Monthly news round-up: August 2022
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Nigeria: MTN installs 5G base stations with Huawei
MTN Nigeria has installed over 100 5G base stations ahead of its commercial 5G rollout at the end of August in partnership with Huawei. MTN and Mafab Communications each bid $273.6mn for 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum in December last year, after which MTN received an additional $15.9mn and handed its license earlier this year. Both companies are expected to commence 5G network rollout from 24th August.
Ghana: Vodafone’s struggle to sell Ghana operation
Vodafone Group had originally agreed to sell its Ghana operations to Telecel as part of their strategy to focus on key markets. Having acquired a 70% stake in Ghana Telecom from the government in 2008, Vodafone has struggled to compete with market leader MTN who claimed over 60% of the country’s mobile subscriptions compared to Vodafone's 19% in March 2022. However, the Ghanaian National Communications Authority (NCA) was reported to have denied the application by Vodafone to transfer their shares to Telecel citing it did not meet the regulatory threshold. The NCA has denied these reports but has not approved the transaction either as they did confirm the deal did not meet the standards required for approval.
Telecel Group has since stated it will re-engage the Ghanaian government. Plans by Telecel to offload Vodacom Ghana’s tower portfolio to help fund the acquisition have been abandoned. Telecel plans to spend around $US500mn in its first 3 years to expandand refinance Vodafone’s network if a deal were to go through.
Ghana: MTN Ghana planning US$1bn network investment by 2025
MTN Ghana has committed US$1bn investment by 2025 to address network challenges with a focus on rural communities. This is part of the operator’s plans to support Ghana’s digital transformation by ensuring new rural sites and network extensions are deployed. MTN plans to deploy 400 new rural sites and upgrade 746 sites to 4G.
Zambia: ZICTA issues updated 5G spectrum roadmap
Zambian regulator Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has published a revised 5G spectrum roadmap, revealing 700MHz spectrum will now be released in Q3 2023 instead of Q1 2023. The 40MHz block which went unsold last month will also be reoffered in Q3 2022. The 26GHz band will be open on a first-come basis in Q4 2022.
South Africa: Rain and MTN competing for Telkom
Rain has made a formal request to present the Telkom South Africa board with a merger proposal as an alternative to the offer made by MTN. MTN has since also confirmed discussions to acquire Telkom after South Africa’s Takeover Regulation Panel chastised Rain for detailing plans to merge with Telkom.
Australia: TPG and Stilmark deals close – OMERS rebrand new entity to Waveconn
Upon closing the two acquisitions announced earlier this year, Canadian pension fund OMERS has merged Australian independent towerco Stilmark and the 428 towers and 809 rooftop assets it purchased from TPG Telecom into a new entity – Waveconn. Waveconn will use the Stilmark operating platform to manage the towers. Find out more in our interview with CEO Russell Stanners!
Bangladesh: VEON sign tower sharing agreement with BTCL
Banglalink, VEON group’s subsidiary in Bangladesh, has signed a tower sharing agreement with Bangladesh Telecommunications Limited (BTCL) to secure access to their towers and increase 4G rollout. BTCL provides land-line telephone services in Bangladesh's urban areas, including domestic long-distance calling and international services. CEO Erik Aas said Banglalink “always welcome network sharing opportunities to serve our customers better and ensure proper utilization of resources and infrastructures.” Aas also said that Banglalink are looking forward to further sharing opportunities of passive and active telecom infrastructure in the future.
Cambodia: Government to fund 100 new sites at key tourist locations
The Cambodian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication has announced plans to spend US$10mn on 100 towers, strategically located in areas key to Cambodia’s booming tourism sector. The sites have already been identified in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism.
Other than edotco, Cambodia is home to small towerco Camtower link, who run 18 sites at the world-famous Ankor Watt in partnership with UNESCO.
China: China Tower Corporation releases interim 2022 report
Highlights from China Tower’s summary of its operating activity in H1 included a 11,000 jump in owned towers from 2.038 million to 2.049. Tenancy ratio also increased by 42,000 to bring CTC’s tenancy ratio to 1.61. Notably revenue grew significantly from the DAS, energy and smart tower businesses, compared to 2021.
India: BSNL plan 10,000 tower sale
State owned BSNL, who manage a total of 75,000 towers in India, have announced plans to sell 10,000 sites. According to sources familiar with the matter, the towers are estimated to be worth approximately US$500mn, and a potential sale will be overseen by KPMG. The sites for sale are those where BSNL shares infrastructure with one of India’s three private MNOs, implying a strong tenancy ratio across the portfolio. Likely bidders include India’s big three towercos: Indus Towers, Summit Digitel and American Tower.
India: Indus Towers CEO Bimal Dayal leaves business
After a 12-year stint that saw him serve as CEO and COO, Indus Towers’ Bimal Dayal has left the business. Dayal also sat on the TowerXchange inner circle for much of his time as CEO of Indus Towers. A replacement is expected to be announced by the board in September. Mr. Dayal led the company through the rapid MNO consolidation India saw towards the end of the last decade, and through the Covid-19 pandemic and Bharti Infratel’s merger with the erstwhile Indus Towers.
