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Regulator moves to end Liberia's telecoms price war

Regulator moves to end Liberia's telecoms price war

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has intervened in an ongoing price war involving telecoms operators Orange and LonestarCell MTN.

The conflict is understood to have started in 2012 with the former owner of Orange, Cellcom GSM.

Prior to LTA's intervention, the operators introduced campaigns offering subscribers three-day unlimited calls for US$1.

The regulator stated: "The predatory price wars have stifled the growth of the sector and has led to a significant drop in revenues collected by the government that could be used to provide social services, among others."

It also criticised operators saying their anti-competitive behaviour has resulted in market instability.

According to official figures released, between 2014 and 2017 the market lost US$49-million to price competition after gross revenue dropped from US$150-million in 2014 to US$101-million in 2017.

"The LTA measure is in response to call for intervention by MNOs to stop predatory pricing wars which has stifled the sector growth and plummeted revenue significantly," said LTA chairman Ivan Brown.

Brown added: "Mobile Network Operators were forced to sell packages below market costs and were clearly not profitable. The promotional packages were sold at the cost of diminishing revenue to providers."

The regulator directed the operators to maintain a floor price that would limit the number of minutes available to subscribers.

It said following consultation, both operators agreed to charge call minute at US$0.0156 per minute while a megabyte of data will now cost US$0.0218.

Operators have since readjusted their pricing and their campaigns. LonestarCell MTN said its subscribers can still enjoy the US$1 for three days offer, but it has capped the call duration to 45 minutes within its network and 10 minutes for calls made to other networks.

Christal-Dionne Reeves, Corporate Communications and CSR manager for LonestarCell MTN said: "So, effectively, you can buy a dollar $1 and call for three days as you used to but with a reduction in the allotted minutes."

According to Reeves, US$1 now gives customers 45 minutes for LonestarCell MTN numbers, 10 minutes to call other networks, free SMS and 50MB data.

Local subscribers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the LTA to end promotions and recently protested outside the Authority's premises in Paynesville, a suburb east of Monrovia.

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