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Security nightmare in Liberia as top telco faces suspension

By Robin Okuthe     Nov 26, 2012 in Business
Monrovia - The suspension of Liberia’s leading mobile network operator LoneStar Cell MTN by Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), the nation’s telecommunications industry regulator, has been described as “a serious security nightmare to the country.”
LoneStar Cell MTN through its corporate communications executive Dr. Lawrence K. Bropleh said the suspension could cause serious security risks in the country as nearly 5,000 Liberians would lose their jobs.
"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 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," Dr. Bropleh said.
LTA through its chairperson Madam Angelique Weeks recently announced the suspension of LoneStar Cell MTN’s two operational licenses -- a disciplinary measure from the Board of Commissioners (BoC) given the “telecom firm’s ‘unilateral’ implementation of an ‘unauthorized’ change in its status of its interconnection with Comium- Liberia from May 18, 2012 to May 21, 2012.”
Madam Weeks said LoneStar Cell MTN did not comply in time with LTA’s directive to restore its interconnection fully with Comium, another telco, by 5p.m. on May 21, 2012 as it existed before to its May 18 "unilateral" implementation of the unauthorized change that is in question.
Out of "defiance", LoneStar Cell MTN in 2010, Madam Weeks said, took an "unauthorized" decision after it forced its interconnection link with a different operator, reported.
Basing on the decision, the suspension means that during the period of suspension, telco’s customers will be able to receive calls although the ability to make calls will be suspended.
She said that to reduce the effect the decision would have on the customers, LTA has made provisions that the suspension only affects areas in which LoneStar Cell MTN operates.
The said areas, according to her, will be excluded from the Suspension Order as customers will be able to make and receive calls.
Madam Weeks however said that the telco shall pay 25 percent of the revenues generated from such operations to Liberia’s government.
The suspension takes effect from December 3, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. and will take three days ending December 5 at Midnight.
Dr. Bropleh however said LonStar Cell MTN did not unilaterally disconnect Comium GSM as alleged by the LTA.
He argued that the telco complained LTA that Comium owed it some US$500,000, further quoting the Telecommunication Law of 2007 that states that every complaint should take the LTA a maximum 180-day period to come up with a result or ruling. He noted that it “took twice the 180-day period without the LTA coming up with a redress.”
"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 was quoted as saying.
Commenting further, Dr. Bropleh advised the LoneStar Cell MTN should not be suspended Comium had paid the debt, and that the two companies have since assumed closer business ties than before.
He further disclosed that LoneStar Cell MTN has since paid a fine for the same purpose and therefore the suspension did not hold water.
Dr. Bropleh complained that the proposed suspension could jeopardize his company’s business as well destroy some of its major equipment, hinting the company could lose its partner the MTN group.
More about LoneStar Cell MTN, Liberia Telecommunications Authority, LTA, LoneStar Cell MTN suspension