Asia News

Summary of tower industry news across Asia

Australia: Telstra to create infraco 

Telstra has announced the creation of a standalone infrastructure business as part as the company’s new restructuring strategy. The plan, named “Telstra2022”, aims to simplify its operations, cut the company’s workforce and reduce its cost base. 

Effective on July 1, Telstra infraco incorporated the operator’s fixed network infrastructure including data centres, domestic fibre (excluding anything mobile-related), copper, HFC, international subsea cables, exchanges, poles, ducts and pipes. All services will be sold back to Telstra, as well as wholesale customers and NBN Co.

Telstra’s CEO Andrew Penn highlighted that the new unit provides more flexibility and transparency in the management of Telstra’s underlying infrastructure and reinforces the discipline with which capital allocation occurs across the group. 

Australia: TPG Telecom merger with Vodafone Australia confirmed  

Australian ISP group TPG Telecom and MNO Vodafone Australia have finally announced their merger to create a full-service telecoms operator.  

The two companies will join forces and create an operator with an enterprise value of around AU$15bn (US$10.9bn) that will be better placed to challenge market leaders Telstra and Optus. The new entity will be 49.9% owned by TPG shareholders and Vodafone Hutchison Australia will own 50.1%.  

The combined telco will own and operate nationwide telecoms infrastructure including 27,000km of metro and inter-capital fiber, over 5,000 mobile sites as well as international transit capacity. The company will also hold Vodafone Australia’s existing spectrum holdings as well as the 700MHz spectrum TPG spent AU$1.2bn to acquire under a previous plan to enter the mobile market in competition with Vodafone, Telstra and Optus.

Australia: Optus enhances Tasmanian infrastructure

Australian MNO Optus has announced the completion of 37 new mobile sites across Tasmania following twelve months of work and investment of AU$42.2mn (US$30.7mn). In a press release, the carrier stated it had worked to improve its infrastructure to enhance call quality and offer faster downloads to customers across Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Tasmania’s east coast. Optus operates 151 sites across Tasmania, with the latest expansion – comprising 37 new sites – representing a 25% increase in coverage.  

Optus CEO Allen Lew commented that Tasmania is a priority state for the company: “In July last year we committed to building 35 new sites by July 2019. I’m proud to say that we’ve delivered on that target of 35 sites as well as an extra two locations in just twelve months.” Additional investment is planned and Mr Lew confirmed that Optus aims to spend an additional AU$4.5mn on the construction of eight more sites across Tasmania by March 2019.  

Australia: DCA shares guidelines for next round of Mobile Blackspot Programme

The Department of Communications and the Arts (DCA) has released guidelines for the fourth round of its ‘Mobile Black Spot Programme’, calling for applications from operators and infrastructure providers for the competitive assessment process.

The Australian government has committed AU$25mn (US$18mn) for the latest round of the programme, which aims to deliver a total of 867 BTS nationwide. The next phase of the initiative will continue enhancing coverage in regional and remote areas across the country and will specifically target mobile blackspot issues at regional and remote “Public Interest Premises,” as stated on a press release issued by the organisation. MNOs and infrastructure providers have until 10th December 2018 to submit applications.  

Bangladesh: Four towercos to receive licenses to operate  

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has awarded four towercos with licenses to operate in the country. edotco Bangladesh, TASC Summit Towers, iSON Tower Bangladesh and AB Hightech Consortium were selected out of the eight applicants via the beauty contest method.   

Bangladesh, Pakistan: VEON places offer to control Banglalink and Jazz 

Russian company VEON has presented to the shareholders of Global Telecom Holding (GTH) a US$2.55bn offer to take full control of Banglalink and Jazz. The two operators are now owned by Egyptian company GTH of which VEON is the majority owner. The deal is now subject to both shareholders and regulatory approval and is expected to close in Q4 2018.

China: CTC completes IPO  

Last August, China Tower Corporation (CTC), the world’s largest tower company, raised US$6.9bn in an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange, making it the largest market debut since 2016. The state-owned, Beijing-based company, commands 97.3% of the revenue from the infrastructure network that supports China’s mobile communications. CTC sold shares at HK$1.26 each, valuing the company at HK$217bn (US$27.6bn). In doing so, CTC brought to market approximately 25% of their enlarged share capital.

