The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has reportedly suspended the two operating licences of MTN Liberia, trading under the Lonestar Cell brand, for two weeks in relation to its ‘unilateral disconnection’ of rival operator Comium Liberia. In a press release, the LTA said that the action had been taken for MTN Liberia’s non-compliance with the subsequent instruction of the LTA to reconnect Comium within a specific timeframe. However, the statement goes on to say that ‘the modalities of implementing the suspension decision are being discussed between Lonestar and the LTA as well as with other GSM networks and service providers, including the point in time when the suspension will begin and how it will be implemented in a way that will have less far-reaching impact on consumers.’ Given that MTN Liberia is by far the biggest mobile operator – it has over a million subscribers – the shutting down of its network is likely to cause severe disruption among the population – subject to what exactly the ‘modalities’ reached mean.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that on 23 May the LTA ordered MTN Liberia to reconnect rival operator Comium Liberia ‘with immediate effect’. The watchdog’s ruling, which was issued at 5pm (local time), was delivered by its acting director of public and consumer affairs, E Blamo Robinson. The decision followed a complaint from Comium that MTN Liberia had illegally disconnected the interconnection on the trunk network between the two firms on 18 May 2012. In issuing the order, the LTA has warned MTN Liberia that its failure to comply with the mandate will result in the commencement of proceedings to suspend its operating licence and ‘other appropriate actions’. In a statement the regulator said: ‘The LTA has been pushed to the extreme due to Lonestar’s [MTN’s] consistent disregard of LTA’s regulations and the government of Liberia’s policies on telecommunications.’ For its part, the under-fire cellco said it was unaware of the LTA’s mandate, and would respond accordingly upon receipt of the communique.