Monthly News Roundup: January 2023
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Croatia: Multi-band spectrum sale kicks off
Croatia kicked off the sale of 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands which will happen in two stages. The first one will include national licenses in all bands except the 3.5GHz one, and the second stage will be a separate auction for the 3.5Ghz band for regional-level licenses.
The country’s three MNOs Hrvatski Telekom (HT), A1 and Telemach have all prequalified in the first phase. Local ISPs Digicom and Markoja will participate in the 3.5GHz sale once the first stage is completed.
Licenses are expected to be awarded by April 2023 and will be valid for 15 years, with an optional five-year extension.
Poland: T-Mobile confirms plans not to sell its towers
The Polish MNO has confirmed plans earlier this month it will not sell its towers.
T-Mobile and Orange share passive and active infrastructure in the country through the 50-50 joint venture NetWorkS! While NetWorkS! operates around 13,000 towers, the assets remain on T-Mobile and Orange’s own balance sheets. T-Mobile is 100% owned by Deutsche Telekom.
Turkey: Global Tower prepares for IPO on Istanbul Stock Exchange
Turkey’s biggest towerco, Global Tower, currently 100% owned by Turkey’s MNO, Turkcell has started preparations for an IPO of some of its shares on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.
The company has said that its current articles of association have been amended to be compliant with the provisions of local capital markets legislation. It expects to complete its public debut by the end of June 2023, TowerXchange can report.
Global Tower attempted an IPO in 2016 on the London and Istanbul Stock Exchanges but decided to postpone it shortly before the flotation date in October that year due to changing market conditions at the time, and wait until markets became more stable, TowerXchnage has learnt.
United Kingdom: Cellnex UK partners with Three along the Brighton railway route
Cellnex UK has signed a partnership with UK’s Three to host the MNOs mobile voice and data equipment on newly deployed Cellnex UK infrastructure along the entire London to Brighton railway route which runs through some of the UK’s most densely populated areas.
Three UK is the first of the UK’s four MNOs to sign an agreement to join the service, which is part of Cellnex UK’s delivery on a 25-year contract with railway network manager Network Rail to enhance connectivity along the Brighton mainline route which has many tunnels and no spots. Under the project Cellnex will provide high-capacity fiber, DAS and bespoke radio equipment.
Australia: ACCC block TPG/Telstra Sharing Deal
The ACCC has blocked a revolutionary “Multi-Operate Core Network” commercial agreement proposed between Telstra and TPG Telecom. Under the terms of the agreement, Telstra were planning to use TPG held spectrum to boost capacity in rural locations, while TPG would decommission around 725 rural towers, instead relying on access to around 3,700 Telstra sites to serve its subscribers, boosting its coverage.The proposal was rejected following anti-competition claims from Optus, a decision that is being appealed by the two operators effected.
Cambodia: Tower industry veteran take CMD role at EDOTCO
Kieran Rabbit, who most recently enjoyed a stint as Chief Commercial Officer at Irish towerco Towercom, has returned to Asian towers after spending time in various roles in Myanmar between June 2014 and December 2022. While working in Myanmar, Rabbit served as Director of Business Director at EDOTCO and was both CEO and Director at National Tower Development Myamar. Rabbit takes the role of Country Managing Director at EDOTCO from Phillip Wong, who also responsible for Laos and ASEAN North.
India: Vi seek INR70bn loan to clear Indus Towers dues
Having come to terms with Indus Towers to settle its bills in the next seven months to avoid losing access to towers, Vodafone Idea is now seeking to raise up to INR70bn ($US847mn) in loans to start to repay its debts to India’s largest towerco. This may be easier said than done, the cash-strapped operator has been crippled with debt that has reduced its ability to raise capital and has not been able to compete with the scale of Jio and Airtel’s 5G rollouts as a result of outstanding dues with vendors Ericson and Nokia. A planned debt for equity swap with the Indian government has also been delayed.
