Is LIBTELCO Ready to Operate GSM?

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Members of the House of Representatives voting Tuesday to amend the Telecommunications Act of 2007

The House of Representatives thinks so, but industry analysts forecast bleak picture locally and globally

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday has voted to amend the Telecommunications Act of 2007 Part IV Section 12 (2)(3)(4) and Section 13 (1) and (2) to expand the functions of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) become a GSM Operator.

The expansion of the amendment relates to licensed service providers including  expansion of the functions of the National Operator  on the structure (role) of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) as a ‘revenue operator,’ to contribute towards the national budget.

Members of the House of Representatives, on the 43rd day sitting approve the act and forwarded it to the Senate for concurrence.

The House’s approval followed by a recommendation from the Joint Committee  on Post & Telecommunications; Ways, Means and Finance and Judiciary after a three-week’s intensive public hearing and consultations.

Maryland County District #3 Representative, Isaac Roland introduced the bill which was read in July 9, 2020 and was subsequently turned over to the Committee’s on Post & Telecommunications; Ways, Means and Finance and Judiciary.

The Joint Committee wrote: “The amendment of those provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 as cited herein will enable the Government-owned Corporation ‘LIBTELCO’ to provide world-class telecommunications products and services at cheaper at affordable prices for all Liberians that will enable growth of various sectors, such as education, healthcare, banking, energy and serving the masses, at large, for a sustainable economic growth of our society.”

The Committee added: “In an effort to counter the devastating impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and to support maximum returns on internal resources government for economic recovery, we strongly believe that amending the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 to expand LIBTELCO’s functions as a National Operator, will have a positive effect on the economy and will enable growth of various sectors, such as education, healthcare, banking, energy and serving the masses, at large.”

The Joint Committee further: “Hon. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, the Committees are convinced to recommend to this noble body to amend Section 12 sub-sections 2, 3, 4 & 5, Section 13 sub-sections 1 & 2 and Schedule A of the Telecommunications Act of 2007, and to subsequently forward to the Liberian Senate for concurrence.”

The Joint Committee was led by Judiciary Chairman Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, because the chairman on the Post and Telecommunications, Rep. Roland recused himself as a sponsor of the bill.

In an exclusive interview, Rep. Roland, who is also the chairman on the House’s chairman on Post & Telecommunications and co-chairman on Peace, Religion and National Reconciliation said the approval of the law is a “new dawn of the telecommunications sector.”

He indicated that the amendment will enable the Government-owned to provide world-class telecommunications products and services to meet its customers’ needs and to make fitting contributions to the national budget for execution and implementation of government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

While it may appear as a no-brainer for the Government of Liberia to give Libtelco the go-ahead to operate in the retail telecommunications space, along with the two existing providers, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia, existing market data shows a very narrow competition between the two players and, as industry experts have long suggested, the entrance of a third player in the market, offering similar services as the other two, would be a death wish.

According to the Liberia Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband Statistics and Analyses (2019) report, the privatization of the neglected incumbent telco, Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco), failed in 2005 though efforts to resuscitate the company have continued.

“Competition between the two key mobile operators, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia, has led to a reduction in pricing for voice and data services, and this prompted the regulator in late 2018 to suggest a tariff floor,” the report says.

“Meanwhile,” the report continues, “the harmonization of a disorderly mobile licensing and spectrum allocation regime has caused some difficulties, and market penetration remains low compared to other countries in the region. Penetration has also been affected by SIM card registration requirements imposed in recent years.

“The market is ineffectively monitored by the telecom regulator, which lacks the resources, technical expertise and documentation to enforce its orders. As a result, a number of operators are able to avoid paying fees to the government and have continued to operate despite the regulator’s rulings that they must close down their services.

Going forward, the publisher of the report notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 “is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries,” the report says.

“On the consumer side, the report summary observes, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures.

“Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, the report summary says, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.”

According to Datareportal’s Digital Liberia 2020, which provides data on mobile, internet and social media usage across the country Liberia’s market for mobile and internet services remains incredibly small and hardly diversified, with 4.13 million mobile phone connections out of a population of 5 million people, as at January 2020. This takes into account that most subscribers have more than one mobile phone connection.

