Asia News

Summary of tower industry news across Asia

Australia: TPG profits go down after abandoning network rollout

Australian MNO TPG has revealed that its net profit for the 2019 financial year has dropped by 56% to last year, from AU$397.5mn to AU$175mn, due the telco’s abandonment of its mobile network rollout.

Earlier this year, the company halted its own mobile network rollout following Australian government’s ban on using Huawei equipment for 5G. “It is extremely disappointing that the clear strategy the company had to become a mobile network operator at the forefront of 5G has been undone by factors outside of TPG’s control” TPG chief David Teoh said in January.

Bangladesh: edotco achieves 4,000 co-locations

edotco recently announced that its Bangladesh unit has successfully deployed 4,000 co-locations for the country’s MNOs since entering the market in 2013. “This is a key milestone for us as we work towards enhancing the telecommunications industry and meeting the government’s digitization goals,” stated Rahul Chaudhary, Country Managing Director of edotco BD.

edotco currently owns and operates over 10,000 telecom towers throughout Bangladesh and over 29,300 towers across the six countries in which they have a presence.

Bangladesh: Robi and Grameenphone’s 2G and 3G licences at risk

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has recently warned Robi and Grameenphone that their 2G and 3G licences could be revoked in light of the dispute over dues that are under scrutiny by the two operators. According to the audits, Robi owes approximately US$102.5mn and Grameenphone nearly US$1.5bn. The crisis between the two operators means that they are currently unable to seek approval for any new service and cannot import any equipment necessary for the maintenance of their network.

India: BSNL to cut workforce by half

BSNL is currently in the process of monetizing its land assets and aims at cutting its workforce by almost half via a voluntary retirement scheme. The Indian Government hasn’t offered any revival package to the troubled MNO and to date, its workforce costs 75% of revenue.

India: Tata Teleservices completes merger following debt clearance

The sale of Tata Group’s mobile unit to Bharti Airtel finally took effect as of July 1, 2019. To complete the sale, Tata Group cleared debts to the Department of Telecommunications and lenders amounting to approximately US$7.3bn.

Indonesia: XL Axiata to achieve 95% coverage in 2019

XL’s Chief Technology Director Yessie D. Yosetahas recently stated that the operator has completed 90% of its planned network infrastructure deployment for 2019 by installing 19,000 new base transceiver stations. XL Axiata aims to offer coverage to 95% of the country’s population and is targeting 135,000 base transceiver stations in more than 440 cities by the year with a total investment of US$533mn. The executive also highlighted that the MNO will use the national Palapa Ring network for fibre-optic backhaul and said that XL has already connected 30% of its coverage area to the fibre-optic network with a plan to increase this figure to 50% by year-end and 70% by the end of next year, an initiative that is expected to deliver a considerable improvement in network capacity and enable superfast 5G technology.

Indonesia: Telkom deploys 14,990 BTS

Indonesian MNO has deployed over 14,990 base transceiver stations across the country’s ‘Frontier, Outermost, and Disadvantaged (3T)’ regions. The rollout falls under Indonesia’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) and aims to expand connectivity in Indonesia’s less favourable areas.

Indonesia: Indosat Ooredoo sells 3,100 sites to Mitratel and Protelindo

The Indonesian subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo Group has closed two sale and leaseback agreements with towercos Protelindo and Mitratel. The MNO will be transferring 2,100 towers to PT Dayamitra Telekomunikasi (Mitratel) and 1,000 to PT Profesional Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Protelindo) on two deals that are expected to generate around US$452mn.

Indosat will be conducting an extraordinary shareholders meeting to approve the transaction on November 21 and the company aims to finalise the deal before the end of 2019.

Market leader Protelindo, who was advised by Redpeak Advisers, will add 1,900 new tenancies and Rp270bn in annual revenue with the transaction. Protelindo will use a combination of cash and debt to pay for the acquisition, which it claims will not have a huge impact on leverage. Currently, the company’s net debt to annualized EBITDA is set at around 2.5x, according to its press statement.

Indonesia: Nokia and Tri complete the first 5G network trial

Finnish vendor Nokia and Hutchison 3 Indonesia (Tri) have conducted what their claim is the first end-to-end live 5G network trial in Indonesia. In a press release, Nokia stated that the trial was conducted on the company’s test network using millimetre wave frequencies, which proves Tri’s ability to support end-to-end 5G deployment. Nokia confirmed that multiple tests were carried out on the 28GHz spectrum, ‘obtaining the highest data download speeds of up to 1.62Gbps with 11ms latency while upload speeds of 75.9Mbps were measured’. The trial also included a voice call test.

