Monthly news round-up: February 2022
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Monthly news round-up: February 2022


A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry


Egypt: Telecom Egypt appoints banks, considers tower sale or carve-out

According to reports in TMT Finance, Telecom Egypt is looking into a sale of its towers. There were also reports that the MNO was looking at options for a carve-out and the creation of a domestic towerco to commercialise its 2,400 towers.  


Egypt: Orange awarded new spectrum bringing parity to operators

Egypt’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has awarded a total of 30MHz in the 2600MHz band to Orange Egypt for US$440mn. The allocation comes after Vodafone Egypt, e& Misr and Telecom Egypt secured frequencies in the 2600MHz band. The additional spectrum will help the operators expand LTE services in the country which suffers from low network quality and a very high number of SIMs per tower.  

Pakistan: 5G on its way following commission formation

The Pakistani Telecommunications Authority has formed an advisory committee to prepare for the auction of 5G spectrum, the Express Tribune reports. The group will review the available spectrum resources and submit a plan to maximise the utilisation of the airwaves. The commission will also advise on telecom reforms and and incentives for the promotion of the development of the 5G ecosystem. The government is aiming to complete the auction of 5G frequencies by January 2023 at the latest. 


Pakistan: TAWAL enters Pakistan through acquisition

TAWAL, the stc-carve out towerco based out of Riyadh, has made its first international acquisition, the 45-tower portfolio of AWAL Telecom in Pakistan. AWAL Telecom was a specialist in rural sites and predominantly served Pakistan’s tribal and broader regions. The acquisition positions TAWAL as a licensed towerco in a market where three operators may bring nearly 30,000 towers to market in the next year.  


Saudi Arabia: Zain launched 5G standalone network ahead of tower sale

Zain Saudi Arabia has announced the rollout of the Kingdom’s first 5G standalone network, providing its users with technologies like network slicing over the infrastructure. Zain’s 5G network currently covers 51 cities across the Kingdom via more than 5,000 towers.  


Saudi Arabia: Zain agree tower sale to PIF

The Board of Directors of Zain Saudi Arabia has approved the binding offer submitted by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF)-led consortium to acquire an 80% majority stake in Zain KSA’s 8,069 towers for US$807 million, as previously reported in TowerXchange. PIF will acquire a 60% stake, while Sultan Holding Company and Prince Saud bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz each obtain 10% shares in the company. Zain KSA will own the remaining 20% stake (as in their deal with Kuwait with IHS Towers). The deal now moves to the CITC for final approval. 





Belgium: Telenet receives first round of offers for its tower portfolio

Liberty Global backed Telenet has reportedly received first round bids from a number of interested parties for the sale of its tower portfolio. The company is reportedly seeing a valuation of around EUR600mn for its portfolio of c. 3,000 sites (of which 25% are ground based towers and 75% rooftops)


Bulgaria & Croatia: Progress with Telekom Austria tower carve out ongoing

In late 2020, Telekom Austria announced that it was “working on the development of alternatives that would allow to reap more benefits from its tower assets through a targeted management focus on internal efficiencies and higher tenancy ratios”. Over the course of 2021, the group has established an organisation for its tower business, with towers being carved out in Bulgaria and Croatia.  


Hungary: 4iG to undertake restructuring of assets. 4iG’s Digi to explore a tower sale?

Hungarian ICT group 4iG is undertaking a restructuring of its assets which include Hungarian operator, DIGI, ICT network operator, Invitech, satellite operator Hungaro Digitel and more recently, Antenna Hungaria (Antenna Hungaria itself having a 25% stake in Telenor Hungary and the latter’s infraco subsidiary, CETIN).  Rumours have circulated that DIGI, is reportedly considering a sale of its tower assets.  


Italy: Vodafone rejects Iliad takeover in Italy

Vodafone has rejected a takeover from Iliad and Apax Partners. Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read had previously stated that the operator is looking at merger opportunities in Italy (as well as the UK, Spain and Portugal) and activist investor Cevian Capital (which recently acquired a stake in the group) is reportedly looking to shake things up with the divestment of some operations one option under consideration.   