India: Vodafone seek sale of 21% stake in Indus Towers
Vodafone are in talks with Canadian pension fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ) as they seek to sell their remaining 21% shareholding of Indus Towers. Vodafone formerly owned 28.1% of India’s largest towerco (and the third largest globally) but sold a smaller stake to Bharti Airtel earlier this year to raise funds to ease its burdensome debt. A formal due diligence process is scheduled to begin immediately.
Indonesia: Mitratel buy 6,000 towers from Telkomsel
Indonesia's largest MNO, Telkomsel, has announced a third tower sale in as many years with sister company Mitratel. A 2020 deal for 6,050 towers at US$700mn and a 2021 deal for 4,000 towers at US$436mn has been followed by a sale of 6,000 towers for an as yet undisclosed price.
As part of the agreement, Mitratel will implement Telkomsel's IoT and Data Analytic services to provide real time telecommunication tower operational management and proactive power consumption optimisation, and the deal also includes a 1,000 site new build pipeline.
Malaysia: MNOs agree to DNB equity sale, government gets tough on service agreements.
The ongoing saga relating to MNO ownership of Malysia’s wholesale 5G network appears to have been concluded. Celcom, Digi Telecommunications, Maxis, Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile and YTL have all agreed to take equity stakes totaling 70%. Access to the network has also been a point of contention and delays in the terms of service have been frequent since the start of the year.
Finance minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz appeared to draw a line in the sand, requiring the MNOs to agree to terms by 31 August 2022 or else miss out on access to the only 5G network Malaysia will build. The minister fired warning shots to deter a further delay by referring to overseas players who were interested in establishing an MNO in Malaysia.
Philippines: Globe agree sale of towers to Frontier and MIDC – has another deal pending
Following reports of its intentions to sell 7,000 towers, Filipino MNO Globe has agreed to sale and leaseback transactions with Frontier Tower Associates, the KKR backed subsidiary of Pinnacle Towers, and MIESCOR Infrastructure Development Corporation (MIDC), a subsidiary of Meralco (a local electric power distribution company).
Frontier successfully acquired 3,539 towers for US$810mn and signed an agreement to secure Globe access to the towers for an initial period of fifteen years. MIDC acquired 2,180 towers for US$468mn and signed a leaseback agreement for the same timeframe. Globe also provided a firm commitment to MIDC to build an additional 750 towers over a period of four years.
The portfolio is made up of 79% ground-based towers and 21% rooftops. Globe are reported to be in advanced talks with a third party for the further sale of 1,350 towers.
Philippines – PLDT closes next 500 towers from EdgePoint
As the second SLB deal has been announced, the first is getting closer to fully closing. PLDT transferred a further 1,013 towers to ISOC edotco towers for a value of US$237.6m. In June PLDT closed EdgePoint’s share of the towers, and according to a stock market filing, the Filipino MNO has thus far sold 4,025 (68%) of the 5,907.
Regional: e& completes first 6GHz spectrum trial
e& has made a significant step in unlocking 5G capabilities, as the 6GHz band offers a balance between coverage and capacity and creates the perfect environment for 5G connectivity. Extending 5G bandwidth will see further improvement in network performance and reduce the need for network densification, making next-gen connectivity more affordable.
Bahrain: stc to develop foundation for 5.5G network
stc Bahrain will become the first in the region to adopt a 5.5G network as part of its strategy to develop the next version of 5G infrastructure within the next 3 years. The operator claims this new network will be 10x faster than the existing 5G network, paving the way for advanced AI and IoT technology, improving data storage capacities and empowering green technology, as well as linking the Kingdom to the global economy.
Algeria: Veon sells Algerian unit to the government for US$682mn
Veon has completed the sale of its remaining Djezzy Algeria stake (45.57%) to the Algerian government investment fund (FNI) for US$682mn. Veon has criticised the Algerian market for failing to provide regulatory freedom to pursue their digital operator strategy.
Afghanistan: MTN secures US$35m sale for Afghan unit
MTN accepted a US$35m offer for its Afghanistan operations to finalise its exit from the Middle Eastern region, although the buyer has not been disclosed. This will allow MTN to focus on its core African markets having already exited from Yemen and Syria.
Jordan: Jordan gets ready for 5G
The country has begun its journey to adopt 5G after the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission signed an agreement with Orange and Umniah to prepare for 5G services. The agreement aims to boost competition and investment as well as supporting infrastructure development to meet rising data demands. Included in the package is a 10-year MNO license extension, discounts on cellular frequencies and 5G licenses. The MNOs must launch 5G services commercially within 18 months of the license date, cover Jordan’s main regions and commercial areas within 3 years and provide 5G services to at least 50% of the population within 4 years.
