Monthly news round-up: April 2022
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Russia: Tower sale indefinitely postponed
After initially disclosed interest in selling its towers in November 2021, Russian MNO, MTS, has indefinitely postponed the process. According to Reuters a sale had been planned for H122, but the conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent economic fallout has made the company reconsider its options as no obvious candidates had emerged that were able to buy the towers. MTS said in a statement that it was continuing to see interest in the asset and it was still in contact with potential investors.
Germany: 1&1 signs deals with ATC Germany and GfTD
Following its December 2021 agreement with Vantage Towers to use up to 5,000 Vantage sites, new mobile market entrant, 1&1 has signed a deal with ATC Germany whereby ATC will provide access its portfolio of 15,000 sites, each with a lease term of 20 years. Separately, 1&1 signed a deal with GfTD for the rollout of 500 new sites.
Italy: TIM agrees sale of further stake in INWIT to Ardian-led consortium
TIM has agreed the sale of an additional 41% stake in Daphne 3 (Daphne 3 itself holding a 30.2% stake in INWIT) to an investment consortium led by Ardian. The sale will take the consortium’s shareholding in Daphne 3 to 90%, whilst TIM will receive €1.3bn as well as repayment of a €200mn loan granted by Ardian in 2020.
Italy: Iliad linked to acquisition of TIM’s retail business
Iliad has become the latest party linked to the acquisition of TIM’s retail business. KKR’s attempted acquisition of TIM faltered after TIM refused to grant KKR access to its data room. Iliad had previously submitted a bid for the takeover of Vodafone Italia, but the offer was turned down.
Netherlands: Sale of T-Mobile completed
Deutsche Telekom and Tele2 have completed the sale of T-Mobile to an investment consortium of private equity funds advised by Apax Partners and Warburg Pincus. The funds purchased the opco at an agreed enterprise value of €5.1bn, 8.7x EBITDAaL.
Latin America & the Caribbean
Brazil: National Telecommunications Agency to evaluate 4.9GHz band for 5G
Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) is planning a 45-day public consultation on the suitability of the 4.9GHz band to support 5G technology. The spectrum could be freed up by reducing the amount of spectrum currently used for point-to-point radio links and public security and civil defence. The consultation is expected to take place in the second half of 2022.
Brazil: TIM Brasil activates SA 5G in the city of Curitiba
TIM Brasil has activated 5G standalone technology in the state of Parana, with the mobile operators 2300MHz antennas going live in the city of Curitiba on 5 April. TIM Brasil chief executive Alberto Griselli told the Parana State News Agency: ‘TIM has invested heavily in preparing for the arrival of 5G, a technology that will accelerate the process of digital transformation in cities, stimulate business generation and give Brazilians more opportunities.’ TIM Brasil is the largest mobile operator in Parana, with a market share of 52.1%. It currently offers 4G technology in all 399 cities in Parana, with LTE-A connectivity available in 235 municipalities.
Brazil: Ligga to issue US$420mn in debentures for fiber, 5G
Ligga, formed recently by Copel Telecom and Sercomtel, is set to raise funds with investors for fiber and 5G projects in 10 states in Brazil. Ligga is a part of the group formed by Sercomtel, Horizons, and Nova Fibra, with a presence in the Paraná state and expansion plans in the South, Southeast, and North of the country. Earlier, the company participated in the 5G auction together with Unifique, in the 5G South Consortium. Both took the 80 MHz southern region block in the 3.5 GHz band. The telecommunications group has 356,500 customers, a growth of 30% in one year, and approximately BRL 6bn (US$1.2bn) in market value. According to the operator's press office, there is a forecast of investing BRL 2 billion ($US400m) in the coming years". Of this total, BRL 600mn ($US120mn) will be allocated to the expansion of infrastructure in Paraná.
Brazil: Oi closes sale of mobile unit
Brazilian telecoms operator Oi has confirmed the sale of its Oi Movel unit to a consortium comprising of Brazil's other MNOs,TIM Brasil, Claro Brasil and Telefonica Brasil (Vivo), with a transaction that closed on 20 April. The ‘adjusted closing price’ of the transaction was BRL15.922 billion (US$3.425bn), broken down as a base price of BRL15.7bn (US$3.1bn), plus positive adjustments of BRL178.2 mn ($US35.6mn).
Brazil: Brazilian cellcos collaborate with Parallel Wireless on Open RAN project
US vendor Parallel Wireless has confirmed it is partnering with the National Institute of Telecommunications (Instituto Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Inatel), the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), regional ISP Brisanet, and national mobile operators Claro, TIM, and Vivo to conduct an Open RAN field trial using the 2600MHz band.