India: BSNL to begin 5G rollout
Government owned BSNL has outlined plans to begin its 5G rollout in 2023, and has requested additional spectrum to support rollout to 135,000 towers in the first half of 2023. BSNL did not acquire any spectrum in India’s first 5G auction last year, but the government has reserved of paired spectrum in the 600MHz band, 40MHz in the 3300MHz band and 400MHz in the 26GHz band. BSNL has requested 10MHz of paired 700MHz spectrum, plus an additional 30MHz of 3300MHz band airwaves and an extra 400MHz in the 26GHz range
Indonesia: Mitratel make progress on transition to digital infraco
Indoensia’s largest towerco, Telkomsel subsidery Mitratel, has made an acquisition of 6,012 km of optical fiber owned by PT Sumber Cemerlang Kencana Permai (SCKP) & PT Trans Indonesia Superkoridor (TIS). The cables are spread across 86 cities & regencies in Indonesia connecting 2,436 towers. Mitratel has aims to become a leading digital infraco in 2023 strengthening the 5G network service infrastructure. "The acquisition of optical fiber is one of the right steps in supporting the acceleration of the fiberization process which is also part of the acceleration towards 5G adoption which is Mitratel's main target in the next few years as an effort to support Indonesia's digital sovereignty," President Director Theodorus (Teddy) Ardi Hartok commented.
Malaysia: DNB outperform on 5G rollout
Malaysia’s wholesale 5G network, Digital Nasional Berhad, has outperformed on 5G coverage targets set for 2022. The DNB announced it now covers 50% of Malaysia, against a 40% target set for the end of last year and has plans to reach 80% by 2024, serving 30 million people and businesses. Coverage in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya is already above 97%. Maxis remains the only operator yet to sign a network access agreement with DNB, stating in a filing to Bursa Malaysia that it is delaying its approach to shareholder for approval of the terms until after the new governments review of Malaysia’s 5G strategy.
Philippines: Now Telecom plots 5G pilot in Manila
Hot on the heels of signing a funding agreement with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Now telecom has announced plans to launch a 5G pilot network in metro Manila as part of a wider plan to team up with Nokia to provide nationwide coverage. Last Summer Now telecom signed an agreement with SBA Communications to support the development of the operator's digital infrastructure.
Angola: China provides US$249mn funding for Angolan national broadband network
China has committed US$249mn in financing this year to support the implementation of a new project titled National Broadband Network in the form of a loan from Export-Import Bank of China. Telecommunications and digital infrastructure projects have been emphasised as key areas for development. The financing is part of the government’s quote for the development of telecommunications infrastructures alongside expected participation from the Angolan private sector.
Cameroon: MNOs to invest US$255mn this year to improve service quality
Cameroon’s three MNOs Orange Cameroon, MTN Cameroon and Viettel (Nexttel) have committed to invest XAF 156bn (US$255mn) in extending network coverage and improving quality of service throughout the country. In December 2022 the three operators agreed to deploy new infrastructure to handle growing subscriber numbers and agreed to align their services. CAMTO registered at least 1,800 fibre optic cuts and 1,000 power cuts last year.
Ethiopia: Safaricom and Ethiotel repair and expand network coverage
Safaricom Ethiopia has extended its networks to cover 21 cities nationwide with a goal of reaching 25 cities and 25% of the population by April this year. Safaricom Ethiopia has built 571 active 2G/3G/4G sites as well as two data centres, operating 41 shared sites and a pipeline of 931 under construction.
Ethiopia’s state-owned incumbent Ethio Telecom has restored services to 27 towns and cities in the northern Tigray province following a ceasefire to the conflict. The MNO has repaired 981km of fibre out of the 1,800km damaged during the war and announced that maintenance work continues on restoring services that still have no access.
