The Liberia Telecommunications Authority or LTA has warned mobile phone companies in the country involved in making inter-connectivity difficult for subscribers to immediately desist.
The LTA said it will not tolerate such “unacceptable practice”, designed to frustrate hundreds of thousands of consumers, using the facilities of GSM networks in Liberia.
The Commissioner responsible for Consumers and Public Affairs, Lamini Waritay, said the LTA continues to receive numerous complaints from subscribers throughout the country about encountering difficulties in seamlessly communicating with one another via their mobile phones.
Commissioner Waritay noted that most of the complaints come from Cellcom and LoneStar Cell subscribers, with Cellcom subscribers complaining that they often find it extremely difficult to connect with LoneStar’s network, and vice versa.
He said the LTA is aware of ongoing interconnectivity fees dispute between both companies with LoneStar Cell alleging that Cellcom owes it certain amount of money as interconnection payments, a claim Cellcom has disputed, and instead claimed that LoneStar is indebted to it.
Commissioner Waritay said the dispute has been so serious that the LTA, in consultation with the two GSM companies, has resolved to bring in external auditors for the purpose of verifying the interconnectivity fees claims being made by both entities.
The Commissioner said while the LTA is taking steps to find amicable and speedy resolution of the dispute, its has a statutory responsibility to make sure that all subscribers have unimpeded access to all licensed telecommunications networks in Liberia, and that they should enjoy full value of their money by enabling them not only to connect easily and stay connected on the various GSM networks, but also to enjoy a reasonable level of quality service.
Waritay warned that the LTA will take swift and appropriate measures against any GSM company that violates the terms and conditions stated in its license and, by extension, the Telecom Act that mandates the LTA to ensure that the rights of consumers to freely interconnect and communicate at any time throughout the country is not compromised.
Interconnection in the realm of telecommunication is the physical linking of the network of one telecommunications carrier to another carrier’s network for the sole purpose of transmitting voice and data.
Usually, the terms and conditions of such arrangements are concluded in an agreement between the interested parties to prevent dominance and monopolistic tendencies by bigger carriers.
In 2009, the LTA issued the Interconnection Regulation, setting forth the basic guidelines for cell phone companies to interconnect with a view to increasing access to communications across networks for the benefit of subscribers.
However, when contacted, LoneStar Cell Communication Consultant Dr. Laurence Bropleh, said his company has not received any official complaint from the LTA, but promised that LoneStar, with widest coverage, will continue to improve its network. Dr. Bropleh noted that the issue will be observed and when the problem is noticed, appropriate action will be taken to solve it.
He said LCC respects subscribers from other GSM companies as along as they are Liberians or residing here, adding that Lonestar Cell is a Liberian company that is committed to serving the public.
At the same time, the Chief of Operation at Cellcom, Mr. William Saamoi via mobile phone told this paper that his company welcomes the LTA intervention in the matter, adding that Cellcom remains committed in satisfying her costumers.