Monthly news round-up: May 2022
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Mexico: Telcel targets 100 5G cities by end-2022
America Movil backed Telcel plans to cover a total of 100 cities with 5G technology by the end of 2022. The 5G network went live in February this year and was billed as ‘the largest 5G network in Latin America’. 5G connectivity was enabled in 18 major cities from launch, covering approximately 48 million people.
Brazil: Brisanet acquires Huawei antennas for 5G pilot
Brazilian regional ISP Brisanet has confirmed that it has invested BRL230 million (USD44.7 million) in Huawei mobile equipment ahead of its planned 5G pilot. The Ceara-based company acquired a trio of 5G concessions in last year’s multi-band spectrum auction: a pair of 80MHz 3.5GHz licences covering the Northeast and Midwest, plus a 50MHz block of 2.3GHz spectrum covering the Northeast.
Brazil: Brasil TecPar swoops for Titania Telecom
Brazilian ISP Brasil TecPar announced the acquisition of Titania Telecom, the largest provider in Mato Grosso. The acquired company serves around 50,000 residential and corporate subscriptions in Cuiaba, Varzea Grande, Chapada dos Guimaraes, Tangara da Serra and Barra dos Bugres. Once the two companies are integrated, the deal will boost Brasil TecPar’s total subscription base to around 350,000. The company previously acquired 14 smaller ISPs in 2021, before agreeing a deal for Ponto Com in January this year. Further acquisitions are expected to take place by the end of 2023.
Brazil: Neko to return 5G spectrum
According to Teletime, Brazilian 5G spectrum bidder Neko Servicos de Comunicacoes Entretenimento e Educacao has filed a waiver seeking to return the 26GHz frequencies it won at auction. The company is yet to publicly confirm the reports. Post-auction, Neko was revealed to be a bidding vehicle for Yon Moreira, who runs MVNE Surf Telecom, which currently supports around 100 MVNOs. Neko intended to target 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) and low-latency IoT solutions with its 26GHz spectrum.
Brazil: TIM Brasil notches 5.4Gbps speeds in SA 5G test
TIM Brasil has achieved downlink transmission speeds of 5.4Gbps in a 5G Standalone (SA) trial staged in conjunction with Qualcomm. The tests aggregated spectrum in the 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands, as acquired in last year’s multi-band spectrum auction. In November 2021 TIM Brasil successfully bid on 5G-suitable frequencies in the 2300MHz, 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands. As per the terms of the auction, all companies who won nationwide concessions must offer Standalone (SA) 5G services in all state capitals and the Federal District (Distrito Federal) by 31 July 2022.
Brazil: Anatel approves V.tal sale
Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) approved the sale of Oi’s V.tal unit (formerly known as its fibre-optic unit InfraCo) on 5 May. The transaction will take place in three stages: firstly, control of Globenet will pass to investment vehicles managed by the BTG Group; secondly, control of V.tal will pass to Globenet; and finally, Globenet will be incorporated by V.tal. Post-closing, V.tal will position itself as a neutral network provider, and aims to pass 32 million homes with fibre by 2025.
Brazil: Sales and EBITDA down for TIM Group in Q1 in Italy but revenues up in Brazil
Telecom Italia Group (TIM Group) has reported revenues of EUR3.64 billion (USD3.84 billion) for the first three months of 2022, down 4.5% year-on-year, with service revenues falling 2.5% to EUR3.39 billion. Domestic sales dropped 7.7% to EUR2.85 billion, though Brazil saw revenues rise by 8.9% to EUR806 million. Overall EBITDA plummeted 13.3% to EUR1.32 billion, while a net loss of EUR142 million was an improvement on the Q1 2021 loss of EUR206 million.
Zimbabwe: Econet extends 5G coverage to second city
Econet Wireless has expanded its 5G coverage to Bulawayo in a move to progress the country’s ambition to activate new technologies such as AI, IoT and robotics. The operator reports 18 base stations in Harare and Bulawayo so far with a commitment to adding more in the coming weeks to extend coverage to Victoria Falls, Gweru and Chitungwiza.
DRC: Gilat selected for satellite backhaul in DRC
Gilat Satellite Networks has been selected by Intelsat to provide satellite-based cellular backhaul station to an MNO which has remained unnamed but is understood to be Vodacom. The partnership is expected to help extend connectivity to areas where terrestrial backhaul networks are impractical, expensive or unfeasible, serving nearly 1,000 under-served and unserved sites in rural DRC.
