Ascend Telecom becomes India’s fourth largest towerco
An exclusive conversation with the CEO of India’s Ascend Telecom following its acquisition of Tower Vision
Ascend Telecom, an Indian towerco, was founded in 2002 and since then, through a series of strategic acquisitions and organic growth, has become one of the leading wireless infrastructure companies in the country. The company is also active in IBS, small cells, fibre and smart cities and is heavily focussed on green energy solutions. In May 2023, Ascend Telecom was given a green light by the Indian regulator to acquire a 100% stake in Tower Vision, another major Indian towerco with a nearly 10,000 site strong portfolio. TowerXchange caught up with Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, the CEO of Ascend Telecom, shortly after the deal went ahead.
TowerXchange: Please could you introduce yourself and your company to TowerXchange readers?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: I have been leading Ascend Telecom since 2012, and have over 40 years of experience in the industry, having previously led both national and international telecom organisations, including ITS (India Telecom Services officer) and BSNL, the largest state-owned telecom enterprise in India, where I have introduced cellular services and optical fibre connectivity. I have also served as a telecom advisor for digitalisation of South African countries for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and worked as the Design Engineer in Avionics Design Bureau at Hindustan Aeronautics. Prior to working for Ascend, I served as the Chief Executive Officer of ORG Informatics, where I managed the telecom and system integration business in India and helped to diversify the operations into satellite services in Belgium and South-East Asia. I also served as the Vice President of GDSS Inc. USA, where I pioneered the triple play services in Africa and South-East Asia.
Ascend Telecom Infrastructure is an independent towerco, incorporated in India in 2002. The company currently operates over 17,000 sites and has nearly 30,000 tenancies. We provide build-to-suit infrastructure, covering base stations, high-power small cell sites, fibre-to-the-home and to the node, intermediate stations for national long-distance optical fibre routes, IBS and DAS, edge data centre infrastructure and adjacencies. We have an excellent track record in project delivery and operational excellence and have become the preferred partner to many operators in the country. We have also been recognised for adopting technological innovations, and effectively managing real estate and green energy solutions.
TowerXchange: Ascend Telecom has just acquired Tower Vision India. Could you tell us more about the deal?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: Tower Vision India was another leading independent towerco with a pan-Indian presence, a portfolio of over 9,000 towers and a tenancy ratio of 1.7. The company also had a significant presence in urban locations, including the National Capital Region in India. By this acquisition, Ascend has further strengthened its portfolio and enhanced its capabilities to meet the 5G network requirements.
TowerXchange: What benefits do you expect to see following this acquisition? What attracted you to the Tower Vision India’s portfolio?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: This is the fourth acquisition under my leadership at Ascend and it further consolidates our position as the second largest pure play towerco in India. We have strengthened our position on the market, and the operational and business synergies coming from this acquisition will lead to growth. Tower Vision brings balance to our combined portfolio and an impetus to accelerate the 5G growth. Sustained tenancy ratio with a higher market share guarantees an increase in revenue and EBITDA for Ascend. Consistent performance in service delivery and smart energy management also influenced our decision to go ahead with the acquisition.
TowerXchange: What is the valuation and tenancy ratio of your new acquisition?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: Tower Vision operated with a sustained tenancy ratio of 1.75 and was acquired at a valuation of US$365mn. With the combined EBITDA of US$110mn its performance was considered to be consistently healthy over the last decade. Our customers have already recognised the operational and financial strengths of the newly combined entity and have started placing requests for the new rollouts.
TowerXchange: Where do you see the Indian telecom and towerco market go in the next 12 months?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: There are around 650,000 towers and Indian towerco market has been steadily growing with the new tower build at CAGR of 7% year on year. The aggressive 5G rollout in urban areas and the further expansion of 4G networks through rural and semi-urban areas has been tackling the capacity and coverage issues and fuelling the demand for new towers to be built. The demand for small cells has also grown across all regions in the country. New revenue streams from adjacencies such as FTTX, IBS, EDC and EV charging are enhancing the monetisation of towerco assets. Industry is targeting ubiquitous 4G coverage in the country by mid-2024 and extensive 5G penetration to urban and semi-urban populations by the end of 2024.
TowerXchange: Following the acquisition, what are your operational plans and priorities?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: Our goal is to create a world class future-ready digital infraco, a one stop-solution for all the needs of our customers. We are aiming to achieve a seamless integration with the Tower Vision portfolio, deliver operational and business synergies, and increase our market share by monetising our combined assets and generating new revenue streams. We have ambitious plans to boost our customer confidence through the use of best practices and our combined experience, and to further strengthen our hold on the market and future growth.
TowerXchange: With 5G rollouts accelerating worldwide, how is your company adapting to the demands of 5G networks?
Dr. Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Group CEO, Ascend Telecom: Ascend’s tower portfolio is ready to meet our customer needs now and in the future. We are prioritising network upgrades and bringing in high efficiency energy management solutions to our sites. New site designs and 5G-ready updates will boost our capacity to meet the demands of our current and future customers. We are fully aligned with the go-to-market strategy of the MNOs who we work with.
Ascend Telecom and other leading wireless infrastructure companies in the APAC region will be speaking at the 10th annual TowerXchange Meetup Asia on 28-29 November 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.