Liberia: LTA to amend licensing regime to allow Vodacom to enter the market?

Telecoms

National industry regulator the Liberian Telecommunications Authority (LTA) is reportedly in the process of amending the country’s Licensing and Authorisation Regulations in a move designed to allow the entry of another mobile player in the market, and offer financial support to struggling incumbent operators.

FrontPageAfrica cites unnamed sources as saying that the regulator has been working on amendments to the legal framework to smooth the path for South Africa-based Vodacom Group to enter the local market. The pan-African group already has active operations in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Lesotho, and provides services to over 40 African countries such as Nigeria, Zambia, Angola, Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon.

The online journal claims that one plan on the table envisages Vodacom stepping in to take control of Liberia’s ailing fixed line incumbent Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO), as part of a privatisation of the company, but this has been scotched by the latter, with its managing director Sebastian Muah denying the reports.

The LTA last amended the licensing regulations in 2009 but it is currently cash-strapped and seeking additional revenue to support it – rather than going to the government for handouts. With local operators calling on the LTA to ‘revisit’ the rules on Licence Fees Regulations to meet international standards and best practices, on 19 January 2015 the watchdog wrote to local operators to say it will look to implement amended Licensing and Authorisation Regulations to reflect the concerns and take on board suggestions raised by the cellular companies. As a result the LTA informed the incumbents that, ‘all operators and or service providers will be expected to have migrated to the new regime by or before 30 June 2015’. Further, the LTA says the new regime will create a level playing field and will usher in technology-neutral licensing.

However, not everyone is fully behind the mandatory licensing regime, claiming it will impose an uneven distribution of taxation on firms. Mr William Samoa, chief of operations at Cellcom said: ‘They [LTA] are punishing the successful companies to subsidise the unsuccessful ones … Under the new regime, 3% in gross goes to the LTA while the government of Liberia will get 2%. What incentives do we get by relinquishing our existing licences.’

Source: Telegeography 30 January 2015