Spain: UBS and Morgan Stanley to represent Vodafone in MASMOVIL merger talks; Orange also exploring MASMOVIL tie up?

Vodafone has appointed both Morgan Stanley and UBS to represent it in negotiations regarding a potential takeover by MASMOVIL. Vodafone CEO Nick Read has confirmed reports that the operator is in merger talks in the country, alongside talks in the UK, Italy and Portugal. Separately, reports have emerged that Orange Espana has also entered into merger talks with MASMOVIL.


Russia: New Towers and Service Telecom both linked to MTS tower sale

Russian MNO MTS is planning a spin-off of its tower assets into a separate business by spring 2022. MTS has told reporters that they are in negotiations with a number of interested parties regarding the towers. Ivan Tavrin, CEO of Kismet Capital, the majority shareholder in New Towers (which recently combined the towers of MegaFon, Vertical and Russian Towers) has confirmed New Towers’ interest in the portfolio. Service Telecom, which recently acquired VEON’s tower portfolio, is understood to also be an interested bidder.  


Regional: Cellnex’ FY21 results - revenues up 58%

Cellnex has released its FY21 results reporting revenues of €2.536 billion (+58%) and adjusted EBITDA of €1.921 billion (+63%). Growth was driven by both organic and inorganic factors, with the year seeing organic growth increase to 6.2% whilst acquisitions saw Cellnex enter Poland whilst consolidating their positions in France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland 






America Movil towerco subsidiaries now operational

Sitios Latinoamerica, the 37,000-site tower carve out from pan-continental operator America Movil is now operational in each of its markets. What is the seventh largest towerco in the world will operate in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. 


Millicom announces plans to create a 10,000-site towerco

Millicom has become the latest MNO to announce plans to carve out its tower assets into a separate business unit with a view to demonstrating, and crystallising the value of the assets that currently sit hidden on its balance sheet. The MNO is looking for external investment in the tower business, which will operate in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Bolivia, Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador and Nicaragua. 


Andean Tower Partners move into two new markets with BTS Acquisition

DigitalBirdge backed ATP have bought towers in Ecuador and Paraguay to expand their footprint across CALA to 5 markets. The towerco, which now manages 3,500 sites, is also active in Chile, Colombia and Peru. Speaking exclusively with TowerXchange, CEO Daniel Seiner commented that ATP  planned to expand their offering from towers to dark fibre, mini macro and small cells in Ecuador.   



Regional: Helios Towers moving forward in Gabon, leaving Chad behind

Airtel Africa has extended its memorandum of understanding with Helios Towers in Gabon as Helios Towers seeks a towerco licence from the Gabon regulator. However, in Chad where Helios Towers was also in negotiations to acquire sites, the memorandum of understanding will not be extended. The news follows on from agreements entered into by Airtel Africa on 23 March 2021 for sale and leasebacks. It is now uncertain whether Airtel Africa will sell its Chad towers, or to who.  


Regional: 5G launches and trials pick up

Econet launch 5G in Zimbabwe by working alongside Ericsson to launch in Harare. Econet plans for 22 5G base stations by May. In Ethiopia Ethiotel is working with Subex to enhance its ability to manage a 5G network service. And in Kenya piltos have begun to understand 5G and the regulator has suggested additional spectrum and licences will be made available later. This follows reports that Safaricom had already launched 5G. And in Botswana, Orange has lunched its first 5G srevices in the capital. Orange plans 111 sites across Botswana this year.  


Angola: Unitel launch 4G in all provincial captials

Hot on the heels of competition from new entrant Africell, Unitel has announced 4G is live in all of Angola’s 18 provincial capitals. 4G overlay will increase power demands on Unitel’s sites and should also open up new opportunities for infrastructure sharing in Angola.  

