LTA: LoneStar Cell MTN’s Suspension is Irreversible

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority(LTA)  has maintained that its decision to suspension LoneStar Cell MTN for three days is irreversible. The LTA is the government’s regulatory arm for telecommunications services in the country, while LoneStar Cell MTN is one of the leading GSM companies operating in the country.

It can be recalled that over the weekend, the LTA through its Chairperson, Madam Angelique Weeks, announced the suspension of two operational licenses of LoneStar Cell MTN. According to Madam Weeks, decision regarding the suspension of two operational licenses of the company is a punitive measure from the Board of Commissioners (BoC) resulting from LoneStar Cell MTN’s “unilateral” implementation of an “unauthorized” change in its status of its interconnection with Comium- Liberia from May 18, 2012 to May 21, 2012.

She said the company (LoneStar Cell MTN) failed to timely comply with the LTA’s directive to restore fully by 5:00PM, on Monday, May 21, 2012 the interconnection between it (LoneStar Cell MTN) and Comium as it existed prior to its (LoneStar Cell MTN) 18 May “unilateral” implementation of the said unauthorized change. The LTA boss noted that being “recalcitrance”, LoneStar Cell MTN in 2010 took an “unauthorized” decision by shunting its interconnection link with another operator.

For purposes of this decision, she said suspension means that LoneStar Cell MTN customers will be able to receive calls but will not be able to make calls for the duration of the suspension period. To minimize the impact of this decision on customers in those areas which only LoneStar Cell MTN provides services, she noted that said areas will be exempted from the Suspension Order such as customers will be able to receive and make calls. However, LoneStar Cell MTN shall pay 25% of the revenues generated from such operations to the Government of Liberia (GoL).

Among other things, she added that the suspension is slated to commence at 12:01 AM on December 3, 2012 and will continue for three days until 12 Midnight on December 5, 2012. But following the announcement of the suspension, the company issued a statement,  saying that it was  considering options available to it as accorded by the Telecommunications Act 2007, Republic of Liberia as well as by its Standardized License.

Said the LoneStar Cell MTN’s statement: “Following the announcement of the LTA (Liberia Telecommunications Authority) to suspend the two operating licenses of Lonestarcell MTN effective the 3rd December – 5th December 2012, Lonestarcell MTN is considering options available to it as accorded by the Telecommunications Act 2007, Republic of Liberia as well as by its Standardized License.

To this end, Lonestarcell MTN is considering taking appropriate and necessary steps to ensure that all operations of Lonestarcell MTN and its network remain intact to support our more than ONE - MILLION customers.” Since the announcement of the decision to  suspend the company, there have been  public outcry against LTA’s action. 

Some people claimed that the decision to suspend the GSM giant was “unilateral” and    harsh. According to them, the suspension will have great impact on the company’s customers, many of whom, are Liberians. But speaking at a news conference in Monrovia Tuesday, November 20, 2012, the LTA through its Commissioner on Government Affairs and National Policy, Mr. Harry Yuan, Sr. said the decision to suspend LoneStar Cell MTN for three days is irreversible.

According to Commissioner Yuan, the LTA, being the regulatory arm for telecommunications activities, acted in line with the Telecommunications Act of 2007, and at the same time denouncing claims that the decision was unilaterally taken. Like Mr. Yuan, the Acting Chairman of the LTA, Mr. Henry Benson, said the LTA did not act unilaterally, but rather consulted with LoneStar Cell MTN as well as other stakeholders, which include GSM companies.

“The decision to announce the suspension was based on punitive mechanism, and no political undertone and people may understand it,” said the LTA acting boss. Mr. Benson, who is also the Commissioner for Engineering and Technology Services at the LTA, pointed out that LoneStar Cell MTN will be closely monitored during the three-day period.

“LoneStar Cell wants to use its customers as human shield, thereby making us appear that we want to harm them (customers). But the company is rather harming its customer and not the LTA,” Mr. Abdullah L. Kamara, Commissioner for Service Development and Market Structure at the LTA added.


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