The CTC IPO was keenly priced to attract sufficient demand from investors, with shares priced at the bottom end of a range that had topped out at HK$1.58 a share. The IPO price represents a 7.1x multiple of CTC’s adjusted EBITDA for 2018. CTC’s IPO attracted private and state-backed investors that bought a combined US$1.4bn portion of the deal. Chinese private equity group Hillhouse Capital took a US$400mn stake and Alibaba took US$100mn. Other investors included state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China National Petroleum Corporation and SAIC HK. New York-listed OZ Management absorbed a US$300mn stake.

The joint sponsors for the China Tower float were CICC and Goldman Sachs. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan were joint global co-ordinators and joint book runners.

China: Government discusses China Unicom and China Telecom merger

To cope with the upcoming 5G development and deployment, Chinese authority is considering merging China Unicom and China Telecom. The two State-owned Chinese mobile operators have 590mn subscribers in total and the Chinese Government is planning to put them under one roof to enable the deployment of the next generation network. Talks between the MNOs are ongoing and the merger is led by the Chinese Government. On the other hand, China Mobile will retain its number one position in China with 900mn subscribers.

China: CTC shares positive 2018 results

China Tower Corporation (CTC) has released its 2018 first three quarters performance report. The company has generated a steady revenue growth, with a net profit rose of 16.7 per cent year-on-year to CNY1.96 billion (U$283 million). Its operating revenue has also increased 6.1 per cent to CNY53.6 billion.

The growth revenue comes from three sectors: its tower arm –up 3.7 per cent to CNY51.5 billion—, its indoor distributed antenna system (DAS) business, which grew 79.3 per cent to CNY1.33 billion, and a trans-sector site application and information (TSSAI) business revenue that increased to CNY675 million from CNY63 million. CTC will continue to develop a model of business growth with multiple driving forces, particularly both DAS and TSSAI businesses. Meanwhile, its number of tower sites increased 3.9 per cent to 1.92 million.

India: CCI approves Bharti-Indus merger 

The Competition Commission of India gave the green light to the merger of Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel. Following the merger, which is expected to close by Q1 2019, the joint towerco will operate over 163,000 towers. Current Indus’ shareholders Airtel and Vodafone will control the merged entity while Vodafone will be offered shares in exchange for its 42% stake. Idea will have the option to sell its stake or receive new stakes while Providence, a minority shareholder, will be able to partially divest its 4.85% stake and exchange the rest (1.5%) for shares. 

India: Reliance Jio secures loan facility 

Reliance Jio has secured a loan facility of almost US$100mn from Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-SURE) for a ten-year period. This is the second facility agreed between K-SURE and the Indian operator. 

India: Vodafone Idea launch cost-cutting initiatives

The newly merged Vodafone Idea operator has started to implement a series of money saving measures which include the rationalisation and optimisation of its tower infrastructure, distribution networks as well as its marketing budget.

India: Bharti Airtel creates new infraco for its fibre assets

Bharti Airtel has announced the creation of a wholly-owned, independent infrastructure unit (Telesonic Networks) to run its 246,000km of fibre network. The new infraco will serve the growing requirements for fibre in the Indian telecom industry.  

India: Aircel demands US$65mn from Bharti Airtel

Bankrupt MNO Aircel is seeking US$65mn in unpaid fees from Bharti Airtel following the acquisition of Aircel’s 4G spectrum by Bharti back in 2016. For this purpose, Aircel has submitted a plea to the Supreme Court of India which has been accepted.  

India: DoT gives green light to BSNL 4G spectrum acquisition

BSNL submitted a proposal to acquire 2x5MHz in the 2100MHz band which was approved by the India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The Minister of Telecom has given the DoT 80 days to authorise the allocation. BSNL will pay around US$1.9bn for the spectrum via a combination of government’s equity and annual instalments.  

India: ITI bags major BSNL contract  

BSNL has allocated to ITI Limited, a public sector firm, an Advance Work Order (AWO) for the O&M as well as sales and marketing of 6,945 sites across four circles. The ten-year order includes operations such as diesel filling, electricity bills, preventive and shutdown maintenance, overhaul and spare parts among others.  

India: Reliance Communications closer to spectrum sale

The sale of Reliance Communications’ spectrum could be imminent thanks to an interim order by the Indian Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal to the Department of Telecoms requesting to speed up the process. The sale of the spectrum will cover the Reliance’s debt with Ericsson (US$75mn).   

India: Airtel and Jio will bid for Aircel assets

Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm are among the bidders for wireless assets held by former operator Aircel, who filed for bankruptcy in March. The two Indian MNOs will join Sterlite Technologies and two investment firms in the bid process.    

Assets on the block include spectrum, towers and fiber infrastructure collectively valued at around 323.62 billion rupees. Airtel is the sole bidder for spectrum assets while Reliance Jio is the sole bidder for the tower assets, the report states.  