Yet, between January 2019 and 2020, the total number of mobile phone connections grew by 32 percent, equal to nearly a million new connections within that period. Yet, only 12 percent of the Liberian population (624,600) use the internet and, of that number, 70% access the internet via mobile phones.

A former Libtelco executive, who requested not to be named, said that, for the company to enter such a fiercely competitive mobile telecommunications market — as a government run entity — among the likes of well established giants MTN and Orange, it would be prudent for the Libtelco to carve out a highly strategic and high-demand niche, where it can cultivate growth and not get slaughtered.

Author

  • I am a Liberian journalist, born November 7 and hailed from the Southeast and of the kru tribe. I began contributing to the Daily Observer 2008 and was fully employed in 2012. I am the 3rd of eight children and named after my great grandfather. Am happily married with three children (girls). I am a full member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and also the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) and the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOL). I can be contacted through email: [email protected] or cell number/WhatsApp: (+231) 0886585875 or Facebook.

10 COMMENTS

  1. For the answer look no further than LEC , Liberia Water and Sewer, LPRC and ELBC and others state-owned companies that only operates in or near Monrovia . Many of the state-owned companies are afraid to leave Monrovia because of the bogeyman out there on the highway. And like most state-owned enterprises, that LIBTELCO will be over run by political party’s appointees. There you have the answers.

  2. Why not improve the existing government entities? Government hospitals, clinic, radio station, LEC, etc are yet to meet the needs of the people and to provide quality services to the public.

  3. CDCians are desperately looking for ways and means to put more money into their pockets. Guys, were you presented a credible feasibility studies to motivate your decision? Or you want us to say you are finding ways to generate more revenue for government?
    Unfortunately, my country Liberia!

    LIBTELCO has so much to do in Liberia than going low to compete with MTN and Orange Liberia, guys. Use your brains and stop being shortsighted.

    Develop telecommunications infrastructure through the length and breadth of the country, compel all local and international companies hereunder to get connected or to use such infrastructure to provide telecommunications services. In so doing, you generate even substantial sums from those companies than competing with them. Militarily and security wise, you control all communications within and out of the country.
    Look guys, think big and stop voting bogus legislation that will surely create hurdles for us when excellence, merit and hard work shall assume the leadership of the country soon.

    Instead of looking for loopholes from which you will steal more money, endeavor to recovery just 5% of tax revenues to raise annual budget to at least 2 billion.
    What development projects can you undertake with the meagre 500 million dollars you vote every year? With such budget, I bet, you can be given 20 years and you will NEVER connect the entire country with good road networks, pipe borne water and electricity.

    I once heard a nice speech, which later became a jingle for many radio stations, of dreaming big. Liberians, let’s learn to dream big.
    We are allowing foreign companies and multinationals to control us in our own economy. Let’s put an end to mediocrity and promote excellence.

    I just hope this other bill was not proposed by a multinational through a corrupt lawmaker!

  4. The idea of collecting taxes is brilliant. The developed nations of the world demand tax payment from its citizens. Before and during the time of Christ Jesus our Saviour, taxes were collected. Although the Lord was physically unemployed, He obediently paid taxes. After all, if there’s a unique way in which taxes can be collected fairly, every citizen of any country will have no hesitation to pay his or her fair share of taxes.

    Trouble……..
    Some Liberian pundits are quick to spread rumors about what the government of Liberia does with tax money. That has got to stop. The rebuilding process of Liberia, requires good citizenship involvement and not gossips, rumors or destructive politics.

    May God bless the country of Liberia and its people regardless of where they live. May the Angel of the Lord go after those pundits who instill fear and spread rumors.

    Peace to all.

  5. Rumors, what is a rumor?
    A currently circulating story or report of uncertain doubtful truth.

    According the IMF 2019 Liberia Country Report, from Ellen to Honorary Dr. Dr. Dr. Weah, Liberia collects ONLY 0.17% of its taxes.
    According to the definition above, this is not a rumor. The data can clearly be traced on the IMF website, and so this is not a rumor.

