Monthly News Roundup: January 2024
A round-up off all the latest news in the global tower industry
Egypt: Telecom Egypt secures 5G license
Telecom Egypt has obtained a license to operate 5G services, valued at US$150mn for a 15 year period, but will not be automatically renewed. Telecom Egypt plan to use the spectrum to boost data service revenues and will see a targeted network rollout. The operator is planning a 3-5 month trial period before launching commercially, with around 50% of the network being 5G ready. The ongoing sale of it’s 2,500 tower portfolio is being done to raise the investment needed to adopt 5G, hoping to raise up to US$250mn.
Pakistan: Telenor sells to e&
Norwegian multinational MNO Telenor has sold its Pakistan business unit to Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd (PTCL), a joint-venture between UAE-based multinational MNO e& and the Pakistani government.
PTCL will acquire 100% of the business, valued at PKR 108bn, and is subject to regulatory approvals. E& / PTCL see the acquisition as an opportunity to consolidate their position in the market, absorbing Telenor’s 45 million subscribers with Ufone’s current 25 million to compete with market leader Jazz’ 70 million. Consolidation should also help drive up Pakistan’s very low ARPUs that have been squeezing revenues for MNOs.
This follows a decision made by Telenor to exit its Asian markets following a strategic review in July 2022. The opco has already sold its units in Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand, with Grameenphone in Bangladesh remaining.
Regional: Telekom Srbija sells towers to Actis-led investor consortium
The Serbian state-owned telecom group has carved 1,800 towers across three of its markets and sold them to a consortium led by UK-based infrastructure investor Actis for an undisclosed amount. Telekom Srbija’s tower sale includes 995 assets in Serbia, 725 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 107 in Montenegro. They will be managed by a Serbia-headquartered towerco.
Telekom Srbija and its subsidiaries will be the towerco's anchor tenants under long-term master service agreements (MSAs). Telekom Srbija has also committed to lease additional towers from the towercos under a build-to-suit program which will be implemented over the next four to six years, depending on the jurisdiction.
Denmark: Telia operations and network sale to Norlys delayed
The sale of Telia’s Danish operations, which includes a 50%stake in the TT Network infraco, to energy-telco group Norlys has been delayed by the local competition authority, the company has announced.
Telia and Norlys announced the signing of a binding agreement in April 2023 for the operations and network assets for an enterprise value of DKK6.25bn (US$907mn). Telia said at the time the deal was in line with its strategy “to focus on markets where there is a clear path to securing and defending a leading market position.”
In Denmark, Telenor and Telia share their networks and spectrum through the 50:50 joint venture infraco, TT-Networks which was established back in 2012 and has a portfolio of around 1,200 towers.
Italy: Completion of Wind Tre sale to EQT Infrastructure extended
MNO Wind Tre’s carved-out RAN, mobile core network and fixed network and their sale to EQT Infrastructure for an enterprise value of EUR 3.4 billion has been delayed due to agreements with third parties, Wind Tre’s parent company CK Hutchison has announced. The deadline to close the deal has been extended to 12 February.
Following the completion of the deal, EQT will own 60% in the new company while Wind Tre’s current owner, CK Hutchison, will own a 40 percent stake.
Hutchison has also stated that “closing is conditional on the satisfaction or waiver of certain conditions, there remains a possibility that the Transaction may not proceed.”
Spain: Digi concludes spectrum purchase from MasMovil
Digi Spain, the local unit of Romanian telecommunications group, has purchased spectrum totaling EUR120mn from Xfera Móviles, S.A., part of the MasMovil Group in Spain, the company has announced in a statement on its website.
“The Spectrum Transfer Agreement has been concluded in the context of the merger control proceeding directed by the European Commission (Case M.10896 – OSP/MásMóvil/JV)”.
Digi has also announced the conclusion of an agreement with Orange Spain for a national roaming service.
Digi which currently operates as a MVNO in the country, has been vocal about its ambitions to become Spain’s next MNO.
MNOs Orange and MasMovil have inked a binding agreement to merge their operations in Spain and the merger is currently being investigated by the competition authorities of the European Commission (EC). As TowerXchange has previously reported, the MNOs had approached local MVNOs to discuss possible remedies to aid the deal’s approval.
Argentina: Telecom Argentina launches standalone 5G
In signs that Argentina’s spectrum auction is having the desired effect Telecom Argentina has activated more than 240 antennas for 5G standalone on the 3.5GHz block of spectrum is acquired. The beleaguered South American country is banking on an economic recovery following the election of Javier Milei.
Brazil: Winity hands back spectrum; network sharing plans in tattered
After being the highest bidder for spectrum in Brazil’s auction the would-be open access operator has run into trouble. Originally slated to provide network services to Telefonica, Winity has had to cancel it plans and hand back spectrum after failing to
Chile: WOM struggles impact bondholders
WOM Chile, from which PTI agreed to acquire towers in 2022 is struggling to manage its debt pile and its bonds fall to new lows. WOM has started 2024 by laying off workers after fines for failure to meet coverage targets bite into the operators bottom line.
Colombia: Towers acquired by Nexo Latam
Millicom has agreed the sale of its 1,100 towers in Colombia to Nexo Latam, a digital infrastructure player backed by KKR. The towers are the first transaction to take place as part of Millicom’s plan to monetise its tower assets which have recently been transferred to the Lati brand.