India: BSNL to partner with NTT and Softbank for 5G rollout

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has entered into an agreement with Japanese firms NTT Communications and Softbank to rollout fifth generation (5G) and Internet of Things (IOT) technologies in India.  

The agreement with NTT Communications is aimed at successfully putting in place supporting infrastructure for developing and smoother transaction from 3G, 4G space to 5G and IOT products and related services in India. The agreement will also look at new solutions for smart cities. The deal will also improve NTT satellite constelation and the company will have around 900 satellites to provide high-speed internet services across the globe. 

India: Government frees up 5GHz spectrum for 5G

The Indian Government has completed the operations to free up a portion of the 5G suitable 5GHz spectrum. The move will speed up 5G trials as well as the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots under the BharatNet project.

Japan: Rakuten partners with Nokia in 5G test  

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Mobile Network Inc. has partnered with Nokia to conduct over-the-air 5G trials using the Nokia AirScale base station and the Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform. On the trials, which utilised the 28GHz band, both companies verified several 5G applications including 4K video and 3D 360-degree VR live streaming.  

Rakuten Mobile Network received approval for its 1700MHz Special Base Station Deployment Plan in April 2018 and aims to launch its mobile network in October 2019.  

Japan: KDDI to raise US$797mn for 5G rollout  

Japanese operator KDDI plans to raise JPY90 billion (US$797mn) through a medium- to long-term bond sale for future network investment, which includes its 5G rollout. As highlighted in the Nikkei Asian Review, this bond sale will mark one of the largest undertaken by the company to date and the funds will be used for capex and debt repayment . 

Indonesia: Tri expands 4G network to Gorontalo Province, Sulawesi  

Hutchison 3 Indonesia (H3I), branded as Tri, has extended its 4G LTE footprint to Gorontalo Province, Sulawesi, increasing the total number of areas covered to 281 cities and districts as well as 7,919 villages across Indonesia. The latest service expansion covers Gorontalo City, Bone Bolango Regency and Gorontalo Regency, supported by 88 3G/4G-enabled base transceiver stations (BTS). ‘Going forward, Tri will develop 4G LTE Tri infrastructure to support service coverage and capacity, by adjusting development in Gorontalo [to support] customer growth,’ Tri Sulawesi Kalimantan Division head of operations Robby Hikmat Permana commented.  

Tri’s nationwide mobile broadband network is supported by 55,100 BTS and 14,000km of optical fibre networks.

Malaysia: edotco completes Tanjung Digital buy

Axiata Group owned unit edotco Group Sdn Bhd has completed the acquisition of an 80% stake in Tanjung Digital Sdn Bhd for RM140mn, allowing the company to expand its presence in Kedah with a portfolio of 225 new towers. The acquisition was undertaken by edotco Malaysia.  

The company aims to improve its operational efficiency of tower infrastructure in Kedah, reinforcing its commitment of supporting fast and reliable coverage in the nation. 

Malaysia: Ericsson to expand Celcom’s 4G network

Malaysian MNO Celcom Axiata has signed a contract with Ericsson to expand and upgrade its 4G LTE network. As part of the agreement, the Swedish vendor will supply the MNO with Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment from its Ericsson Radio System portfolio to help the MNO serve the growing demand for data services in Malaysia. Ericsson’s RAN equipment will also serve as a platform to help Celcom evolve its network to 5G in the coming years.  

Myanmar: Mytel investment reaches US$1bn

The latest entrant of the Myanmar’s mobile market has already invested more than US$1bn in infrastructure by deploying 5,000 base transceiver stations and rolling out 30,000km of fibre-optic cable. Mytel has now reached half of their target of US$2bn over its 15-year license period and a company official stated that they will be installing more BTS to improve the network capabilities. 

Myanmar: edotco signs energy management deal with Ooredoo 

edotco has signed a deal to manage Ooredoo’s energy assets across 1,250 of the operator’s tower sites in Myanmar. The deal will notably change edotco’s business model in Myanmar as the company will also provide power services. “By operating and maintaining the overall power management systems, we will be able to optimise energy systems and energy pass through management at the sites,” said Vijendran Watson, country MD for edotco in Myanmar.

Myanmar: TPG finalises PAMEL’s acquisition

After a few months of speculations, U.S. private equity firm TPG has finalized its biggest investment in Myanmar by acquiring Pan Asia Majestic Eagle (PAMEL), the third largest tower owner in the country. After the deal, TPG will own the second biggest tower portfolio in the country after IGT. 