Zimbabwe: TelOne seeking funding for fiber rollout
TelOne is seeking funding to deploy fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks under the country's National Broadband Plan, planning to cover 100,000 homes over the next 4 years and using 4G LTE technology to offer wireless connectivity to another 150,000. Not only will this improve access speed and availability but combat the significant challenge of copper cable theft.
Nigeria: NCC commissions study on colocation and infrastructure sharing (CIS) market
NCC has commenced a study to assess the level of competition in the CIS segment of the telecoms sector where 78 licensees currently operate to determine the level of competition and formulate strategies to enhance opportunities and promote competition. PwC has been hired to conduct the study which is expected to be finished by July.
Ghana: MTN and Vodafone announce national roaming agreement pilot
Agreement lays the foundation for a broader national roaming partnership between the two and will see Vodafone Ghana expand its network coverage using MTNs infrastructure. Both companies will aim to facilitate universal access and accelerate digitalisation in line with the government's ambitions for a digital economy.
Nigeria: MTN and Mafab Communications handed 5G licenses
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced its selection of MTN and Mafab Communications for 5G spectrum licenses who are expected to commence the rollout of their 5G networks from the 24th August.
Kenya: Safaricom receives 2600MHz spectrum for 5G network
Safaricom has been allocated prime spectrum for its 5G network having already performed 5G trials, with Huawei helping to build the foundation for Safaricom’s network.
Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom brings pre-commercial 5G to Addis Ababa with plans for 15 sites within 12 months
Ethio Telecom has launched 5G network services in Addis Ababa with plans to spread to other parts of the company. They hope to have 5G on 150 sites within the capital in the coming 12 months, but full commericalisation depends on the readiness and demand from players in the ecosystem. Huawei was highlighted as a key supplier of Ethio Telecom’s 5G network.
Rwanda: Vanu deploying solar-powered sites for MTN
Vanu has launched a new partner program with MTN Rwanda to deploy hundreds of solar-powered off-grid mobile base stations in remote locations, working with local firms HUI and Annos.
Malawi: Malawi launches USF strategic plan
The MACRA, Malawi’s communications regulatory authority, has launched the Universal Service Fund (USF) Strategic Plan 2022-27, promoting ICT services in rural and underserved areas by offering subsidies to licensees to create incentives to expand communication services to remote areas which are not economically viable.
Australia: TPG Telecom sell tower portfolio to OMERS
Following in the suit of Telstra and Optus, Australia’s third MNO has monetised the remainder of its towers by selling 428 towers and 809 rooftop sites for US$674million. TPG signed a 20-year MSA contract as anchor tenants at the sites, with the option for TPG to extend. In line with the Telstra and Optus sales, the towers were valued at a significantly high EBITDA of 32.1x. Typically, towercos majority owned by one or a set of operator’s trade at a discount to their independent peers.
Bangladesh: Regulation and leasing land highlighted as towerco frustration
Speaking with Bangladeshi publication The Business Standard, edotco’s country managing director (CMD) Ricky Steyn vented that "finding the legitimate landlord to sign a lease agreement is often difficult due to previous transference of ownerships.” Steyn was also concerned that government ownership of certain locations was also a challenge. In some instances, finding the right owner and signing a lease has taken over two years, which is significantly slowing down Bangladesh’s much needed network expansion.
India: 5G spectrum auction and rollouts announced
5G is finally coming to the world's second largest country by population (and towers!) Ashwini Vaishnaw, the telecoms minister for India, has announced that spectrum auctions will be held in June, and rollouts will begin in August. Spectrum prices have been the subject of debate recently, as financially unstable operators felt prices were far too high. A 40% reduction in minimum bids has been recommended by the TRAI, and operators reported healthier financials in recent Q122 results.
Indonesia: Macquarie Asset Management and PSP Investments buy minority stake in Tower Bersama
Australian asset manager, Macquarie, and Canadian pension fund, PSP Investments, have spent a combined US$610 million to acquire a minority stake in Bersama Digital Infrastructure, who in turn own a 64.5% stake of Tower Bersama. Tower Bersama are Indonesia’s third largest towerco and have 20,466 towers in the country, as well as impressive tenancy ratio of 1.9x (the highest in the country). The transaction implies and enterprise value for the towerco of over US$6.5 billion.
Malaysia: MNOs seek majority stake in DNB
Celcom Axiata, DiGi Telecommunications, Maxis and U-Mobile are seeking to acquire a majority stake in Digital Nasional Berhad, the state-owned entity that is responsible for building Malaysia’s wholesale 5G network. The Malaysian government had previously offered the MNOs a minority stake, an offer which is understood to have been rejected. 70% of the DNB is up for grabs, but the previous plans had included 9 companies taking a stake, which would have meant that the four MNOs would own less than their desired 51%.
