverage can be expected to be far less for the time being - UMTS equipment is usually installed at GSM antenna stations.
Read about the competition: 3G internet access with INWI and Meditel in Morocco.
UMTS - GSM station overload
Near Meknes, a large city in Morocco, the local UMTS - GSM station on the north side of town dropped its voice and packet data service several times during the afternoon and evening. The nearby Maroc Telecom antenna station just dropped it's service all together, this while competitor Meditel still operated in the same area. On the south end of Fes, Morocco's 3-rd largest city, Maroc Telecom operated just fine. 3G service was very responsive and operated without a glitch even at peak time.