Kenya: American Tower’s dispute with Telkom continues
ATC Kenya is demanding a payment of KES500mn (US$3.26mn) in addition to KES150mn (US$978k) per month to reconnect their network to the ATC tower portfolio.
896 towers had been cut off from power supply in summer 2023 leading to service outages for Telkom. 246 towers have remained unconnected since, as part of a two-year dispute with ATC Kenya accusing tenant MNO Telkom of failing to pay lease rates.
Telkom Kenya has found itself in rough waters, struggling to compete with market leader Safaricom and faced with accruing debts that have almost doubled to US$46.2mn from May to October 2023.
Senegal: Free joins 5G race
Free Senegal has expanded its operating license to include 5G, acquiring new frequencies in the 3.5 MHz band for US$22.4mn. Sonatel had previously been the only MNO with a 5G license, acquired in July 2023 for US$34.5mn, with Free’s offer being rejected by the ARTP for non-compliance. Free has 5.36mn mobile subscribers and a market share of 24.47% (Orange 56.23% / Sonatel 17.02%).
Nigeria: Parallel Wireless partners with Hotspot Networks for rural Naas
Nigerian rural network-as-a-service provide Parallel Wireless has signed a partnership with Hotspot networks to deliver 2G and 4G rural sites for local and national government bodies. Parallel Wireless will manage their network via OpenRAN software. Parallel Wireless operate 1,500 sites across Nigeria, Tanzania, Guinea Conakry, Ghana, South Sudan and Uganda providing 2G and 3G rural coverage, and 2G and 4G urban / suburban sites on top of a full turnkey transmission, power and tower service.
Nigeria: IHS Towers' CICL completes 10,000km fibre roll-out
IHS Nigeria announced the completed rollout of more than 10,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory through its subsidiary, Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL) in January 2024. IHS Towers is also continuing to deploy Fiber-to-the-Tower (FTTT) to provide increased transmission capacity to help improve the performance of fiber access networks and introduction of next-generation technologies, such as 5G services.
Nigeria: IHS Towers' reaches 580 unconnected rural communities
IHS Nigeria has also announced the implementation of rural mobile network coverage in over 580 previously unconnected rural communities in Nigeria through its rural telephony program. By helping deliver voice and data services to these communities, IHS Nigeria is working to meet MNO’s rollout targets and support the Federal Government’s digital inclusion agenda.
Namibia: CRAN revokes Ucom Mobile license
Namibia’s telecoms regulatory body CRAN has revoked the telecoms spectrum license awarded to Ucom Mobile after the MNO was accused of failure to comply with license conditions. The operator has accrued debts of US$1.03mn in unpaid royalties and failed to efficiently use the allocated spectrum. CRAN has also granted Ucom 6 months to migrate it’s 1,000 customers to other operators after which it must cease all activates.
South Africa: Shareholder takeover for Cell C
Cell C’s largest shareholder, Blue Label Telecoms has applied to take full control of the operator. Cell C has continuously struggled to compete with market leaders MTN and Vodacom, lacking their scale and access to capital.
Blue Label tried to float the sinking MNO, investing US$369mn into the company in 2017, but had to write off that investment just 2 years later. Telkom has since tried to acquire the MNO but failed.
After recapitalising in 2022, the MNO deactivated its RAN equipment in July 2023 and opted for an MVNO model using MTN’s network (situated on IHS Towers’ portfolio).
Blue Label Telecoms is now increasing its shareholding to over 50% to take over and redirect the company's strategy, and is engaging with the telecom regulator ICASA to transfer Cell C’s operating license and spectrum to The Prepaid Company (TPC - a subsidiary of Blue Label). This gives TPC the permit to build and operate telecom infrastructure.
Regional: Consortium looking to acquire EDOTCO
Axiata is looking to reduce its stake and exit its majority ownership of EDOTCO according to reports. NTT Docomo Inc has joined a consortium led by Mitsui & Co and JTower Inc. The Mitsui-led consortium may also buy shares owned by Innovation Network Corp of Japan, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, and KWAP. A potential purchase by the Japanese consortium could be worth about US$1.5bn and a controlling stake in the multi-country towerco. Malaysia’s state-owned Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has been in talks to acquire a share in EDOTCO.
Australia: Waveconn announce new CEO
Waveconn has appointed Grant Stevenson as its new CEO effective 1 February 2024, succeeding Simon Fennessy who is resigning. Waveconn Chair Graham Bradley said "Waveconn is entering a pivotal phase, and with Grant at the helm, we are confident in our continued growth and innovation. Grant's deep understanding of our business, coupled with his extensive telecommunications experience, makes him uniquely qualified to lead our company forward."
Bangladesh: Summit Towers acquires sites from Banglalink
Bangladesh has seen a sale and leaseback announced by Banglalink. Banglalink has sold 2,012 towers to Summit Towers. Summit Towers are the only locally controlled towerco and already have 2,050 towers in the South Asian country. The deal closed on January 31.
Cambodia: Telemobile build first 20 sites
Cellcard’s towerco spin-off Telemobile has completed construction of its first 20 sites for the mobile operator. The towerco-carveout is working on a build-to-suit pipeline from its parent company as it seeks to establish operations independently.
India: American Tower announce exit
After several unhappy years American Tower has announced a sale of its nearly 80,000 Indian towers to Brookfield. Brookfield, which also owns Summit Digitel in India, will pay US$2.5bn for the towers. American Tower entered India a decade ago but have struggled as customers went bankrupt or failed to stay current on their leases.