The Liberian mobile regulator is beginning a sweeping investigation into the state of the country’s wireless market in an attempt to discover the exact privileges granted to the sector’s current sole operator, the aptly named Lonestar. The Ministry of Posts and Telecoms is concerned that whilst Lonestar was not officially granted a monopoly on the provision of wireless services in the country, it has enjoyed a de facto monopoly since launch in 2001 due to the government’s outright refusal to grant concessions to other companies. Lonestar also owns nearly all of the country’s available GSM-900 spectrum, leaving very little frequency for potential competitors.
The Ministry’s investigation has been prompted by complaints against the telecoms administration by start-up operator Celcom, which is currently building out a GSM network to rival Lonestar. Last week Celcom received a letter from a ‘Special Presidential Committee’ saying that it should halt its network rollout immediately pending a comprehensive review of its operations. The three-man committee has been set up by the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) and is operating outside of the Ministry of Posts and Telecoms. The Ministry is concerned that the committee’s interference is just the latest underhand attempt to secure Lonestar’s monopoly.