Ethiopia: Safaricom and Ethiotel eye tower sharing deal

Safaricom has started negotiations eith Ethio Telecom for a tower sharing deal. CEO of Safaricom in Ethiopia, Anwar Soussa said the company is currently working with Ethio Telecom and state regulator Ethiopia Communication Authority to finalise all the details of the partnership. The deal would cover both national roaming while Safaricom built out its network and tower sharing in which Safaricom would make use of Ethiotel’s 7,300 towers. 


Namibia: NuRAN adds another rural market

MTN Namibia has signed an MoU with NuRAN to deliver 150 rural 2G, 4G or 2G/4G sites using NuRAN’s Open RAN technology and unique Build, Own, Operate, Transfer model. NuRAN intend to install 150 new sites within the next two years with a ten year term.  


South Africa: 6 finalists for spectrum

ICASA has announced the six qualifying bidders for March’s spectrum auction. Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain , Telkom South Africa and Vodacom were all listed. The auction for much needed spectrum will take place in mid-March. The long-delayed spectrum auction will include frequencies in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, which is suitable for 5G. 


South Africa: Operators unite against crime

ICASA, the South Africa regulator, MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C and Liquid Intelligent Technologies have formed a new non-profit Communication Risk information Centre (COMRiC) to tackle vandalism as well as other crimes across telecom networks. Theft and vandalism are major issues in South Africa and coordination between operators will be essential to combat theft of copper, batteries and vandalism of sites.  


Uganda: Smile network outage threatens Ugandan market

Fresh on the exit of Africell from Uganda, it appears another small operator is feeling the pressure. Smile telecom has apologised for a day long service outage. In 2018, Smile Uganda experienced connectivity outages for three days running in most locations across the country. According to a statement from the company, this was a result of a failure in resolving an outstanding financial dispute with its towercos, no indication has been given if a similar dispute has hit services this time. 



Zimbabwe: Telecel on the brink of collapse?

State-backed Telecel Zimbabwe has been forced to deny rumours it is on the brink of collapse after service outages affected customers for several days. Since 2012 Telecel has lost 2mn subscribers to a low of 582,570 subscribers by the end of September 2021, according to Telegeography, giving it less than 5% of the overall market. Users have been locked out of services for days.  





Australia: Telstra and TPG Telecom agree sharing deal for rural sites

A “ground-breaking” ten year regional agreement has been signed between Australian MNOs Telstra and TPG telecom to share mobile assets. TPG telecom will have access to around 3,700 of Telstra’s mobile network assets, to grow its coverage, while Telstra will access TPG spectrum to boost capacity. TPG will decommission 725 sites that are in areas already covered by the agreement, but will maintain control of its own 3G, 4G, and 5G networks in most metropolitan areas.  


Indonesia: Mitratel announce investment in rural towers

Indonesia’s largest towerco, Mitratel, plans to invest US$69.5mn in rural tower sites in the country. Telecom infrastructure outside of the main Island of Java lags behind, so Mitratel’s investment will play a key role in connecting Indonesia’s more isolated citizens to the broadband network. Mitratel listed on the Indonesian stock exchange last year. This is where the funds required for the rural project have come from. 



India: Vodafone Idea exit position in Indus Towers

Following news last month that the Government of India had invested in struggling operator Vodafone Idea, the operator will now relinquish its investment in India’s largest towerco Indus Towers. The stake is being sold to help ease the Financial Difficulties VI is facing due to unpaid licensing fess and a competitive market. As part of the divestment, Bharti Airtel has agreed to buy an additional 4.7% stake in Indus Towers from Vodafone. 



New Zealand: Spark tower carve out marks dawn of new towerco market

Spark New Zealand announced on its February 22nd earnings call that it plans to carve out 1,250 of its 1,500 tower assets into a new subsidiary that will be named Spark Towerco. While Spark confirmed they will commence a process to explore the introduction of third-party capital in the next few months, there is no certainty a transaction will proceed, although TowerXchange expects similar bidders to the Optus and Telstra portfolios in Australia. 

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