Legislators back LTA in MTN Liberia licence suspension row

22 Jun 2012

The Liberian Observer reports that two members of the House of Representatives, Eugene A Kparkar and Gabriel Smith, are backing the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA’s) decision to suspend MTN Liberia’s operating licences. Earlier this month the LTA reportedly suspended the cellco’s two operating licences 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 went on to muddy the water over the ruling, saying that ‘the modalities of implementing the suspension decision are being discussed between Lonestar Cell [the brand name of MTN Liberia] 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.’

The two representatives are in full support of the LTA over the matter and say the watchdog has a legal mandate to regulate the sector and as such, MTN Liberia ‘must conform to all the regulations of the LTA and be made to pay all fines and penalties to ensure full compliance of the laws of Liberia.’ Although neither representative is a member of the House’s Telecommunications Committee, they have vowed to stand full-square behind the LTA in this case. In a statement, Smith and Kparkar allege that the GSM operator is in breach of the terms of its international gateway licence, and has been routing broadband traffic ‘illegally’ via a third party company in Cote d’Ivoire. ‘Currently, Lonestar is acquiring 3G through an illegal international gateway, thereby constituting a serious breach of its licensing terms as opposed to 2G data application,’ they say. ‘In view of those clear infractions and flagrant disregard of the Telecommunication Act of 2007, we are of the highly considered opinion that LTA which came into force as a result of a legislative enactment must be respected to the letter and her powers to regulate service provider,’ Smith added.

Liberia, Lonestar Cell-MTN