Lonestar Enjoying Monopoly?

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 19, 2004

Is the LoneStar Communication Corporation enjoying monopoly within the nation’s telecommunication sector? Or some forces are ensuring a de-facto monopoly? Liberia’s Post and Telecommunication Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe has been making some revelations;. Minister Nagbe told a well-attended news conference yesterday that his Ministry’s attention had been drawn to a letter under the signature of Professor Willie Belleh addressed to Celcom Telecommunication Corporation.

He said Prof. Belleh’s letter advised Celcom to among other things, halt its ongoing rollout activities including procurement and importation of all communication equipment, installation of facilities and operation of (Celcom’s) network pending a comprehensive review by a 3- man special presidential committee.

The Post and Telecommunication Minister said, Celcom has requested the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication to intervene and provide guidance on the matter.

“With Celcom having met all of the requirements, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication has accordingly informed the company to disregard Professor Belleh’s “advise” and continue to deploy and subsequently operate a GSM cellular network utilizing assigned frequencies and numbering plan,” Minister Nagbe stated.

Minister Nagbe said, “however, we have logically arrived at the deduction and confirmation of our suspicion that the main intent of the circular letter is not to review the telecommunications environment, but to perpetuate the de facto monopoly now being enjoyed by Lone Star at the expense of free enterprise, quality and competitive services and the reduction of prices which will be accrued there-from.”

He said, “we say this because while other would-be operators are being advised by the learned professor to halt rollout, he rather conveniently decided not to write any letter to Lone Star.”

He said if the intent is to review the telecommunication environment, LoneStar which now has a FSS International Gateway, a VST with a very wide capabilities and the most extensive frequency in use and in reservation should have been written.

Minister Nagbe said if one would be reviewing the telecommunication environment in the country, it would be prudent to begin with the only GSM operator in the country which is LoneStar.

He said as a means of protecting LoneStar’s interest, Dr. Abdullah Vandi, Chairman Bryant’s advisor on telecommunication in December of 2003, wrote under the International
Telecommunication Union(ITU) logo in a consultancy paper that “ the GSM network and system platform is already overcrowded in Liberia’s negligible telecommunication market”.

The Post and Telecommunication Minister said if the market is negligible, why is the incumbent GSM operator running approximately a subscriber base of over 50,000.

He said all of these are designed to ensure that LoneStar enjoys the de facto monopoly, but his administration is determined to liberalize the telecommunication market in the country.

Touching on GSM application before his ministry, Minister Nagbe said Atlantic Wireless Liberia Incorporated(AWLI) which acquired a license prior to his incumbency, has been asked by his ministry to address and clarify the issue of frequency assignment and payment of fees before being allowed to activate their network while some unresolved issues with Comium have arisen.

Recently Comium/LibanCell was in a legal suit in Lebanon for fraud, a situation which has prompted that country ‘s government to revoke its license.

The company has not responded despite the numerous publication about Comium/LibanCell legal suit for fraud as published on the internet and the Liberian media.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.