Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: Lonestar Cell MTN's Suspension Halted

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) says it has been served a "Stay Order" by the Court stopping it(LTA) from pursuing any action against LoneStar Cell/MTN for its violation of the Suspension Order. According to a LTA press release, the Order, signed by His Honor Judge Jusif D. Kaba, resident circuit Judge of the Civil law Court of Montserrado County, directs the LTA to "STAY ALL FURTHER PROCEEDINGS in connection with the suspension of the operating licenses of LoneStar Communications Corporation."

Against this backdrop, the LTA added in the press release that it is therefore adhering to the Judge's order and has mandated its legal team to ensure that the matter is pursued to its logical conclusion during the December term of court as indicated in the Judges' Order. It can be recalled that recently, 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, the LTA boss indicated that LoneStar Cell MTN shall pay 25% of the revenues generated from such operations to the Government of Liberia (GoL).

The suspension was slated to have commenced at 12:01 AM on December 3, 2012 and end 12 Midnight on December 5, 2012. But in response to the LTA's suspension, the management of LoneStar Cell MTN through its Corporate Communications Executive, Dr. Lawrence K. Bropleh, described the suspension of the company by the LTA as a serious security nightmare to the country. Dr. Bropleh disclosed that the suspension of the company will take over 5,000 qualified Liberians from jobs, nothing this is not good for the security of the country.

"Imagine the level of chaos that the dismissal of just 40 persons from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) is causing in the country. It has now become the discussion in every street corner and hatire centers around Monrovia. What more you remove over 5,000 Liberians who have their dependents from job at once. This poses a great threat to national security and we shouldn't be taking that trance," said Dr. Bropleh. Addressing a news conference Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at LoneStar Cell's head offices in Congo Town, outside Monrovia, Dr. Bropleh stated that the company did not unilaterally disconnect Comium GSM, contrary to assertion by the LTA.

According to him, LoneStar Cell MTN complained Comium to LTA because Comium was indebted to it (LoneStar Cell MTN) in the amount of US$500,000. Quoting the Telecommunication Law of 2007, the LoneStar Cell MTN Corporate Communications Executive, said every complaint should take the LTA a maximum 180-day period to come up with a result or ruling, but noted that it took twice the 180-day period without the LTA coming up with any solution or redress.

Haven't received any redress from the LTA, he said, the company (LoneStar Cell MTN) again informed the LTA that it was going to limit its connectivity with Comium, something which he said, the company did not completely disconnect. "During this period, LoneStar Cell MTN subscribers could only receive text messages from Comium and not voice, which in other world is a limitation of our interconnectivity and not total disconnection as claimed by the LTA. How then can the LTA say that we unilaterally disconnected Comium after series of complaints filed to it without any redress?" Dr. Bropleh added.

Speaking further, he said there is no reason to suspend LoneStar Cell MTN because all of its (LoneStar Cell MTN) money owed by Comium had been paid, and that the two companies are having a much more close business ties than ever before. The top communication executive stated that his company has since paid a fine for the same purpose, and so, there is no reason for the suspension. He pointed out that proposed suspension is not only intended to jeopardize the business of LoneStar Cell MTN, but also could destroy some of its major equipment, stressing the company could lose its partner, the MTN group.

The MTN Group, based in South Africa, is Africa's biggest provider of mobile phone technology.

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