Madagascar: NuRAN signs US$90mn deal with Orange
Canadian infrastructure supplier NuRAN Wireless has announced a new Network-as-a-Service agreement with Orange Madagascar for the deployment of 500 rural networking sites in the country’s east coast by 2025 on both 2G and 3G. Orange currently covers 85% of the population but hope to extend its network service to remove areas of the country providing over 1 million people with access to connectivity and Orange’s mobile money service. . The 10-year agreement will generate over US$900mn in potential gross revenue at around US$1,500 per site per month at an estimated gross margin of 70%. NuRAN is expected to retain ownership of the infratructure after the contract is completed. Once completed, NuRAN will have reached 4,642 sites under contract, and are approaching 50% of their goal to reach 10,000 sites within 5 years.
Madagascar: technical issues prevent 5G launch
Madagascar’s Agency for Regulation of Technology and Communication (ARTC) has revealed technical issues need to be resolved before 5G services can be launch but expects the service to become operational soon. An unnamed operator has been detecting issues at 20 sites resulting in interference with neighbouring frequency bands. ARTEC plans to publish a roadmap detailing measure to reorganise frequency band usage in preparation for allocating 5G spectrum.
Namibia: CRAN to assign 700MHz/800MHz spectrum in 2023
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) plans to allocate spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands this year to improve network coverage and quality of service. Additional frequencies will allow MNOs to increase population coverage from 85% to 88% without the deployment of new cell sites. Operators will also be able to start rolling out 5G services as CRAN prepares to issue 5G spectrum before March.
Nigeria: Airtel acquires 4G and 5G spectrum for US$317mn
Airtel Nigeria has purchased 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band and x5MHz in the 2600MHz band from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for US$316.7mn to support the MNOs network expansion. Airtel Nigeria is also rolling out 5G to accommodating strong data growth and support Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan targets. Accompanying this deal is a commitment to invest in connectivity infrastructure to enhance national coverage and facilitate digital transition.
Nigeria: Mafab rolls out 5G services
Mafab Communications, who were one of the winners of 3.5GHz spectrum in December 2021, has now launched 5G services. The network is available in Abuja but will be expanded to other locations including Lagos, Port Harcout, Enugu, Kano and Kaduna. Mafab paid US$273.6mn for the license alongside MTN Nigeria who launched 5G commercial services in September last year.
Egypt: Telecom Egypt and Huawei deploy Africa’s first green tower
Telecom Egypt and Huawei have installed a green tower, labelled as the optimum steel alternative, in Egypt. At 18 meters in hight with a special camouflage fence made of environmentally friendly materials and supported by integrated wireless access solutions, the implementation of this new type of mobile site is unprecedented. Huawei's technology of antennas integrated with signal amplifiers contribute to reducing total energy consumption by 40% as well as improving signal quality by 20%, resulting in a reduction in the number of stations installed.
Oman: Oman Tower Company receives new funding
Oman Tower Company signs a long-term facility agreement with Bank Dhofar to finance Oman Towers for over US$77mn to support the company’s strategic plan in expanding the infrastructure of telecom towers for MNOs in the Sultanate. Oman Tower Company has been rapidly deploying new build-to-suit sites for MNOs in the country, particularly Vodafone Oman who launched operations in March last year and is prioritising expanding points of presence across Oman.
Saudi Arabia: Zain KSA completes tower sale to GLIC
Zain Saudi Arabia has finalised the sale of its 8,069 towers to Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund PIF and has already handed over the first batch of 3,000 sites to the fund’s new holding company Golden Lattice Investment Company (GLIC). The remaining towers will be transferred over the next 18 months and Zain plans to invest the US$805mn raised from the tower sale to reduce the MNOs debt and strengthen its core business.
UAE: du and SES trial satellite-enabled 5G mobile backhaul network
SES and UAE MNO du have successfully piloted the first satellite-enabled 5G backhaul in the Middle East, using SES’s medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites to show how their service can extend 5G coverage to remote locations and support du’s enterprise customers to off-grid locations such as offshore energy sites with network connectivity. SES is in the process of deploying its O3b mPOWER technology which will enable high-performance services with high levels of throughput, low latency, and the flexibility required to meet traffic demand. SES’s quality of service has been stated to be on par with terrestrial backhauling technologies.