It has been revealed that TPG will create a holding company with common ownership of both Apollo and Pan Asia through a two-step cash and share swap transaction. 

Myanmar: Ericsson deploys triple-standard cell site in Myanmar

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson has deployed a combined 2G, 3G and LTE cell site in Myanmar with a new solution designed to keep power consumption per site below one kilowatt.

The “Psi” rural coverage solution eliminates the need to have several radios in a coverage area for 2G, 3G and 4G. It instead uses a single radio unit connecting three antennas together. The radios, each of which handle a different access technology and frequency band, connect to a triple-band antenna.

Psi is also designed to reduce power consumption in remote areas where power grid supply is often inadequate or unavailable, one of the most common challenges in the country, reducing the cost of operation for rural and low-capacity deployments. 

Pakistan: Axiata to divest stake in Multinet Pakistan

Axiata is planning to divest the entirety of its stake (89%) in Multinet Pakistan to Adnan Asdar Ali, the shareholder owning the remaining 11% in the company. In 2017, Multinet has accumulated losses for US$6.2mn and its contribution to Axiata’s performance has been defined as “immaterial”. The sale of share (at US$1) is subject to regulatory approvals.  

Pakistan: edotco cancels acquisition of Deodar

Axiata infrastructure subsidiary edotco announced last week that they will not move forward with the acquisition of 13,000 towers from Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited (“PMCL”) in Pakistan.  

The transaction was subject to a number of conditions and terminated due to the non-fulfilment of the conditions precedent to the SPA within the stipulated timeframe, in particular regulatory approval for the resulting change of control contemplated under the SPA. edotco remains committed to Pakistan and will continue to grow its existing business under edotco Pakistan 

The Philippines: TBGI to renew its congressional franchise ahead of third operator bid  

Transpacific Broadband Group International (TBGI) is seeking to extend its congressional franchise for another 25 years as the company plans to participate in the government’s third telco initiative. The company has applied to renew the franchise it holds under Republic Act No. 8675 to 2048, which is set to expire in 2023.  

TBGI announced its intention to enter the race to become the country’s third major telecoms player. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange TBGI unveiled a number of initiatives to support its bid, including selling up to 40% of the company for foreign investors in a private share sale, setting up a common tower company and tapping Chinese technology and telco partners.

The Philippines: Globe and Smart will deploy 5G in 2019

Both Philippines’ operators have announce their plans to deploy 5G in 2019. Market leader Globe plans to start in the second quarter of 2019. The MNO is currently upgrading its core, radio and transmission network to support 5G by the end of the year, and will offer a 5G fixed wireless mobile broadband service in 2Q19. Globe executives recently visited China to meet with Huawei and discuss their 5G partnership.

Equally, Smart Communications, the wireless arm of PLDT Inc., will partner with Ericsson to deploy a pilot 5G network early next year. PLDT has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sweden-based technology firm for the deployment, set to begin in Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island. Ericsson will install 5G Radio Access Network (RAN), core and transport solutions which all parties hope will allow the MNO “to explore industry partnership engagements, collaborate with schools and universities, and further develop competence in 5G.”

The Philippines: PLDT boosts number of live LTE base stations by 45%

PLDT’s mobile arm Smart Communications has deployed 3,900 new LTE base stations, boosting the total number of BTS on-air by 45% to 12,600. The company has improved its LTE-A network by installing new sites in Batanes, Sagada and Cagayan, as well as in Palawan, Sorsogon, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Davao and Sarangani.

PLDT also noted that work to expand broadband coverage took the number of homes passed to 5.07 million at end-June 2018 with capacity at 1.86 million ports. Additionally, between January-June 2018, PLDT increased its fibre footprint to 204,000km, rolling out over 29,000km of new cable.  PLDT is also rolling out fibre in additional urban areas – dubbed ‘Smart cities’ – starting in Toledo, Cebu, but now augmented by General Santos City in Mindanao, Naga in the Bicol Region, and South Metro Manila (incl. Parananque and Las Pinas), and East Metro Manila (incl. Pasig and Antipolo). The telco has also deployed fibre in business districts such as Rockwell Makati and Bonifacio Global City, while extending its FTTH footprint to the tourist town of El Nido in Palawan, with plans to expand to other municipalities in the short term.  

The Philippines: PCC want to keep clear air between new MNO and PLDT-Globe

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has proposed through its latest draft terms of reference (TOR) to address several competition issues, including ensuring that the prospective newcomer keeps a ‘safe distance from the industry’s existing duopoly’. The new TOR published by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on 8 August stipulates that the third operator should not have any merger plans or joint venture agreements with either of the dominant telco players.  

