Ubuntu rebrands to TowerCo of Africa Uganda
A new brand name brings fresh ambitions to Uganda from one of Africa's fastest-growing towercos
Ubuntu Towers Uganda has announced the completion of its rebranding to TowerCo of Africa Uganda, bringing the brand in line with its parent company TowerCo of Africa of which it owns 90% as a full subsidiary. Under this new identify the company is forging ahead with its journey towards Uganda’s connected future.
Geoffrey Oketayot, CEO of TowerCo of Africa Uganda, said "We are thrilled to officially unveil TowerCo of Africa Uganda and embark on this exciting next chapter in what has been a very fulfilling journey. Our rebranding represents a transfer of the positive legacy from Ubuntu Towers to the TowerCo of Africa brand. It also marks an important milestone in our evolution, which is punctuated by our ambition to be the best green passive infrastructure solutions provider in Uganda."
To celebrate their relaunch, TowerCo of Africa held an event which was attended by the Uganda State Minister of ICT Joyce Ssebugwawo as well as other dignitaries and business leaders.
"We are immensely grateful for the support of our employees, customers, business partners, industry bodies and government in helping to shape the socio-economic impact of TowerCo of Africa Uganda. We remain committed to delivering exceptional telecommunications solutions that catapult communities, businesses, and the economy towards meaningful growth," concluded Oketayot.
TowerCo of Africa Uganda will continue to be run by its highly experienced management team, including the co-founders Geoffrey Donnels Oketayot (CEO), George Ssamula (CLO), and Ronald Onzia (COO), Mark Otai (CFO) and Harold Luzinda (CCO) – who collectively have over 25 years of experience in different fields, including engineering, business, operations management, and law.
With a visionary leadership team at the helm, TowerCo of Africa Uganda is poised to shape the future of sustainable passive telecoms infrastructure and drive Uganda's ascent as a trailblazer in the digital age.
Stephane Beuvelet, CEO of TowerCo of Africa, added: "TowerCo of Africa's infrastructure investments are contributing to various sectors such as education, e-health, e-farming, logistics, and transport - amongst others. We are delighted to collaborate with compelling partners to deliver enhanced services as we work towards a better-connected, sustainable Uganda. We feel privileged to operate in a market where the regulation is progressive, and its people, ambitious and innovative. This fuels our confidence for the country's ability to become a leading player in green powered passive telecoms infrastructure."
Who are TowerCo of Africa?
TowerCo of Africa (TOA) started in Madagascar in 2011 after finalising the sale leaseback of local MNO Telma’s tower portfolio as well as taking over the sites of parent company AXIAN Telecom. Over the next 10 years, TOA built up a team of experienced executives and managers as well as waiting patiently for an opportunity to expand, which came in 2021 acquiring Ubuntu Towers, a Ugandan towerco launched by ex-Eaton tower employees.
TOA has gone on to establish two more towercos, setting up greenfield tower operations in the DRC and acquiring a small portfolio in Tanzania. Now in its expansion phrase, the pan-African towerco sees opportunities in M&A through strategic acquisitions, takeover of AXIAN portfolios as well as organic build-to-suit.
While a traditional towerco at the core, TOA has not been afraid of exploring new services offerings and business models. In Madagascar, TOA offers a Network-as-a-Service model on both zero-capex for one operator or using active sharing depending on the regulatory framework.
TOA also provides in-building solutions as well as outdoor Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and street furniture alongside fibre and power, which is all very attractive for their MNO partners. With their markets often lacking good grids, TOA is actively deploying on-site energy solutions, predominantly solar and battery hybrids and does a lot of R&D on new technologies and innovations in-house.
AXIANs backing offers big opportunities for growth
Behind TOA is AXIAN Telecom, a pan-African MNO operating in 9 markets through subsidiary affiliates in Tanzania, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda, the DRC, Senegal, Reunion, Mayotte and the Comoros. It operates across three key business segments, providing mobile and fixed networks as well as digital infrastructure and mobile financial services.
As Africa’s 7th largest mobile operator, the business serves around 36 million customers and is a market disruptor, having expanded through active acquisitions and heavy network investments since 2015.
AXIAN offers TOA a wealth of infrastructure opportunities, both in towers and beyond. AXIAN Telecom has a sister company, AXIAN Energy, which does large-scale power projects. While sitting slightly out of a towercos scope, access to energy experts and best practice when it comes to solar power has helped TOA develop effective on-site energy solutions and integrate with minigrid providers where possible.
AXIAN Telecom also operates over 17,200km of backbone infrastructure including fibre networks and subsea cables, one data centre (so far) and was the first commercial 5G operator in Africa. This presents a huge opportunity for TOA to continue to support AXIAN through existing and new infrastructure solutions.
AXIAN has been busy expanding it’s own presence and is reportedly in talks with MTN Group to acquire its struggling west African business units in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry, although no deal has been announced. There would be little doubt that as AXIAN grows and finds itself in possession of large numbers of tower infrastructure, that TOA will be first in line on any future deal table.
Uganda’s tower market is heating up
American Tower is the dominant towerco in Uganda, operating over 4,000 of the country’s estimated 5,200 telecom towers after acquiring Eaton Towers. There is an opportunity for further M&A as state-owned UTCL retains around 800 towers, but the vast majority of sites are operated by towercos. Both MTN and Airtel, Uganda’s two dominant MNOs, have started their readiness to launch commercial 5G services, and American Tower Uganda has been deploying urban street furniture including small cells and monopoles.
Around 27% of sites are off-grid with about half of new sites being off-grid as rollout spreads to more rural areas. While the grid is generally good with around 80% availability, outages are not uncommon. TowerCo of Africa Uganda has ambitions to run all sites on a solar and grid solution, working with battery manufacturer Polarium to deploy lithium-ion batteries. MTN Uganda has also worked with both ATC and TOA to connect 250 sites to the hydroelectric grid to minimise carbon emissions.
This puts future growth for towercos in build-to-suit, and TowerCo of Africa Uganda has rolled out around 260 new sites, all equipped with hybrid energy solutions, and expects this number to grow significantly in the coming years.