Indonesia: President hints at potential opening for the tower industry

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he will be introducing fundamental changes to labour rules by the end of 2019 and open up more sectors of the economy to foreign investment, which, among other changes, could allow international developers to enter the tower sector.

Indonesia: XL improves its network at Lake Toba

MNO XL Axiata has announced improvements on its 3G and 4G network in the Lake Toba Region, North Sumatra. XL has deployed around 550 3G and 4G base transceiver stations to serve the country’s largest lake.

Indonesia: Telkom to invest over US$70mn in data centres

Indonesian telecom giant PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) plans to invest in new data centres to support clients with increasing data requirements. The company plans to start construction next year and it has already started acquiring land in the country. The company’s CFO Harry Mozarta Zen has publicly declared that the company will invest over Rp1tr (US$70.6mn) on the development of several facilities. Telkom already runs 11 data centres in Indonesia, three in Singapore and one in Hong Kong.

Indonesia: XL Axiata boost 3G/4G rollout and fibre investment

Indonesian MNO XL Axiata has announced that its 3G/4G network is now available in 54 cities across the Kalimantan Islands, servicing more than 96% of the population under its ongoing rollout programme, which has already deployed over 7,000 base transceiver stations. The MNO deployment is supported by the installation of 2,500km of inter-regional fibre-optic cable.

By the end of the year, the operator hopes to have deployed another 1,400km of fibre-optic backbone network in Kalimantan, reaching all provinces and connecting it to the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali, Lombok and Sulawesi.

Indonesia: Indosat Ooredoo to reach 90% 4G coverage in 2019

Indosat Ooredoo will invest US$140.5 mn on its 4G network expansion, aiming to cover 90% of the country’s population by the end of the year. The company plans to deploy 18,000 base transceiver stations.

Laos: Viettel plans to launch 5G before the year ends

Military-backed Viettel plans to start rolling out 5G technology in Laos before the end of 2019, becoming the fourth market where the MNO launches the service. After successful trials in Vietnam, the telecom giant has also been testing 5G through its subsidiaries in Myanmar and Cambodia and now its Laos arm Unitel will become the first operator to trial 5G in the country.

Japan: Rakuten to start 5G rollout by June 2020

Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has recently confirmed that the new Japanese MNO will deploy 5G mobile services on a commercial basis in June 2020, just eight months after it enters the market in October this year. Mikitani told CNBC that the new Rakuten Mobile venture will initially roll out its 4G LTE network before adding 5G capabilities soon after. “We are going to deploy what we call mobile edge computing. We are going to have over 4,000 edge servers, a new type of computing architecture that are designed to improve network efficiencies and reduce latency,” Mikitani stated.

Rakuten Mobile – whose commercial launch is planned for Spring 2020 – is planning to build 3,432 base stations in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka metropolitan areas and use KDDI’s network to provide services in other regions.

Malaysia: Axiata and Telenor end merger talks

Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor Group and Malaysian Axiata have ended discussions regarding the proposed non-cash combination of their telecom and infrastructure assets in Asia. On a press release, the companies stated that over the last four months both entities had work on due diligence and different transaction agreements with a view to completing these in the third quarter of 2019. However, the parties have now agreed to end the talks due “several complexities involved in the proposed transaction”. Telenor and Axiata still acknowledge the “strong strategic rationale” of the deal and “do not rule out that a future transaction could be possible”.

Malaysia: Telekom signs 5G MoU with Huawei

MNO Telekom Malaysia and Chinese innovator Huawei Technologies have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate ahead of the launch of commercial 5G services in Malaysia. The MoU highlights the deployment of fixed wireless access technology and the study of Smart Cities as the main areas of collaboration between the two entities.

Malaysia: Maxis bets on fibre with new deal

Maxis has announced a deal with fibre provider Celcom Timur to collaborate and provide fibre connectivity to residential and business users in Sabah state. Maxis commented on a press release that the MNO will now have full access to CT Sabah’s fibre-optic network to offer fibre-based connectivity to more premises in the state.

Myanmar: Mytel tests 5G

Viettel’s unit in Myanmar, Mytel has successfully tested 5G technology. Mytel’s CEO U Zaw Min Oo said that the MNO aims to launch commercial 5G services next year.

Nepal: NT to expand 4G network

Nepal Telecom has started the installation of additional 4G LTE towers alongside Chinese vendor ZTE.  Nepal’s biggest MNO has signed equipment deals with China Communications Services International and ZTE with the aim of making 4G services available in all areas of the country within a year.

