Despite its relatively small population, Liberia has an active and competitive telecommunications sector. The main players include two private global system for mobile communications (GSM) network operators, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia. Both invest in network infrastructure and services. They use GSM, 3G/4G, and WiMAX technology to provide a wide array of services including voice/SMS, fixed-wireless, and mobile data/internet services to the mass market, and value-added services for government and private sector organizations. The GSM network operators compete for customers by offering services over their wireless networks. Competition between them led to price reductions for voice and data services and prompted the regulator to establish a tariff floor.
The government-owned national telecom, Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Libtelco), provides telephone, internet, fax and radio services to mostly government offices, schools, and other large facilities in the Monrovia area. Libtelco is the principal provider of fixed line telephone service to the government. In October 2020, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) granted Libtelco a license to offer GSM mobile network services after the Liberian legislature amended the 2007 Telecommunications Law. Libtelco has now been rebranded to LTC Mobile and competes with the existing private service providers to provide mobile voice and data services.
Mobile and internet use continues to grow due to increased investment by the GSMs throughout the country. According to a Digital Liberia 2021 report, mobile connections increased by 19,000, or 0.6 percent, between January 2020 and January 2021, to 3.39 million total connections with many people having multiple connections. In the mobile sector, competition led to some of the lowest call prices in Africa, but with the price floor, prices have increased to a minimum of $0.0156 per minute for a voice call and $0.0218 per megabyte for data. Internet penetration was 14.9 percent in January 2021, equating to 761,000 internet users in the country. The number of internet users increased by 132,000, or 22 percent, between January 2020 and January 2021.
The Cable Consortium of Liberia (CCL) is a public-private partnership created by the Government of Liberia through Libtelco and the two mobile network operators, Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange Liberia. The CCL supports the supply of high-speed internet via fiber optic submarine cable to Liberia as part of the overall submarine cable system called ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) consortium. Internet and broadband networks are available through several commercial wireless internet service providers (ISPs) as well as the main GSM mobile networks using GPRS, EDGE, HSPA, and WiMAX technologies. The high subscription cost and limited bandwidth of connections means that internet access is expensive and data rates are low.
Liberia’s telecommunications sector is experiencing substantial improvement through international fiber optic submarine cable, benefitting more than 80 commercial and diplomatic locations. Moving beyond these clients, however, would require considerable investment in domestic fixed-line infrastructure. The Liberian government, in partnership with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Google, invested in building a fiber ring around Monrovia and its environs to increase broadband penetration. In 2017, Google entered a joint venture with Mitsui & Co (Japan), Convergence Partners (South Africa), and the World Bank International Finance Corp. to create an independent company called CSquared to complete this project. CSquared signed a licensing agreement with Liberia Telecommunications Authority in November 2021 to extend fiber infrastructure from Monrovia to Yekepa with planned links with Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. When complete, more than 13 towns outside of Monrovia will have broadband internet access for the first time. Mobile operators face major constraints including the high cost of electricity, poor national infrastructure such as roads, high taxation including import duties and tariffs, an insufficient customer base, inadequate skilled manpower, problems in ensuring network security, and the high cost of network operations and maintenance.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MoPT) develops ICT policy. It provides some postal services, including an expedited mail service (EMS) to the United States and other countries. Liberia does not have a national postal address system or a unique address system where individuals can be easily traced or contacted. Postal services are largely handled manually. DHL, FedEx, and UPS provide commercial air courier services. The Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) independently regulates and monitors the quality of telecommunication services while promoting fair competition. The LTA issues licenses to telecommunication and ISP companies. Licenses are valid for 12 months, renewable annually. In 2021, the regulator continued to tighten the mobile SIM card registration scheme. The LTA collaborates with the National Identification Registry to link SIM card registration with the biometric national ID database for fraud prevention, consumer protection, and national security.
High-speed internet services; ICT solutions including capacity building; web design and customized software development; and ICT solutions for companies, local businesses, schools, and hospitals.
Investment opportunities include software development, systems design and development, open-source software/web development and integration, corporate training, and IT infrastructure development.
Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA)
Cable Consortium of Liberia (CCL)