Liberia: Interconnect war breaks out between Cellcom and MTN’s Lonestar


LoneStar Communications, the MTN subsidiary in Liberia, apparently screwed its cellular circuit sending the customers of its archrival, Cellcom, crawling for signals for connectivity. But when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

It seems it was LoneStar Communications that sparked the temporary but costly standoff with the sealing of its circuits against Cellcom. Perhaps severely irked by the blockade, Cellcom quickly raised alarms, calling on the Liberian Telecommunication Authority to prevail on the LoneStar Communication which it says had deliberately been blocking calls from Cellcom to LoneStar, an action which Cellcom management in the press statement described as posing serious embarrassment to it many subscribers for several hours.

The deliberate blocking of Cellcom network comes in the aftermath of a May 9th promotion undertaken by Cellcom giving its subscribers an offer of nine cents per minute to call other networks. In a press release Cellcom charged that it was a deliberate blocking by LoneStar of Cellcom calls; something Cellcom calls a gross violation of the Telecommunications Act of 2007 which states that "dominant service providers are prohibited from undertaking activities or actions that abuse their dominant positions".

Cellcom also contends that then "deliberate blocking by LoneStar of Cellcom's outgoing calls is a clear violation of the interconnection agreement between the two companies which requires both to remain committed to keeping the lines of communications open at all times and of an LTA Order of October 15, 2010 , which recommended that both Cellcom and Lonestar remain interconnected and ensure high quality of service to consumers."

Cellcom assured its consumers and subscribers that it remained committed to the practice of the highest ethical guidelines governing the LTA and the laws of the Republic of Liberia. "We are urging our subscribers and the general public to support us in this action as we strive to improve Telecommunications services in Liberia. We will continue to work with the LTA and the relevant authorities to restore normal service to all of our valuable subscribers," Cellcom said.

But LoneStar reacted sharply, justifying its action of blockage. Lonestar noted that the management of Cellcom owed LoneStar US$1m which represents arrears as of March, 2011, dating far back from June, 2009.

LoneStar says it has provided services to all other GSM networks in Liberia in good faith, but emphasized that LoneStar had written several communications as well as the presentation of invoices to Cellcom's management but to no avail, thus leaving LoneStar with the legitimate option is to take those actions including the involvement of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority LTA that now handling the matter.