Monthly news round-up: June 2022
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Brazil: TIM Brasil opens networks to acquired Oi Movel subscriptions
TIM Brasil has opened up its network to 14.5 million Oi Movel subscriptions it acquired in April 2022. The acquired accounts are understood to be spread over 29 area codes in 17 states and the Federal District. The next part of the process will see Oi’s network disconnected and the infrastructure and the 7,200 cell sites repurposed and the spectrum refarmed. The final stage of the ‘systematic integration’ will focus on a unification of tariffs and billing.
Brazil: Regulator approves an extension to 3.5GHz 5G launch schedule
Citing delays in equipment supply, Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) has extended the deadline for launching 5G services in the 3300MHz-3700MHz band for 60 days. This applies to the winners of frequency auctions in all state capitals and the Federal District. The deadline for releasing the commercial 5G frequencies has now been moved from 30 June to 29 August 2022, while the deadline for activating 5G services with at least one base station per 100,000 inhabitants of each capital has been moved from 31 July to 29 September 2022.
Mexico: Regulator gives green light to operator ALTÁN Redes bail-out
Troubled wholesale operator ALTÁN Redes has been given a lifeline with the approval of a state bailout. The Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT), suppliers, shareholders and clients will contribute to the US$388.1mn rescue package. The Red Compartida network is a wholesale LTE network that covers 79mn people, or about 60% of the population, with a target for nationwide coverage. Its rollout plans have provided much needed built-to-suit and tenancy opportunities and the rescue will produce an improvement in conditions in the country. ALTÁN Redes has signed up 114 retail providers, but customer take-up has been poor. Last month the operator announced it had reached 6mn end users on the network, double the number it had last summer, but low given Mexico’s size.
Dominican Republic: Regulator considering relaunching 700MHz 5G auction
The Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Instituto Dominicano de las Telecomunicaciones, Indotel) is hoping to relaunch its failed auction of 700MHz spectrum. The frequencies were originally included in last year’s 5G spectrum auction, alongside 3.5GHz airwaves, but failed to attract any bids. The obligation to offer local roaming access to rival operators not in possession of low-band spectrum for three years was the key factor that dissuaded the country’s cellcos to bid on the spectrum. The licensing terms will now be revised before a sale is relaunched.
Malawi: NML plans to launch Malawi’s third operator service
Malawian operator Nyasa Mobile Limited (NML) expects to launch as the country’s third MNO before the end of the year. Nyasa Mobile is said to be in discussions regarding a partnership with Vodafone Group, with Vodafone providing a consulting role. A new MNO is much needed with the market plagued by high tariffs and poor service quality while mobile penetration rate sits below 60%.
DRC: Airtel Africa acquires $42mm worth of spectrum
Airtel Africa has acquired 58MHz of additional spectrum spread across the 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600MHz bands to aid its 4G expansion in the market for mobile data and fixed home broadband services. This investment is not only central to the DRC, which has yet to embrace 5G and is still developing its 3/4G network, but also to Airtel Africa as the DRC is the largest country by area in its portfolio and the second largest market by population.
Cameroon: MTN signs solar deal with power supplier
MTN Cameroon has announced a new renewable energy initiative in collaboration agreement Cameroon’s Rural Electrification Agency (AER) to supply its rural sites with solar energy. Under the agreement AER will provide MTN Cameroon with energy produced by its solar power plants to power the operator’s network infrastructure in rural areas, particularly the relay stations. In the coming months, this framework will be extended to all 10 regions of the country. The initiative will accelerate both MTN Cameroon’s ESG strategy and the government’s sustainability plans to increase its renewable energy capacity to at least 25% of total production by 2030.
Zambia: Zambian government finds foreign equity partner for Zamtel
The Zambian government has put Zamtel up for sale and already found a foreign equity partner to run the company, although their name has not been disclosed yet. According to Zamtel CEO Joshua Malupenga, the government wants the new equity partner to come in before the August first anniversary of its reign. Zamtel is estimated to need US$265mn to invest in its networks and services.
South Africa: Cell C prepares 5G launch in South Africa
South African operator Cell C is in talks with infrastructure partners to imminently roll out a 5G network. Cell C acquired 10MHz or $18mn at South Africa’s long awaited broadband spectrum auction alongside Vodacom and MTN. This leaves Telkom as the only operator without 5G support despite overtaking Cell C as the country’s third largest operator, although they have been trailing 5G since last year. South Africa is the continents leading adopter of 5G but the heavy strain on its networks as a result of the pandemic, as well as declining grid quality, has resulted in multiple delays.
