22 November 2012

Liberia: Lonestar Seeks Settlement

The Management of LoneStar Cell/MTN has filed a "notice of arbitration" with the Liberia Telecommunications Authority on its decision to suspend two licenses belonging to LoneStar Cell/MTN.

LTA on November 16 accused the management of the LoneStar Cell/MTN of effecting an unauthorized change in

interconnectivity schedule with COMUIM Liberia, another licensed GSM operating company in the country, and subsequently suspended the LoneStar Cell for the violation.

LoneStar/MTN's Media Manager Dr. Lawrence Bropleh at a press conference Wednesday, described the LTA's action as heavy handed, adding: "This decision on the part of the LTA is not timely at all, owing to the fact it will deprive over one million of our customers and cause technical damage for the company."

Without denying charges levied against the LoneStar Cell/MTN, Bropleh said: "The arbitration notice means that all suspension action would come to a halt until we can find an amicable solution to this problem."

He admitted: "We limited our interconnection with COMIUM Liberia due to an amount they owed us (LoneStar)" especially during the heat of the dispute with COMIUM Liberia.

COMIUM Liberia, Bropleh pointed out, had owed LoneStar Cell/MTN Management almost US$500,000 in an interconnection business between the both companies, but disclosed that the matter has since been resolved.

"Which law has been broken?" Bropleh asked. He added,

"according to the 2007 Telecommunications Act which states that if a matter of such nature arises the LTA should handle it within 180 days, the LTA went times three within 180 days and failed to resolve the matter. In other words, the LTA violated its own laws."

Dr. Bropleh also warned against the suspension proposal put forth by the LTA, saying: "If this suspension is to be implemented, then, it means that over one million people are going to be denied access to calls.

It will also create a bleak picture for our investment climate, especially for our foreign partners. This is not good for an emerging economy like ours."

Denying that LTA's decision was politically motivated, Dr. Bropleh prayed that filing LoneStar's arbitration notice would help invite other stakeholders to amicably resolve the dispute.

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