Brazil: 20 more locations approved for 3.5GHz 5G connectivity
Brazil’s national telecommunications agency Anatel confirmed a further 20 towns and cities approved to utilise the 3.5GHz band for 5G services from 1 January 2023. The locations include: Belford Roxo (RJ), Campinas (SP), Campos dos Goytacazes (RJ), Contagem (MG), Duque de Caxias (RJ), Feira de Santana (BA), Guarulhos (SP), Juiz de Fora (MG), Niteroi (RJ), Nova Iguacu (RJ), Osasco (SP), Ribeirao Preto (SP), Santo Andre (SP), Sao Bernardo do Campo (SP), Sao Goncalo (RJ), Sao Jose dos Campos (SP), Serra (ES), Sorocaba (SP), Uberlandia (MG) and Vila Velha (ES). However, coverage obligations for these locations do not actually come into force until 2025, so 5G launches will depend on the rollout strategies of Vivo, Claro and TIM Brasil. Since 6 October 2022, all 26 state capitals and federal capital Brasilia have been approved for standalone (SA) 5G connectivity. Claro, Vivo and TIM currently operate 5G services in all such locations, fulfilling their licensing obligations.
Panama: Cabinet amends Digicel licence ahead of termination
The process to revoke Digicel Panama’s mobile licence is underway, after the Cabinet Council authorised the government to amend the carrier’s concession to include ‘mutual agreement’ as grounds for the termination of the licence. The measure has been taken to ‘ensure fair and healthy competition in the mobile market in Panama’ and allow the authorities to issue a ‘public tender to award a new mobile concession’.
In April 2022 Digicel Panama announced its intention to apply for liquidation and withdraw from the Panamanian telecoms market as a result of the merger between Cable & Wireless Panama (CWP, +Movil) and Claro, which it said represented an ‘illegal economic concentration’. Digicel’s concession was transferred to the National Public Services Authority (Autoridad Nacional de los Servicios Publicos, ASEP) on 27 April 2022. On 2 August ASEP’s ‘intervention period’ was extended by a further 180 days, due to expire at the end of January 2023.
Panama: Panama launches tender for new mobile operator
Panama’s national public services authority ASEP has announced that the initial first stage pre-qualification for its public tender for a new mobile licensee will run until 16 March. Public tender No. 01-2023-Telco will seek to fill the void created by the exit of Digicel Panama, by offering a new concession to operate and exploit the vacated licence, as well as allowing for the purchase of certain Digicel assets. Digicel will maintain its operations until the entry of the new operator and will accompany the new company in the transition process. The regulator has emphasised that it is seeking a licensee with strong credentials, with at least five years’ experience as a mobile licensee in another market, serving no fewer than 500,000 mobile subscriptions.
The new licensee will become the third mobile operator, alongside the newly enlarged CWP/Claro, and Tigo Panama, which comprises the former Movistar assets acquired by Millicom International Cellular (MIC) in August 2019. With LatAm-focused groups Millicom and Liberty Latin America (LLA) already present in Panama, and Telefonica, America Movil (AM) and Digicel all exiting the sector in recent years there is no obvious candidate for the new concession.
Chile: Antitrust tribunal clears path for Subtel to alter Claro 3.5GHz licence for 5G
Chile’s antitrust tribunal TDLC has reversed its position on the use of existing fixed wireless 3.5GHz spectrum allocations for mobile services. Previous requests from sector watchdog the Department of Telecommunications Subtel to alter the assignment were rejected on the basis of them being implemented through a public tender. The matter primarily concerns Claro Chile which hold rights to spectrum in the 3.5GHz band but is not permitted to use the airwaves for 5G services. Subtel argued that as the concession is valid until 2032 the resource is being underutilised, to the detriment of customers and the market. TDLC’s revised decision now clears the way for Subtel to alter Claro’s authorisation so that the spectrum can be used for 5G mobile services.
