The Liberian Government Restricts GSM Mobile Companies to Four


By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 2, 2004

The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) headed, by businessman Charles Gyude Bryant has restricted GSM Mobile phone companies in Liberia to only four, indicating that the GSM licenses have allegedly been over used.

The decision, which was contained in a statement issued recently by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, revealed that eight mobile companies have been granted licenses but only four will be permitted to operate in the country.

It seems like everybody sports a cellphone in Monrovia - even cellphones that have been disconnected due to subscribers' inability to buy scratchcards.
The four GSM Mobile companies benefiting under the recent decision include Lone Star, believed to be owned by Charles Taylor and his associates, Cellcom, Conmium and Libercell, said to be owned by LISCR.

The services provided by the selected GSM mobile companies are very poor - poor reception - and callers usually find it difficult to get their calls through. On some occasions, it is very difficult for callers to understand each other on the line.

According to the government, the transitional frequency allocations are as follows: Lone Star, 907 – 915 Mhz; Cellcom, 895-902 Mhz; Libercell, 890-895 Mhz and Conmium, 902-902 Mhz, respectively. The Minister has admitted to inefficient spectrum management, scramble for excessive bandwidth and growing poor quality of service to the public.

Meanwhile, the government says it shall negotiate equitable compensation packages with other firms that were given licenses but not allowed to provide GSM and telecommunications services. The Ministry, however, failed to identify the other four companies denied permission to operate. It is not clear as to whether the government has the wherewithal to compensate the companies.

The government first imposed a moratorium for the registered companies to delay their operations. But those companies that ignored the government order and proceeded with their activities are the companies that are today allowed to operate, while those companies that honored the order become the losers.

Not too long ago, The Perspective carried an article about a cell phone company that had registered to do business in Liberia. According to the article, the company known as LIWICO was granted license by the Liberian government. LIWICO is said to be 100% Liberian-owned. Obviously, it is one of the companies affected by the government’s decision.

More importantly, the government’s decision does not augur well with some Liberian technocrats and entrepreneurs in the Diaspora who say that while government officials publicly state that they want Liberians to return home to help with the reconstruction process, they always erect roadblocks whenever Liberians decide to answer the call.

But several persons who spoke with The Perspective in Monrovia over the latest decision alleged that companies that were given permits to operate are the ones that may have given “kickbacks, and brown envelopes”; a practice of giving bribes before a company or an individual is given permit to operate a business or appointed to a position in the Liberian society, regardless of his/her qualification.

In this case, one may ask, what criteria did the NTGL apply to have arrived at the four GSM Mobile phone companies it selected, while excluding the other four including the one owned by Liberians from abroad who are not only willing, but prepared to contribute to the economy and development of their country? What message is the NTGL sending to Liberians abroad that want to invest in the country?

Due to the outright refusal to level the playing field for Liberians abroad, it suggests that the NTGL is encouraging de facto monopoly in the country. With this kind of attitude, there will always exist fraud, rampant corruption and the provision of poor telephone services to our people.