Australia: OMERS infrastructure makes second tower deal in as many months.
Following up on their agreement in May to purchase a 100% stake in TPG Telecom’s 1,237 ground based and rooftop sites, Canadian pension fund OMERS Infrastructure has announced an acquisition of independent Australian towerco Stilmark. OMERS and Stilmark worked together as part of the Symphony Consortium in the bidding process for the Telstra and Optus towers in 2021.
It is expected that Stilmark, who previously owned 70 towers in Australia according to TowerXchange data, will inherit the towers into their operating platform to create a new competitor to ATN and Amplitel. TowerXchange will be bringing you an interview with OMERS and Stilmark coming soon!
Bangladesh: Summit TASC hit landmark 1000 tower site count
Having begun building towers in Bangladesh in late 2020, Summit TASC, a consortium of Middle East tower specialists TASC Towers and local fibre leader Summit Communications, has hit a milestone, surpassing the 1000 tower mark. In TowerXchange’s latest regional guide update TASC Towers reported 1,015 sites. In comparison, American tower subsidiary Kirtonkhola Tower has begun building 254 of the 300 towers contracted by Banglalink. The other new towerco, AB Hightech, is thought to be inactive and its licence is potentially up for grabs.
Cambodia: edotco secure O&M contract with CellCard
edotco Group’s managed towers in Cambodia jumped from 1,157 in Q421 to 4,359 in Q122, largely due to a contract it has secured with MNO CellCard. edotco now own or manage over 50% of the country’s total tower stock (edotco owning 3,090 towers as of Q122). Responsibilities on the managed sites include maintenance and refuelling, although Cambodia is one of the countries where edotco does not offer power as a service.
China: New operator to challenge big three
China’s telecoms market has long been dominated by the big three of China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile, but new entrant China Broadnet could be about to shake things up.
Offering 5G services at a reduced rate compared to its three state backed competitors, the new company was founded in in 2019, when local cable and television operators came together to form a group known as China Broadcasting Network (CBN). They won 80MHz of 700MHz spectrum in the country’s 5G spectrum auction. The new entrant offers a new opportunity for China Tower, the largest tower company in the world, to increase its tenancy ratio as China Broadnet rolls out its 5G and 4G networks.
India: Private network spectrum allocation causing 5G drama
5G coming to India is big and long-awaited news, but as plans for spectrum auctions were laid out, MNOs sought clarity on the government's decision to allow enterprises to acquire spectrum and establish captive non-public networks. The MNOs oppose the allocation of spectrum to private networks, whereas providers of the services such as TATA Communications argue that “there can be no business case for rollout of 5G networks’ if captive private 5G networks were to be permitted.”
Indonesia: Protelindo mulling 20% equity sale
Indonesia’s largest tower company, Protelindo, is looking to raise US$1billion and has considered an equity sale of 15-20% to raise the capital. Last year, Protelindo spent about the same amount on over 6,800 towers and 750km fibre from STP Towers. Shares in Protelindo jumped 4.6% in wake of the news, which was reported in Bloomberg. Protelindo is listed on the Jakarta Stock Exchange.
Malaysia: Axiata and Digi extend merger deadline
Another speedbump has been hit in the never-ending story of the Celcom and Digi merger in Malaysia. While the terms of the merger have remained the same, both the Axiata and Telenor subsidiaries are pushing the deadline for the date by which the conditions laid out in the share purchase agreement are to be satisfied or waived.
Myanmar: Telenor brand renamed Atom Myanmar after M1 acquisition
Following a sale to Lebanese M1 group that was eventually approved by the Military Junta earlier this year, the Telenor brand name has been removed from the operator’s branding. The M1 owned MNO will be named Atom Myanmar as of June 2022. CEO Muhammad Ziaullah Siddiqui later revealed that Atom would be investing US$330million in the next few years, part of which would be used to support early stages of 5G, expected to come back to Myanmar in 24-36 months.
Philippines: First towers transferred by PLDT to edotco and EdgePoint
Following the landmark sale and leaseback deals reported in April’s newsletter (and explored in detail here) the first 3,012 towers have been transferred to the two towercos (who are now the new leaders in the market) with the rest of the towers due to be transferred by the end of the year. EdgePoint received 1,512 towers, while edotco added 1,500 to the 91 sites they have built so far to become the market leader.