Myanmar: Refueling truck torched by Launglon People’s Defence Force
The second instance of the burning of a truck sent to refuel a Mytel tower site in Myanmar has been reported on the Dawei to Htee Khee Road in Dawei District. The Launglon People’s Defence Force (LLPDF) set the vehicle on fire, but let the driver and crew go first.
A spokesperson for the LLPDF stated that it intends to “obliterate all the businesses that have been making profits for the wicked military regime.” Mytel sites have become a focus of liberation forces combating the Junta government that seized control of Myanmar in February 2022. This has led to many sites being destroyed, and other towerco owned sites being left to shut down after the government planted mines on the premises in an attempt to secure against vandalism.
New Zealand: Spark Towerco announces new CEO in Rob Berrill
Following a previous announcement that Spark were exploring to introduce outside capital into a spun out tower business, the New Zealand MNO has announced its first CEO for the new towerco in Rob Berrill. Berrill has previously led out on Spark’s infrastructure and property portfolios for a number of years, and played a key role in the design, launch and scale up phases of the Vodafone Procurement Company.
Philippines: Globe outline plans for 1,700 new sites in FY22
The Philippines second largest operator by market share and revenues, Globe Telecom, has outlined plans to build 1,700 new sites in 2022. In Q1 the MNO completed 234 new sites, and aims to exceed the 1,407 it rolled out in 2021. The rollout was enabled by Globe’s capital expenditures of P21 billion ($US400 million) for the quarter. This amount is 24% of its full-year Capex guidance. About 82% of the amount was for data-related requirements.
Bahrain: STC launches 5G SA network
STC Bahrain launches the country’s first 5G Standalone (SA) network, deployed in partnership with Huawei, enabling new communications services including high-resolution video, VR and online data communication.
Qatar: CRA approves amendments paving way for increased 5G bandwidth
Qatar has approved amendments made by the CRA to enable Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar, the nation's two MNOs, to improve the performance of their networks by upgrading 5G networks by up to 1000MHz by 2023.
Bulgaria: Vivacom 5G rollout picks up steam
Bulgaria’s second largest MNO by market share, Vivacom, has announced plans to cover 72% of the population with 5G services by the end of 2022. The plans involve expanding coverage beyond the 530 cities and resorts that Vivacom currently cover to a large percentage of the country's roads. Vivacom remain the only operator in Bulgaria to have not carved out their tower assets.
France and Spain: TOTEM performance announced in Orange results for the first time
TOTEM, Orange Group’s European company that owns and now manages their towers, has been presented in a separate operating segment in Orange’s quarterly results for the first time.
Revenues for the TOTEM towerco were disclosed as EUR161 million in Q122. Hosting activities, which Orange defined as excluding construction, design and basic reinvoicing activities with no impact on EBITDAaL, represented €136 million, 15% of which came from customers outside the Group.
Orange said that they will continue to grow their hosting activities by 3.3% year on year in the first quarter of 2022 by building new sites and increasing their co-location ratio, which was 1.35 at the end of the first quarter. Orange have set a target of a 1.5 tenancy ratio by 2026.
Portugal: Nos agrees to sell 350 cell sites to Cellnex
Portuguese operator Nos has agreed to sell a portfolio of 350 cell sites (towers and rooftops) to Cellnex Telecom in a deal worth EUR155 million (USD166 million). The transaction represents an extension of the long-term partnership established between the two companies in 2020. The initial agreement involved the sale of the MNO’s Nos towering unit to Cellnex for EUR375 million. The new agreement is subject to the approval of the Portuguese Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrencia AdC).
Spain: Vantage wins business to upgrade Telefonica Espana sites
The infrastructure of over 1500 Telefonica Espana sites will be upgraded by Vodafone’s carve out towerco Vantage Towers, with the goal of making the towers ready for 5G equipment. Vantage Towers currently operate 8,600 towers across Spain. Telefonica began rolling out its 5G service in 2021, and in February announced the launch of its activation in the 700Mzh band.
Regional: Industry comes together for first time in three years at TowerXchange Meetup Europe
With the pandemic bringing a halt to in person TowerXchange meetups in early 2022, it had been three years since the who’s who of the European tower industry gathered in person. On 17th and 18th May over 350 senior leaders came together in London, with 49 different towerco and MNO tower teams represented. Hot topics included the rising influence of ESG principles, the benefits of digital twin technology, and supporting 5G across the continent. Keep an eye out for our write ups on all the take homes coming soon!