Mexico: HISPASAT, GlobalSat collaborate on rural Mexican connectivity project
Spanish telecoms satellite operator HISPASAT (part of the Red Electrica Group) has collaborated with Mexican ISP GlobalSat on the rollout of satellite connectivity hotspots in 500 remote towns in Mexico, including Durango, San Luis Potosi, Guerrero, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas and Sinaloa. Via the initiative – which is being promoted by the government through the CFE Telecomunicaciones e Internet para Todos (Telecommunication and Internet for Everyone) scheme, the residents of these towns will be able to enjoy free satellite connectivity through open Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas.
Panama: Digicel withdraws from the market following the competitor merger
Digicel, a Caribbean-based mobile network operating in 33 markets globally, is closing its operations in Panama. The group claims it has been squeezed out by an anti-competitive environment in the country. The merger of two of the market’s big three mobile operators, Cable & Wireless and Claro, was given the go ahead by competition authorities, and Digicel insists it cannot operate in these conditions. A Reuters report noted the merger, in which the Panamanian government will be a 49% shareholder, would give the combined entity a 56% share of the market. Only Millicom-owned Tigo would then be left to compete with the CWP-Claro combo.
Angola: Africell enters commercial mobile services market
Africell Angola is launching commercial mobile services in Angola, bringing fresh competition to the sector,14 months after obtaining Angola’s 4th unified telecoms license. To mark the launch, Africell will offer customers free Africell-to-Africell calls using their 4G native network. So far over US$150mm has been invested in building a 5G-ready network, with a starting capacity of over 6mn subscribers. The network has been partially built by Africell with some ANTOSC and Movicel co-locations deployed too.
Tanzania: Axian outlines key priorities for newly acquired Tanzanian unit
Axian Telecom has outline four key priorities for its newly acquired Tanzanian business as part of a five-year growth plan, investing heavily in upgrading Tanzania’s network coverage and quality. These priorities include supporting digital transformation through deploying new technologies and services; extending affordable mobile services and driving digital inclusion through 4G coverage; accelerating financial inclusion; and developing and nurturing future industry talent. Both Helios Towers and Minara Towers are active in Tanzania.In other markets Axian Group have created a towerco carve-out and may introduce one here.
Ethiopia: Safaricom misses launch deadline
Safaricom Ethiopia was due to launch on April 9th but services have failed to appear. Safaricom Ethiopia has so far spent US$1bn of its planned US$8.5bn spend for the next 10 years of network development, but so far largely on staff, equipment and core network; little site build or co-location has yet been possible.
TowerXchange understands that only around a dozen sites are now live with hundreds still under construction by Nokia and Huawei. 1,000 sites are planned for the launch which is now planned for later this year. Following a sector-led mediation conducted by the Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA), Ethio Telecom and Safaricom have reached a deal on tower and power sharing, transmission capacity and interconnection which should see network deployment accelerate.
Cameroon: MTN Cameroon and Camtel strike roaming agreement
MTN Cameroon and state-owned Camtel have agreed a national roaming agreement, significantly expanding Camtel’s coverage where they currently have no presence. MTN currently covers 97% of the population with 2G, 90% with 3G and 70% with 4G. This comes after a government push to provide digital access to citizens as part of a wider plan to modernise its economy, as well as aligning with MTN Group’s Ambition 2025 plan to become a leading digital solutions provider in Africa. The move will limit co-location options for towercos in the country.
South Africa: MTN SA announces Western Cape expansion drive
MTN announced expansion plans in the Western Cape province into rural and pari-urban areas as well as a 5G rollout, costing US$51.5mn. This forms part of MTN’s Modernisation of Network South Africa (MONZA) project with an additional 1,350 sites finalised across the country. Over 100 rural deployments are planned by the end of 2022. A further US$721,000 is planned for remedial work on vandalised sites and heightened security.
Namibia: NuRAN signs 10-year 4G contract with MTN Namibia
NuRAN Wireless has finalised a US$60mn agreement with MTN Namibia for the deployment of at least 150 sites over next 2 years, providing mobile connections through NuRANs network-as-a-service model. The move has expanded MTNs presence in rural and suburban areas. The number of sites may increase and will fluctuate as the project progresses.
Ghana: Glo enters national roaming agreement with AirtelTigo
Glo has entered into a national roaming agreement with AirtelTigo for voice,data and SMS service to provide wider coverage and faster internet for its customers, seeing all Glo subscriptions automatically connected to AirtelTigo network. This comes after Glo has struggled with quality of service, operational performance and debt issues since entering Ghana in 2012; failing to challenge market rivals MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana and AirtelTigo with only a 2.1% market share in December 2021. The move will once again reduce co-location opportunities for towercos in the country.