Argentina: 3.3GHz-3.6GHz band authorised for mobile use
Argentina’s national communications agency ENACOM confirmed that it has added spectrum in the 3.3GHz-3.6GHz band to the land mobile service register, in line with the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Radioelectric Spectrum. Argentina is aiming to stage a multi-band 5G spectrum auction in February 2023. Alongside spectrum in the 3.3GHz-3.6GHz band, ENACOM expects to distribute the following frequency bands: 1427MHz-1518MHz (1500MHz band); 1770MHz-1780MHz/2170MHz-2200MHz (AWS-3 band); 2300MHz-2400MHz (2.3GHz band); 24.25GHz-25.75GHz (26GHz band); and 37GHz-43.5GHz (38GHz band).
Colombia: Nine companies interested in Colombian 5G spectrum
Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications MinTIC revealed that a total of nine companies expressed an interest in securing 5G spectrum licences. The list includes established mobile players such as Comunicacion Celular (Claro), Colombia Movil (Tigo), Colombia Telecomunicaciones (Movistar), Empresa De Telecomuncaciones De Bogota (ETB), Partners Telecom Colombia (WOM), alongside unknown quantities such as Colombia WB Hots, Global Play, EGC Colombia and OSC Top Solutions Group. The government is poised to distribute spectrum in the 700MHz, 1900MHz, 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands, although not all of the would-be applicants are interested in bidding on all bands.
Mexico: AT&T returns unused Mexican spectrum
AT&T Mexico has returned blocks of spectrum to the federal telecommunications institute IFT, due to concerns over the high price of the frequencies. AT&T has returned a 10MHz block of AWS spectrum covering Regions 1 and 2, and 3MHz in the 850MHz band covering Mexico City and Guadalajara.
With Movistar returning its entire spectrum allocation back in 2020, in favour of a capacity deal with AT&T, and wholesale operator ALTAN Redes (Red Compartida) requiring a government-led bailout last year, AT&T’s actions will be a cause for concern at the IFT, ahead of its planned 5G spectrum auction this year. Mexico has some of the highest spectrum prices in Latin America. Successful bidders pay an upfront fee as well as an annual frequency usage fee for the duration of the concession; with licences generally valid for 20 years the prices of the licences are far higher than the equivalent concessions in other markets.
Mexico: IFT starts 5G auction consultation; 600MHz, 3.3GHz, L-band frequencies on offer
Mexico’s federal telecommunications institute IFT launched a consultation regarding its planned multi-band 5G spectrum auction. The 5G spectrum bands to be included are 70MHz in the 614MHz-698MHz (600MHz) band, a 50MHz block at 3300MHz-3350MHz and 90MHz in the L-band (1427MHz-1518MHz). The regulator is also seeking feedback on the potential inclusion of unused spectrum in the 800MHz, 850MHz, 1900MHz, AWS and 2.5GHz bands, some of which were relinquished by Movistar in 2020.
The new tender will seek to assign the greatest amount of spectrum possible, especially for the provision of services in neglected or underserved areas. The consultation process commenced on 9 January and submissions are open until 3 February 2023.
Mexico: IFT charges Telcel, AT&T USD65m to renew 850MHz spectrum
Mexico’s federal telecommunications institute IFT has also informed Telcel and AT&T of the renewal fees for their existing 850MHz concessions. Each company will pay MXN1.231 billion (USD65.1 million) for a 2×10MHz concession. AT&T’s licences expired last year, while Telcel’s licences are due to expire in 2025. Both licence renewals are valid for 20 years. The AT&T frequencies previously belonged to Nextel de Mexico, which AT&T acquired for USD1.875 billion back in 2015.