The Inquirer (Monrovia)

19 November 2012

Liberia: LTA Suspends Lonestar Cell

A V-SAT installation

The Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has reached its final decision regarding the suspension of the two operating licenses of Lonestar Cell/MTN.The suspension is expected to commence at 12:01 a.m. on December 3, 2012 and continue for three days until 12 midnight on December 5, 2012.

At a press conference held during the weekend, LTA chair Angelia Weeks told newsmen that LTA took the decision as a punitive measure resulting from the following action of Lonestar Cell/MTN failure to timely comply with the LTA's directive to restore fully by 5:00 p.m., Monday, May 21, 2012 the interconnection between Lonestar and Comium Liberia as it existed prior to Lonestar cell MTN's May 18, 2012 unilateral implementation of the said unauthorized change.

The LTA chair also mentioned that Lonestar Cell/MTN unilaterally implemented an unauthorized interconnection with Comium Liberia from May 18 2012 to May 21 2012 and being recalcitrant considering Lonestar's previous unauthorized shunting of its interconnection link with another operator in 2010.

Angelia Weeks flanked by her board members at the press conference said the suspension means that Lonestar Cell subscribers will be allowed to receive calls but will not be able to make calls for the duration of the suspension period.

To minimize the impact of LTA decision on subscribers in those areas in which only Lonestar Cell/MTN provides service, Madam Weeks said such areas will be exempted from the suspension order such that those customers will be allowed to receive and make calls.

She however clarified that Lonestar Cell shall pay 25% of the revenues generated from such operations to the Government of Liberia.

Madam Weeks also indicated that the major factor that influenced the board's decision to reduce the duration of the suspension is in section 20(5) of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 which states that where a license is suspended, revoked or not renewed, the LTA shall take into account continuity of service to customers and include in its order such terms and conditions as it deems appropriate.

It may be recalled that in June 2012, the LTA previously announced that Lonestar Cell had been informed of the board's initial decision to suspend Lonestar Cell licenses for two weeks because of aforementioned reasons.

before the LTA could implement further procedural steps including issuance of its order to that effect, Lonestar Cell/MTN filed a court petition seeking judicial review of the LTA's decision.

This legal action by Lonestar put a stay order on the proceedings by the LTA, pending conclusion of the court action. At that time, according to Madam Weeks, Lonestar Cell subsequently withdrew its petition which freed the LTA to continue with the requisite procedural steps in furtherance of the board's initial decision to suspend Lonestar Cell's two licenses. Read full text of the LTA press statement below:

The Board of Commissioners (BoC) of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), on Thursday, 15 November 2012, informed the Management of Lonestar Communications Corporation (Lonestar Cell/MTN) of its Final Decision regarding suspension of the two (2) operating Licenses of Lonestar Cell/MTN as a punitive measure resulting from Lonestar Cell/MTN's:

Unilateral implementation of an unauthorized change in the status of its interconnection with Comium Liberia from 18 May 2012 to 21 May 2012; failure to timely comply With the LTA's directive to restore fully by 5:00 Monday, 21 May 2012, the interconnection between Lonestar cell and Comium Liberia as it existed prior to Lonestar cell MTN's 18 May 2012 unilateral implementation of the said unauthorized change; and Recalcitrance, considering Lonestar Cell/MTN's previous unauthorized shunting of its interconnection link with another operator in 2010.

For purposes of this Decision, "suspei1son" 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 in which only Lonestar Cell/MTN provides service, said areas will be exempted from the Suspension Order such that those customers will be allowed to receive and make calls. However, Lonestar Cell/MTN shall pay be allowed 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).

The suspension is slated to commence at 12:01AM on 3 December 2012 and continue for three (3) days until 12 Midnight on 5 December 2012. A major factor that influenced the BoC's decision to reduce the duration of the suspension is Section 20(5) of the Telecommunications Act of 2007, which states that where a license is suspended, revoked or not renewed, the LTA shall take into account continuity of service to customers and include in its Order such terms and conditions as it deems appropriate.

The LTA had previously announced in June 2012 that Lonestar Cell/MTN had been informed of the BoC's Initial Decision to suspend Lonestar Cell/MTN's Licenses for two (2) weeks because of the aforementioned reasons. However, before the LTA could implement further procedural steps including issuance of its Order to that effect, Lonestar Cell/MTN filed a Court Petition seeking Judicial Review of the LTA's decisions. . This legal action by Lonestar Cell/MTN put a stay on further proceedings by the LTA, pending conclusion of the Court Action. Lonestar Cell/MTN subsequently withdrew its Petition, which freed the LTA to continue with the requisite procedural steps in furtherance of the BoC's Initial Decision to suspend Lonestar Cell/MTN's two (2) Licenses.

As required by the Telecommunications Act of 2007 and the LTA's Licensing Regulations, the BoC by letter dated 17 July 2012 informed Lonestar Cell/MTN that the effective date of the proposed suspension would be determined after due consideration. of inputs received during stakeholders consultations and that Lonestar Cell/MTN would have 30 days from the date of receipt of the 17 July 2012 letter to prepare and provide to the LTA, comments on the proposed suspension. Lonestar Cell/MTN was also informed that the following procedures would be used in implementing the decision to suspend Lonestar cell MTN's Licenses. The LTA would notify the Public; invite comments from sector operators/service providers, other interested parties, as well as the general public; issue the LTA Order not later than seven (7) days after concluding all consultations. Lonestar Cell/MTN was also informed that it would be given prior notice and that the subsequent LTA Order would indicate the punitive measures to be taken against Lonestar Cell/MTN, the date on which the punitive measure would be implemented and the duration thereof.

Over the ensuing months and before arriving at its Final Decision, the BoC considered several factors, including inputs from Lonestar Cell/MTN itself, other sector Operators, a cross-section of the general public, as well as the BoC's own research. The BoC also held extensive deliberations on numerous occasions and for several days before notifying Lonestar Cell/MTN of its Final Decision. The Suspension Order is expected to be issued shortly.

Meanwhile, following the announcement of the LTA (Liberia Telecommunications Authority) to suspend the two operating licenses of Lonestar Cell MTN effective the 3rd December - 5th December 2012, Lonestar Cell MTN says it is considering options available to it as accorded by the Telecommunications Act 2007, Republic of Liberia as well as by its Standardized License.

The GSM provider said it is considering taking appropriate and necessary steps to ensure that all operations of Lonestar Cell MTN and its network remain intact to support its more than one million customers.

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