Telecommunications in Morocco

Filed under: Morocco — Tags: — Russell @ 8:27 am  

We had a good experience in Italy using a Vodaphone cellular modem.  The one challenge was that we couldn’t share the connection between our three devices (laptop, Ipod Touch, BlackBerry).  So I bought an unlocked Huawei E585 on Ebay.  This is a cellular modem that retransmits the signal as WiFi so it can be shared by up to 5 devices.  The common name for such a device is MiFi.  It arrived while in Rome but I couldn’t get this to work using the Italian Vodaphone data SIM.

In Morocco, we had better luck.  We bought a data SIM from MarocTel.  For 200 DH (about 20 Euros) we got one month of unlimited 3G service.  We hooked it up to the MiFi with the following settings:

Connection Number: *99#
User Name: <none>
Password: <none>
Authentication: NONE
APN: Dynamic
IP Address: Dynamic

It worked well in Marrakech and Rabat.  I would pop in into my bag when we heading out of the day.  As we walked around we were surrounded in our own cloud of private WiFi.  It would last for about 5 hours and could be recharged using a USB cable either from the laptop or the Blackberry charger.  This made it easier to navigate or check restaurant reviews while out for the day.  We also got very good Skype performance and were able to make good quality phone calls.

Unfortunately, the Blackberry doesn’t work very well when you don’t have data services.  I had hoped that the combination of a voice SIM and WiFI would make the Blackberry a good travel device but it was not to be.  Without a cellular data plan, email, facebook, podcasting and the app store stopped working.  The browser, Twitter and BlackBerry maps continued to work.  Some third party apps like the Globe and Mail are fine.  Surprisingly, Google’s email app won’t work without a cellular data plan.  This is not to say that these application won’t use WiFi if it is available, just that they check for a valid wireless SIM and refuse to operate if you don’t have a data plan.  BlackBerry also doesn’t support Skype which is the best way to make calls when traveling internationally.

Has anyone tried travelling with an iPhone or Android phone using a combination of a voice plan and WiFi?  I’d be interested in knowing if this works.  The alternative seems to be carrying multiple devices like a cheap Nokia phone, an iPod touch and perhaps a MiFi.

When we got to Moulay Bousselham the cellular data coverage was not good.  There was a slow connection in the center of the town that fell off as we moved to the edge where we were staying.  After a few days we found a nice café with an expresso machine and a terrace that had a good view both of the coast and the local cell tower.

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