Globe is said to have begun a process to raise a similar amount, by selling half of its own portfolio of 12,194 sites.
Bahrain: Zain deploys 5G sites on streetlamps
Zain Bahrain has partnered with system integrator LSS Technologies to boost 5G deployment in Bahrain Bay using existing streetlamps, turning them into 5G sites by adding compact enclosures that blend into the surroundings.
Egypt: Egypt Telecom and Misr strike US$900mm investment deal
Telecom Egypt and Etisalat’s Misr have agreed six commercial and strategic deals valued at US$900mn over the next 10 years covering infrastructure, technology and roaming services. The largest of these, worth EGP12.5bn (US$665mn) alone, expands Misr’s network on Telecom Egypt’s infrastructure, having revealed plans to commit over EGP5bn (US$266mn) to expand its network in Egypt in 2022. With four mobile operators active in the market, including Vodacom Egypt and Orange, competition in the telecom sector continues to accelerate.
Oman: Helios Towers find investor to facilitate Oman purchase
Helios Towers has recruited Oman-based investment fund Razika Telecommunication Infrastructure to take a minority 30% stake in a new venture formed to run the towers and related infrastructure being brought from the operator Omantel. The Omani investment company will pay 30% of the US$575mm purchase price for the towers, with the deal set to close around the end of this month. Rakiza is a part state-owned fund originally formed to make infrastructure investments in Oman and attract private investment into the country.
Syria: SSG licences new MNO
The Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) has issued a license to ISP Syriana LTE to provide mobile services in Idlib province. The SSG is one of several competing governments which operate in the wake of the Syrian civil war since 2011, controlling a pocket of territory in the northwest on the border with Turkey.
Regional: Cellnex and Nokia extend private network partnership
Having worked in partnership through Cellnex’ Nordic subsidiary, EDZCOM, Cellnex and Nokia have been working to deploy private wireless networks to a number of sectors. The expansion of the partnership will enable the two parties to extend their private network offering to new markets across the European continent.
Belgium: DigitalBridge completes the acquisition of Telenet’s towers
DigitalBridge has completed the acquisition of Telenet’s tower portfolio, becoming the first independent towerco operating in the Belgian market. DigitalBridge’s newly formed towerco, Belgium Tower Partners, has acquired the entire tower stock of Telenet which includes 2,162 owned sites (of which 38% are towers) and 1,164 third party sites. The deal also includes a build to suit component with Belgium Tower Partners to rollout a minimum of 475 new sites for the operator, with Telenet acting as a subcontractor in the rollout.
France: TDF sale expected to kick off imminently
Brookfield Asset Management has appointed Citigroup and Credit Suisse to manage the sale of its stake in French infraco, TDF. Brookfield, which acquired its shareholding in 2015, is the infraco’s single largest investor with a 45% stake. PSP Investments, Arcus Infrastructure Partners and APG Asset Management own a combined 45% stake, with Credit Agricole Assurances owning a 10% stake. PSP has reportedly hired Lazard to examine whether to divest its shareholding. TDF owns 7,751 towers, as well as a fibre and broadcast business in France. In 2021 56% of its revenues came from its telecoms business
Portugal: Digi to start 5G rollout
New Portuguese mobile market entrant, Digi, is set to commence rollout of its 5G network in June. The initial rollout is set to focus on large urban areas, with a full nationwide rollout to follow.
Sweden: Telia completes sale of stake in Swedish towers to Brookfield and Alecta
Following on from their deals in Norway and Finland, Telia has completed the sale of a 49% stake in its Swedish tower business to investors Brookfield and Alecta.
UK: Vodafone/ Cornerstone switch on first “self-powering tower”
Vodafone has announced the switching on of the UK’s first self-powering tower. The site, powered by solar and wind power with battery back-up is completely off-grid. The trial, conducted in conjunction with Cornerstone and Crossflow Energy serves as testbed for bringing coverage to other off-grid not-spots across the country.
American Tower aiming to raise US$2.1bn via IPO
American Tower has announced the pricing of its registered public offering, targeting US$256 per share for 8.35mn shares. American Tower is looking to pay off existing debt, including that arranged for their 2021 acquisition of CoreSite