2.7M GSM Users Reassured Against Call-off of 3-Day Free Calls

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Israel Akinsanya

About 2.7 million mobile telecommunications subscribers in the country have been reassured by the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) against speculations of the call-off of the three-day promotional free calls and its monopolization.

The GSM Consumer Association of Liberia in June 2018 put the users (consumers) statistics at 2.7 million.

LTA Commissioner Israel Akinsanya, on a local radio morning show on Thursday, December 13, said that negotiations were ongoing so as to improve the sector, which could only affect the price of recharge cards but not the three-day free calls.

Akinsanya said that the consultation of the three-day promotion is seriously affecting the GSM operators, and if nothing is done, one of the operators will consider pulling out.

Mr. Akinsanya said the Board of Commissioners has expressed fears against the monopolization of the GSM sector should one of the two GSM providers pulled out and, therefore, debunk rumors that government has no intention to cancel the three-day free calls promotion; “but there will be some adjustment in the fees so as to create an improved service to users and in which the government can generate the needed revenue for the two providers to remain functional.

He added that within the sub-region, Liberia has the lowest paid tariff on telephone calls and internet usage, but said that the rest of the countries around here are far expensive.

Akinsanya said that the anticipated added fees will improve the telecommunication sector and in a way that could lead to the country being elevated to the five G-internet speed.

LTA is the regulatory and competition authority charged with the statutory responsibility to ensure a vibrant telecommunications sector.

Recently, it posted on its website a proposal for new floor pricing for both voice calls and data. The proposal sets the floor price for voice call at US$0.156 per minute and data at US$0.218 per megabyte.

If the new price takes effect as a dollar call card that once served consumers for a three-day unlimited voice call, it would now serve for only 64 minutes, while 100 megabytes of data would be US$21.00.

Currently, consumers pay US$1 per gigabyte of data.

The latest decision to drop the popular and affordable three-day “free calls” promo follows the LTA’s decision to cancel the international call bundles offered by Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia, which allowed customers to make an international call at low cost.

It can be recalled that on Wednesday, November 5, the LTA said the proposed new GSM tariff floor is meant to end the war between the country’s two GSM service providers (Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia), something which is destroying the Liberian telecommunications industry.

According to an LTA release, “The entity has calculated in collaboration with Orange Liberia and Lonestar MTN that the cost for one minute of a telephone call is 0.0156 cents and that the cost for one megabyte of internet data is 0.0218 cents.”

It added, “This minimum price of 0.0156 cents for calls and 0.0218 cents for internet data will still allow Orange Liberia and Lonestar MTN to provide telephone and internet bundles for $1. The minimum price will still allow Lonestar MTN and Orange Liberia to offer 3-day promotional packages. Consumers will not experience any big change when the price stabilization begins next year.”

The LTA said it intends to end the “price war’ between Lonestar MTN and Orange Liberia and, as such, is using the telecommunications law of 2012, which forbids telecom companies from selling below their cost and, in enforcing the law, the LTA wants to stop telecom companies from selling telephone calls and internet data below their cost price, which they are now doing by offering free calls.

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