Liberia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Liberia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Underfunded and poorly equipped regulator unable to monitor the telecom sector effectively

This report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Liberia's telecommunications market.

Subjects covered include:

A telecommunications market almost entirely based on wireless technologies;
Key statistics;
Market and industry overviews;
Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
Regulatory environment and structural reform;
Market liberalisation;
Telecoms operators privatisation, acquisitions, IPOs, new licences;
Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
Infrastructure development;
Mobile voice and data markets;
Average Revenue per User;
Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile);
Internet and broadband development and growth.

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. Four GSM mobile operators compete for customers LoneStar (majority owned by South Africa's MTN), Comium (Novafone), Cellcom and LiberCell.

Internet services are available from a number of wireless ISPs as well as the mobile networks using GPRS, EDGE, HSPA and WiMAX technologies. The high cost and limited bandwidth of satellite connections means that most service offerings remain expensive and are below recognised broadband speeds. Nevertheless, substantial improvement can be expected from the recent landing of the first international fibre optic submarine cable in the country, though this still required considerable investment in domestic fixed-line infrastructure.

In the mobile sector, competition has led to some of the lowest call prices in Africa despite the lack of basic infrastructure in the country which has resulted in an expensive operating environment. The harmonisation of the disorderly licensing and spectrum allocation regime inherited from previous governments has proven difficult. However, market penetration has reached a par with other markets in the region in recent years.

An attempt to privatise the dysfunctional fixed network operator, the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (now Libtelco) failed in 2005. Since then, efforts to resuscitate the previously neglected incumbent have continued. A wireless 3G system based on CDMA EV-DO technology enabled the company to enter the mobile market as a fifth player and to provide wireless broadband services. There are also plans for a national fibre backbone network. These assets would create an attractive opportunity to a strategic investor in a likely renewed privatisation in the near future.

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 dues to the government, and operate despite the regulator's rulings that they must cease operating in the market.

Market highlights:

Libtelco Board dismissed in late 2013 pending judicial review;
Libtelco launches first phase of its fibre network in tie-up to the ACE cable system.
Novafone launches HSPA+ mobile services.

Estimated market penetration rates in Liberia's telecoms sector end-2013
Market | Penetration rate
Mobile | 69%
Internet | 7.4%
Fixed | 0.4%
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)

Companies covered in this report:

Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LTC, Libtelco), MTN Liberia (LoneStar), Cellcom, Comium (Novafone), LiberCell, Globacom, West Africa Telecom (WAT).

1. Executive summary
2. Key statistics
2.1 Country overview
3. Telecommunications market
3.1 Overview of Liberia's telecom market
4. Regulatory environment
4.1 Background
4.2 Liberia Telecommunications Act of 2007
4.3 Regulatory authority
4.3.1 Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA)
4.4 New ICT Policy and ICT Bill
4.5 International gateways
4.6 Future regulatory direction
5. Fixed-line operators in Liberia
5.1 Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LTC, Libtelco)
5.1.1 Privatisation
5.1.2 National telecom network
5.1.3 Fixed-line statistics
5.1.4 Wireless local loop (WLL), CDMA2000 1x
5.2 West Africa Telecom (WAT)
6. International infrastructure
6.1 Satellite
6.2 Submarine fibre
6.2.1 ACE
6.2.2 Glo-1
6.2.3 WACS
7. Internet market
7.1 Overview
7.1.1 Internet statistics
7.2 ISP market
7.2.1 Atlantic Wireless (LiberCell)
7.2.2 (Comium, Novafone)
7.2.3 Cellcom
7.2.4 WAT
7.3 Internet banking
8. Broadband market
8.1 Overview
8.2 EV-DO
8.3 WiMAX
9. Mobile communications
9.1 Overview of Liberia's mobile market
9.1.1 Mobile statistics
9.2 Regulatory issues
9.2.1 Licence reform
9.2.2 The Comium-Liberia Act
9.2.3 GSM spectrum reallocation
9.2.4 Interconnection
9.3 Major mobile operators
9.3.1 MTN Liberia (LoneStar)
9.3.2 Cellcom
9.3.3 Novafone (Comium)
9.3.4 LiberCell
9.4 Additional licences
9.5 Mobile data services
9.6 Third generation (3G)
9.7 Mobile content and applications
9.7.1 Agricultural Market Information and Linkage System (AMILS)
10. Related reports
Table 1 Country statistics Liberia 2013
Table 2 Fixed-line network statistics 2013 9e)
Table 3 Internet user statistics 2013 (e)
Table 4 Mobile statistics 2013 (e)
Table 5 National telecommunications authority
Table 6 Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Liberia 1999 - 2004
Table 7 Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Liberia 2005 - 2014
Table 8 International bandwidth 2008- 2012
Table 9 Historic - Internet users and penetration rate in Liberia 1999 - 2004
Table 10 Internet users and penetration rate in Liberia 2005 - 2014
Table 11 Fixed-line broadband subscribers 2005 - 2014
Table 12 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Liberia 2001 - 2014
Table 13 LoneStar/MTN Liberia subscribers, ARPU and market share 2003 - 2013
Chart 1 Internet users and penetration rate in Liberia 2005 2014
Chart 2 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2001 - 2014
Exhibit 1 Map of Liberia
Exhibit 2 West African common regulatory framework

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