Liberia: Senate Wants 60 Minutes Voice Call for US$1 from GSM Companies

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Monrovia – The Senate Committee on Telecommunications has recommended engaging the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) as a matter of urgency not to impose the plan surge charge on GSM operators in the current state of the economy.

The Senate’s Telecommunications Authority Committee chair by Senator Augustine Chea of Sinoe County also recommended that the Senate engages the LTA on adding additional 15 minutes to the 45 minutes on every dollar in keeping with its “three days free call” promotion.

“The fact that the GSM companies themselves are opting for an increase in the number of minutes from 45 to 60 minutes, the Senate should take up this matter with the LTA to make the minimum adjustment in the new regulatory fees to accommodate the additional 15 minutes.

“The Senate as a matter of urgency should engage the LTA not to impose the counter plated surge charge until the country’s economic conditions are favorable. Admittedly, these are difficult times in our country and it behooves us as representatives of our country to do what we can to minimize their sufferings. The surge as counter plated by the LTA in the words of the GSM companies will be harmful and this must not be allowed,” the report stated.

The termination of the “three-day free call,” which ordinary Liberians have taken so dearly, according to the LTA, was a request from the mobile network operators to stop “price war” in the sector.

In the Sen. Chea’s committee’s report, it recommended that base on a public hearing conducted by the committee, it was discovered that the decision to end the promo was to encourage competitiveness, ensure market sterilization and improve the quality of service.

The committee’s report also alleged that ending this promotion could earn government more revenue in taxes and also increase revenues for GSM operators. According to the report, the promotion had prevented the GSM companies from extending their services to some parts of the country.

According to the LTA, the request necessitated the LTA Order 0016-02-25-19 to introduce new floor prices that would compensate for the lack of market mechanism and ensure market stability.

“The LTA measure is in response to call for intervention by mobile network operators (MNOs) to stop predatory pricing wars which has stifled the sector growth and plummeted revenue significantly. The LTA market research indicators showed the sector’s instability and anti-competitive behavior as a major factor. The LTA had to perform its role as the regulator to intervene and save the market from collapse,” the Chairman of the LTA, Mr. Ivan Brown said.

According to him, GSM companies in Liberia were compelled to sell packages below-market costs, which was gradually leading to their collapse. This, he said, would have been detrimental to the country.

“What was actually happening is MNOs were forced to sell packages below market costs and was clearly not profitable. The promotional packages were sold at the cost of diminishing revenue to providers. Diminishing revenue hinders innovation, stalls infrastructure nationwide and decreases revenue to government that could be used to provide social services, etc.,” he said.

He further contended that the famous ‘three-day free call’ promotion which was introduced by Cellcom GSM now Orange five years ago, has not been entirely terminated, rather it has been modified to limit the call time to 45-50 minutes which would last for three days.

“The US$1 for 3 days promotion is not being canceled as widely circulated. What’s actually happening is that customers would talk for allotted minutes provided by the US$1 within the same 3-day period. So, effectively, you can still buy a dollar US$1 and call for three days as you used to but with a reduction in the allotted minutes,” Mr. Brown explained.

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