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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaThe Chairperson for the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) Madam Angelique Weeks, has confirmed the existence of a leaked LTA Assessment Report of a preliminary due diligence mission conducted by the entity to validate suspicions that a previously decommissioned Lonestar Cell MTN telecommunications dish has been reinstalled.

Chairman Weeks also says the specific fact-finding mission was carried out in response to a tip off. The touchy issue is whether or not GSM Operator LonestarCell MTN, without prior authorization from the LTA, reinstalled or reactivated the telecommunications dish, which can be used to supply broadband data capacity from the Ivory Coast to Liberia.

In the wake of the leaked report while investigation is ongoing, the LTA is poised to dismantle the telecommunications dish in question, which is mounted on a tower in Toe Town, Grand Gedeh County bordering neighboring Ivory Coast. 

The telecommunications dish appears to be positioned where a previous Lonestar Cell MTN dish was removed and decommissioned by the LTA in August 2012.Chairperson Weeks confirms that the dish will be taken down the first week in February “to ensure that pending completion of the investigation, there is no capacity coming from the Ivory Coast.”

Inasmuch as the LTA previously had the dish removed and Lonestar Cell MTN has not received the National Regulator’s authorization to reinstall it, if Lonestar Cell MTN is found to have reconnected the dish or has been receiving data capacity from neighboring Ivory Coast, this will be a gross regulatory violation with strong punitive consequences. Lonestar Cell MTN has confirmed that the telecommunications dish was indeed reinstalled, but denies that it has reactivated the cross-border connectivity link.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports indicate that Lonestar Cell MTN is undercutting the price for wholesale bandwidth in the market, selling one megabyte for US$350; while all other providers are offering this capacity for around US$1,000.  Chairperson Weeks has said that “low prices are certainly desirable, but prices must not be of a predatory nature; thus, an Operator may not sell below certain market prices.”

The LTA periodically conducts unannounced fact-finding investigations as part of its regulatory function.  Investigations are carried out by the LTA’s trained technicians and findings remain confidential until thoroughly scrutinized and conclusions adopted by the LTA Board of Commissioners.  “These investigations form part of our sensitive sector surveillance operations and are vital to national security” Chairperson Weeks noted.

A sensitive but inconclusive LTA fact-finding report was apparently leaked to a local newspaper and published on Wednesday, 28 January 2015. The premature release of information from this report is irresponsible and unfortunate, as it has the potential to compromise the LTA’s investigation, as well as national security.  All employees and Commissioners of the LTA sign Confidentiality, Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest statements.

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