    You see, we often hear people say that God ordains all rulerships and leaderships, NO! That’s not true.
    Go back to Biblical time and read about rulers like King Nebuchadnezzar, his rulership was NEVER ordained by God.
    But take the leadership of King Solomon or King David, it was indeed ordained by God Almighty.
    How do we know a leadership is ordained by God? The country lives in the fear of God, peace and prosperity abound, and major developmental decisions are reached collectively and consensually with the proceeds being equally distributed for the wellbeing of all.

    Is it what we have in Liberia now? NO!
    Without the fear of God, they bribed their way through the presidency, spent the first year breaking down their houses and rebuilding them into mansions, forgetting the sweat words and promises they made to the hungry and impoverished children of Liberia.
    In year 2, they decided to collectively steal the money left at the Central Bank of Liberia to enrich themselves and tribesmen. To date, the plagues are innumerable!

    Can they dare collect 100% of the taxes and duties to benefit the entire country and raise annual budget to at least 2 billion? NO!
    They signed a contract to keep the status quo; don’t touch certain investments, companies and multinationals that help us kill the Liberians to come to power. And you know what, our Gbekugbeh, eager to rule, quickly took the bait by signing unto it at the detriment of old man BOAKAI.
    Since 2005, you have insulted this woman publicly, even plotted to overthrow her at one time, and thought about the unimaginable just to ascend to power. Do you believe she will seldomly create love for you overnight to hand you a lovely gift? It must be poisonous preso!. You should have used your head small, not big oooh!

    But 99 days for the rogue and one day for the master. The Liberian people will one day take over their country and right the wrongs.

    Peace in Liberia!

  6. For purposes of this discussion, maybe the IMF record is correct. If the IMF is correct, less than 1% of the country’s taxes aren’t being collected. And certainly, the 0.17% figure cannot be treated as a rumor. However, that particular issue is not what I referred to as a rumor. When you (Mr. Dolo), make the point that the collected tax money “will be used to put money in their pockets”, you’re blatantly engaged in spreading a destructive rumor. Are you a member of the inner circle? How do you know whether the pockets of the CDcians will be stuffed with money “in their pockets”? Do you have any hard evidence? Can you name one CDCian whose pockets were stuffed with tax money? Name one please.

    Your Biblical charge is wrong. Initially, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was a notorious proud leader. King Nebuchadnezzar bragged so much that God had to intervene powerfully in his political life. But after God cooled the King off by a series of punishments, God later on referred to Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Jeremiah as His servant. How could that be? Please do a brilliant research in search of the truth! God uses people whom He loves in so many ways.

    You can make the charge that taxes ought to be collected. I don’t have an iota of problems with that. Not being redundant, my point is this….you don’t know how the collected money is being spent.

  7. The collected money is what the government defines as an annual budget. The government collects around 400 million dollars in taxes annually (0.17%), plus income from public corporations. As so, every year, your government votes a budget of about 500 million dollars.
    Just imagine if the government were collecting just 5% taxes, expediently running public corporations and computerizing customs duties collections, it would vote minimum 2 billion dollars budget every year, constitute reserves funds of at least a billion dollars every year and stop enriching the IMF all the time.

    Weah could have been the right man, but the guy bought his way to the presidency, very sad Comrade Hney!

  8. If Libtelco is a regulatory body, then it cannot serve as a player. On the other hand if Libtelco wants to be a player then it must give up its regulatory power and submit itself to be regulated and controlled. Additionally, GSM company being backed by government is absolutely wrong. We’re talking about personal data here. Nobody will want to have their personal data being kept by government and their activities being monitored. Private citizens will be targeted, opposition politicians will be at the mercy of government with respect to what they do or say on cellular phone. Filing a law suit against private companies for damages is more easy than doing so against government which is why private government is much preferable than government.

  9. I think libtelco internet service will be more cheaper than that of Lonestar cell MTN and orange Liberia who are working together today to steal the Liberian people money in the name of providing services

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