Australia: ATN acquire Axicom to create 2 horse race in Ozzy towers
ATN’s acquisition of Axicom is for 100% of the company and is worth an estimated US$3.5bn. Less than 3% of the towers in the Axicom portfolio are rooftop sites, and due to their metro locations, many have been upgraded with 5G technology. Once closed, ATN will manage a portfolio of 4,352 sites. Formerly backed by Macquarie Asset Management, Axicom began its life as CrownCastle Australia in 2000, and acquired the majority of their 2,000 towers from Optus and Vodafone before rebranding to Axicom in 2015 when Macquarie got involved.
ATN is the carve out of Singtel subsidiary Optus, and following a transaction at the end of 2021 is 70% owned by Australian pension fund Sunsuper.
While Australia is home to many smaller towercos, between them ATN and Telstra carve out Amplitel will control around 75% of the countries towers once the Acxiom transaction closes.
Philippines: PLDT sell 5,907 combined $US1.47bn, mull sale of remainder of portfolio
EdgePoint infrastructure expanded their footprint into the Philippines this month, with an acquisition of 2,934 towers across the Luzon Island group. edotco strengthened their position as the leading pan-asian towerco with their own acquisition of 2,973 towers primarily located in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
PLDT signed a ten year leaseback deal to lease space on the towers, and the two towercos will assume responsibility for power services and maintenance once the deals close. The transactions will be staggered over the remainder of the year, after which point PLDT could be interested in selling the remainder of its portfolio (approximately another 6,000 towers) according to president and CEO Alfredo Panlilio’s quotes in the Philippine Star.
India: BSNL plans huge build to suit order.
In an attempt to increase its 4G coverage, India’s state-owned operator has announced it plans to order three waves of build to suit towers. Addressing the Indian parliament, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw explained that BSNL was in the process of ordering 6,000 towers and would shortly follow up with two additional orders; one for a further 6,000 and one for 100,000. No timelines were disclosed.
Malaysia: Wholesale 5G network still causing tension with MNOs
Malaysia’s four MNOs have published a joint statement outlining their frustrations with the reference access offer published by Digital Nasional Berhad – the entity established to build Malaysia’s 5G network. The disagreements are holding up 5G connectivity in Malaysia, as the MNO’s refuse to begin commercial access agreements until the terms have been settled.
The MCMC continue to mediate discussions, and confirmed last month is plans to continue with the single wholesale model. It also announced that it would offer 70% equity in DNB to the four MNOs.
Sri Lanka: Economic crisis hits telecoms
Telecom Infrastructure has been hit hard by the economic crisis plaguing Sri Lanka, as fuel prices have sky-rocketed and long blackouts have become the norm. Already facing food, medicine and essential supply shortages, the public have expressed anger at a lack of connectivity caused by sites going down and efforts are being made by operators to educate their customers on why fuel price hikes and lack of energy availability are causing their networks to go down.
Thailand: DTAC-True merger approved by shareholder but disputed by AIS
The merger between DTAC and true would mean Thailand would be a duopoly with the new entity leading the market with roughly 50 million subscribers. The current market leader, AIS, has a 44% market share and has stated that the merger would be bad for competition.
Regional: STC, Nokia and MediaTek reveal 5G Middle East partnership
STC, Nokia and MediaTec have verified 3 component carrier aggregation (3CC-CA) in a 5G standalone network for the first time in the Middle East and Africa, allowing STC to roll out 5G services across its customer base. By optimising the use of 5G spectrum, operators can provide higher data rates, increased coverage and superior indoor performance.
Saudi Arabia: ZGC announces J2M subsea cable system
Zain Global Connect (ZGC) (wholesale carrier subsidiary of Zain Group) announced the J2M subsystem connecting Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to Marseille in France. Forming part of the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) cable system, the project is ZGC’s first subsea cable ownership.
Bahrain: Ericcson secures new 5G deal in the Middle East
Middle East carrier Batelco and Ericcson have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on next-generation 5G technologies, part of Batelco’s efforts to support development programs for potential 5G consumers and enterprises in Bahrain. The MoU covers Voice over New Radio (NR) and an advanced charging system that will enable the introduction of IoT products, cloud-native 5G Core and 5G standalone solutions which helped Batelco and Ericsson complete the first 5G SA data call in Bahrain. Batelco aims to strengthen its enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) capabilities to meet the rapid growth of data traffic that comes with automation and AR/VR applications.
Lebanon: Connect deploys IPLook 4G FWA system
Hong-Kong based wireless network solutions provider IPLook Technologies has been selected by Lebanese WISP Connect to deploy high speed 4G fixed wireless access for residential and enterprise users, aimed at areas where fibre is unavailable or too expensive to build.
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