Tighter regulation required for Liberia to address low penetration – R&M

Tighter regulation required for Liberia to address low penetration – R&M

After more than a decade of civil war which destroyed much of its infrastructure, Liberia became a prime example of an almost entirely wireless telecommunications market, reports Research & Markets.

The country has two mobile operators: MTN Liberia, majority owned by MTN Group, and Orange Liberia, the local unit of Orange Group. Both have steadily invested in network infrastructure while MTN Liberia has been active in promoting its m-money services in a country where most people are unbanked. Competition between these operators has led to a decrease in pricing for voice and data services, and this prompted the regulator in late 2018 to suggest a tariff floor.

Internet services are available from a number of wireless ISPs as well as the mobile operators. The high cost and limited bandwidth of connections means that internet access is expensive and data rates are very low. Although additional bandwidth is available from an international submarine cable, considerable investment is still needed in domestic fixed-line infrastructure before end-users can make full use of the cable.

The harmonisation of a disorderly mobile licensing and spectrum allocation regime has caused some difficulties, and market penetration remains low compared to other countries in the region. Penetration has also been affected by SIM card registration requirements imposed in recent years.

The privatisation of the neglected incumbent telco Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco) failed in 2005 though efforts to resuscitate the company have continued. Recently, the country’s third MNO licence was awarded to JamCell.

The market is ineffectively monitored by the telecom regulator, which lacks the resources, technical expertise and documentation to enforce its orders. As a result, a number of operators are able to avoid paying fees to the government and have continued to operate despite the regulator's rulings that they must close down their services.

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