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LTA Fines Lonestar/MTN US$225,000.00, Risk Additional Fines If...


MONROVIA, Liberia (November 15, 2011)  The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 (Two hundred and twenty-five thousand United States dollars) on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with  LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

Disclosing the Liberia Telecommunications Authority’s decision, Acting Chairperson of the LTA Board of Commissioners, Henry W. Benson, said Lonestar Communications Company, in total and continued disregard of the LTA’s order, has failed to honor three provisions contained in the Order.  He named the violations as:

1)    Lonestar’s failure to expand its inter-connection trunk with Cellcom by additional 16 EIs (to ensure better quality of service for consumers calling between Cellcom and Lonestar);

2)     Failure to negotiate and conclude an interconnection agreement with Cellcom within fourteen (14) business days following the publication of the LTA Order (to ensure a sustainable agreement for all parties involved); an

3)    Failure on the part of Lonestar to issue an indemnity monthly bond  in the amount of US$150,000.00  against Cellcom’s monthly prepayment of US$150,000.00 (One hundred and fifty thousand united states dollars) for interconnection charges as agreed by both companies, pending an interconnection agreement between the two operators as required by LTA’s Interconnection Regulation.

The LTA Acting Board Chairperson warned that failure on the part of Lonestar to pay the fine would attract stiffer measures from the LTA, to include an additional penalty of US$15,000.00 (Fifteen Thousand United Stated Dollars) for each violation for each calendar day up to 5 days, after which time the LTA shall consider and commence other measures against Lonestar.
Commissioner Benson pointed out that consistent with the LTA Act of 2007, the LTA has the authority to suspend, modify and revoke any telecommunications license granted to service providers operating in the Republic of Liberia on account of circumstances warranting such a regulatory measure.   He assured all subscribers that in any such event the LTA will take measures to protect their interests and those of the Liberia people in general.

Recently, the LTA, with the full agreement of both Lonestar and Cellcom, brought in external telecom auditors for the purpose of investigating the interconnectivity fees claims and counterclaims being made by both Cellcom and Lonestar.   The auditors have since completed the first phase of their work and are expected to commence the second phase shortly.
While the audit is being conducted, the LTA called on both operators to expand their interconnection trunks to enable subscribers of each of the two operators to communicate with one another without any hindrance and to minimize the chances of congestion, hence the LTA’s Regulatory Order passed several weeks ago.

Prior to the arrival of the auditors, many GSM subscribers using Cellcom network  had complained about difficulties they were encountering in seamlessly communicating with subscribers using Lonestar’s network.   Due to the gravity of this situation for subscribers, the LTA encouraged and literally appealed to Lonestar to open its E1s in order to bring relief to subscribers being affected by its refusal to do so.   To date, Lonestar has firmly and consistently failed to abide by LTA’s efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the interconnection dispute.

Speaking on behalf of the LTA Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Benson declared that the LTA will not sit idly by while subscribers are hindered in their use of phones, and while a service provider endeavors to distort the telecom sector in the country and undermine the statutory authority of the Telecom regulator.

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