The Philippines: 13 candidates for Philippines’ third MNO license

At least 13 companies have shown their interest in competing to become the Philippines’ third operator, including five local players and eight international entities.

Telenor Group of Norway, Grameenphone, Military-backed Viettel, China Telecom, Vodafone, Japan’s KDDI, South Korea’s KT and LG Uplus and US operator AT&T are the main international candidates reportedly interested in participating in the bid process for the slot. Locally, ISPs PT&T, Now, Converge, Transpacific-Broadband, and TierOne are also interested.  

Any overseas aspirant would need to partner or create a joint venture with a local company due to constitutional rules limiting foreign ownership of telecoms companies. DICT’s Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. confirmed that the government aims to finalise the terms of the selection process by the end of the year.  

The Philippines: PSE complicates PT&T’s application for third telco bid

The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) has declined Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp’s (PT&T) application to trading its shares on the local bourse, which complicates PT&T’s presence in the bid for third operator license.

PSE has recently shared a statement saying that PT&T has still failed to comply with disclosure rules and has not submitted ‘compliant structured reports, such as quarterly and audited annual reports, since 2004’. The operator will ‘remain under involuntary trading suspension until it completes its submissions,’ said PSE president and CEO Ramon Monzon.  

The Philippines: DICT finally sets terms of third operator selection  

The Department of Information and Communications Technology has published the formal terms of the selection process for the market’s third operator.  

Compared to the most recent draft, the final terms give a heavier weight to guaranteed internet speeds and allow more flexible terms on payment of performance security bonds, the report states.

Now that the terms have been released, the NTC plans to commence the sale of bid documents for 1 million pesos ($18,450) each on October 6, and has set a bid submission deadline of November 5.A winner will be selected based on the highest committed level of service, including population coverage and internet speed promises, over a five-year commitment.

The Philippines: Third telco could start signing up subscribers next June

Acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Eliseo Rio Jr., has stated that the winner of the third telco license might be able to start signing up its own subscribers by June 2019. On October 22, Mr. Rio confirmed that DICT will be finalising the bidding process by next month, which will give the new MNO enough time to roll out its infrastructure.

South Korea: SKT completes 5G in partnership with Samsung

After concluding the auction for its 5G spectrum,  South Korean MNO SK Telecom (SKT) has conducted its first call in a test bed using commercial 5G equipment provided by fellow Korean company Samsung Electronics. As published in the Korea Herald, the development comes as the MNO works towards its goal of commercialising fifth-generation technology through mobile routers as early as December 2018.

Back in June, both SK Telecom and KT each won 100MHz of the 3.5GHz spectrum, while LG Uplus secured 80MHz. The three operators clinched 800MHz of the 2.8GHz spectrum and paid a total of 3.6183tr won, 340bn won more than the starting price of 3.3tr.

Thailand: CAT board approves TOT merger plan  

The board of Thailand’s operator CAT has approved the proposed merger with fellow State-owned operator TOT as an alternative to splitting up both companies. CAT’s Board has approved a resolution for a merger with TOT to create a national telecom company that would be in a stronger position to compete against private rivals. The merger would be conducted instead of the Government’s original plan to spin off the infrastructure assets of both companies into two new com 

Thailand: NBTC to relax licence payments to attract bidders

Thai National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is considering an extension on the payment period for winning bidders in order to attract more interest on the upcoming 4G auction. 

NBTC has rescheduled the auction for February 2019, when the regulator will try to sell the 1800MHz spectrum that could not attract any bidder last August. The terms of the previous auction allowed its winner three years to pay their bid, which put operators under uncomfortable financial pressure. The Bangkok Post has published that the organism is considering increasing this period to eights or ten years now.

Thailand previous auctions have been delayed or abandoned due the lack of interest from the country’s MNOs.  August’s 1800MHz auction sold just two of the nine 10MHz available blocks, with AIS and DTAC picking up their spectrum for THB12.5 billion each.

Vietnam: Viettel to list on HNX’s UPCoM  

Viettel Global, the holding company that manages Viettel Group’s international telecoms businesses, has received approval to list its shares on the Unlisted Public Company Market (UPCoM) of the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX). 2.2 billion shares will be listed from 25 September, with a floor price of VND15,000 (US$0.64) per share and the company will use the code ’VGI’. Viettel Global currently has 6,348 shareholders, with Viettel Group being the largest and holding 98.68% of the company’s shares.

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