Israel: Communications minister announces new infrastructure sharing measures
Yoaz Hendel, Israel’s communications minister, has announced measured to improve mobile coverage which include allowing MNOs to jointly negotiate with asset owners to lower the leasing costs for cell sites. By encouraging infrastructure sharing, the Ministry of Communication (MoC) hopes to increase the efficiency of MNO expenditure on network deployment and maintenance while improving investment in network expansion and coverage. The MoC also intends to enable private entrepreneurs to deploy advanced cell sites on existing infrastructures under the same model after the regulator considered applications from MNOs and technology entrepreneurs to deploy cell sites such as lightning poles, electricity pylons and bus stops. This will hopefully accelerate the rate of cell site densification to improve service, coverage and develop an advanced network for 5G technology. The MoC has since given approval to a passive infrastructure agreement between Pelephone and PHI Networks.
Hungary: 4iG agrees takeover of Vodafone Hungary
Following the recent acquisition of DIGI, 4iG has reached an agreement, in conjunction with the Hungarian state, to acquire Vodafone Hungary for US$1.7bn. The deal will see 4iG secure a 51% stake in the operator, with the state owning a 49% stake via investment company Corvinus. In addition to its stakes in DIGI and soon, Vodafone Hungary, 4iG also owns a 25% stake in MNO Yettel (formerly Telenor Hungary), Yettel infraco subsidiary, CETIN Hungary, and broadcast infraco, Antenna Hungaria.
Italy: INWIT stake sale finalised
TIM’s sale of a 41% stake in Daphne 3 (a holding company which owns 30.2% of Italian towerco, INWIT) has now been finalised. Ardian acquired the shareholding for approximately €1.3bn, in addition to repaying a loan of €200mn. The sale has taken Ardian’s shareholding in Daphne 3 up to 90%, with TIM retaining a 10% stake.
Italy: WINDTRE and Iliad rural network sharing joint venture approved by regulator
Italian operators WINDTRE and Iliad have been given green light for their shared rural mobile network. Italy’s communications regulatory authority (AGCOM) approved the joint venture having found no competition issues. Under the terms of the joint venture, WINDTRE will transfer 7,000 rural towers and 50 employees to a new subsidiary, with Iliad then acquiring a 50% stake in the new entity. The joint venture is set to bring 5G connectivity to rural areas, with around 25% of Italy’s population being covered by the towers in question.
Regional: América Móvil completes LATAM tower spin-off Sitios Latinoamérica
Latin America’s leading carrier América Móvil has completed the spin-off of all telecom towers and associated passive infrastructure to a new company Sitios Latinoamérica (Sitios Latam). Under the terms of the transaction approved by shareholders in September 2021, Mexico-based Sitios Latam will operate independently from América Móvil's management and capital structure. The company’s assets will be accessible for all mobile operators in the majority of LATAM markets, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. The company has also announced that it has started the construction of towers in Peru. Notably, América Móvil’s Colombian portfolio is not included in the new company’s assets. Sitios Latam has an initial inventory of 29,090 towers, 39% of which are in Brazil. The company has further confirmed its plans to be listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange.
Regional: Phoenix Tower secures US$2bn multi-facility transaction
Phoenix Tower International (PTI) has amended and restated its senior credit facilities to consolidate and expand them into a single US$2.0bn senior secured multi facility transaction covering all North and South America. Proceeds from the facilities will be used to repay existing debt and fund the WOM tower acquisition, fund future capex and acquisitions, and fund working capital.
Bolivia: Trilogy completes sale of Nuevatel to Balesia Technologies
Trilogy Investment Partners has completed the sale of Bolivian MNO, Nuevatel (which trades under the Viva brand) to Balesia Technologies, a subsidiary of Peru based Balesia Group. Balesia Group currently owns and operates tower and fibre infrastructure across Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Balesia has planned to deploy a further 600 towers in Bolivia, adding to Nuevatel’s portfolio of 1,500 sites
Brazil: SBA to acquire 2,600 Grupo Torresur’s sites in LATAM’s largest market
SBA Communications has agreed to acquire 2,600 Brazilian cell sites from Grupo TorreSur (GTS) for a total consideration of USD$725mn. The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2022. The acquisition increases SBA's portfolio in Brazil by over 25%, to 12,576 sites. Separately, SBA is also under contract to purchase approximately 200 sites from an unnamed seller. During the second quarter of 2022, SBA acquired 210 sites and one data center in Brazil for a total cash consideration of US$127.3mn. The new deal puts SBA’s site count on the equal footing in Brazil with the newly formed América Móvil’s carve-out Sitios Latinoamérica. American Tower remains the largest tower owner, with 22,870 sites.
Brazil: Highline affiliate NK 108 to acquire Oi towers
An affiliate of DigitalBridge-owned towerco Highline, NK 108 Empreendimentos e Participacoes (NK 108), has signed an agreement to acquire towers from bankrupted telco Oi in Brazil. The deal is valued at BRL1.697 bn (US$324.9mn), to be paid up until 2026. The transaction is subject to further approval by the National Telecommunications Agency and the Administrative Council for Economic Defence in Brazil.