Nepal: Regulator NTA plans to issue MNO licence to drive competition

Nepal’s telecoms regulator, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), is considering issuing a licence to a foreign firm to solve the lack of competition and investment in the country’s telecom market. NTA chairman Purshottam Khanal warned that the regulator will rescind the licence of any firm that has failed to develop telecom services and award it to a foreign operator, which could affect United Telecom and Nepal Satellite Telecom as both companies have failed to introduce services or expand them nationwide. The entities also owe significant amounts in unpaid fees and taxes.

Philippines: Dito to invest US$6bn

Philippines new operator Dito Telecom has announced an investment plan of US$6bn as the company needs to develop the necessary infrastructure to capture over 30% of the market within its first year of operation.

“The DITO Telecommunity resolve has been bolstered by the encouragement they have received especially from the Filipino public that resulted in their commitment to invest more than the initial US$6bn they have earmarked for the project,” DITO’s CTO Boy Santiago said in a statement.

Philippines: Structure of ISOC-edotco partnership revealed

edotco has revealed that they will form a 50-50 joint venture with local tower builder ISOC, with plans to invest up to US$100mn each over the next three to five years. “Roughly that should be the first thousand of the towers as part of the first phase of the plan,” said edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu. The joint venture is targeting 400-500 new towers in year one. ISOC-edotco signed an MOU to build 150 towers for Globe Telecom in June 2019, adding an agreement with Smart to lease 71 towers. Talks with new entrant Dito are continuing.

Philippines: PLDT-Smart to partner with Aboitiz on network deployment

PLDT’s mobile arm Smart Communications has reportedly selected Aboitiz InfraCapital and its partner Frontier Tower Associates Philippines (FTAP) to drive nationwide connectivity through the construction of a “common” tower network. The three entities have closed a memorandum of understanding last month and will work together to build new sites and negotiate new leases for Smart’s facilities and equipment.

Philippines: DICT plans to issue common tower policy before the end of the year

After some rumours and speculation, TowerXchange has confirmed that the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) plans to go ahead with the Common Tower Policy and release the final version as soon as possible. DICT, who has recently appointed Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan as its new Secretary, held a meeting with key industry stakeholders on August 7th to clarify previous misunderstandings, hear all the parties involved, and start finalising the policy terms.

DICT now wants to include all parties’ inputs and needs in a policy that, in the words of the institution, should be “fair with everybody’s requirements”. As of now, there is no timeline for its final version, but DICT aims to share a new draft in the next couple of months and get a definitive version soon after.

Philippines: Dito inks a deal with AFP

New MNO Dito Telecommunity has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that will allow the MNO to build and install towers and equipment across military camps and facilities.

Based on the agreement, the AFP will determine specific locations with its rental value for use of Dito in the installation and management of its communications sites without undermining the operations of affected AFP units.

Thailand: NBTC announces spectrum auction in 2020

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will hold an auction for 5G-suitable frequencies in the 3400MHz-3700MHz band next year. NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith commented that they don’t have an exact date, but the auction will definitely happen next year and the official also said that the combined reserve price for the 300MHz of spectrum could be between US$1.3bn and US$1.7bn.

Thailand: True Move sells 788 more towers to the Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund

Thailand’s #2 MNO True Move has sold 788 telecoms towers, 1,795km of optical-fibre cable and 3,700km of fibre to the Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund. The assets were valued at THN15.7bn (US$513mn), and True Move will lease back some of the towers and fibre through 2033. True Move also acquired shares in the Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund worth THB4.74bn (US$154mn), maintaining their stake in Thailand’s leading towerco, which had issued new shares, at 30%.

Thailand: AIS and TOT resolve long running tower dispute

AIS and state-owned TOT had been embroiled in a five-year dispute over the ownership and right to use 13,000 towers, which TOT claimed fell within a build-operate-transfer agreement. The resolution sees a TNB300mn (US$9.8mn) monthly service fee for AIS to continue using the towers replaced by a ten-year deal in which AIS pays to lease TOT’s towers, and TOT uses AIS’s space and maintenance services. The deal is reportedly worth THB28bn (US$915mn).

Thailand and Vietnam: edotco evaluates new markets

Axiata’s infrastructure arm edotco is actively evaluating potential ventures in Thailand and Vietnam, the company CEO Suresh Sidhu told Nikkei Markets last month. The executive also shared edotco’s plans in existing markets, where the infrastructure giants plans to continue consolidating through different acquisitions. Moreover, the company has recently entered the Philippines through an equity partnership with ISOC Infrastructure.

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