Europe News

A roundup of tower news across Europe

Albania: PPF bids for sale of Telekom Albania

The sale of Telekom Albania continues, PPF Group, hot on the heels of their acquisition of Telenor’s opcos in Hungary, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia earlier this year and their unsuccessful bid for United Group (which has operations in Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), is now competing with Serbian state telecommunications company Telekom Srbija and Bulgarian Vivacom for Telekom Albania. Having carved out O2 Czech Republic’s assets into a separate infraco, it will be interesting to see how PPF decides to run their new Central and Eastern European assets.  

Azerbaijan: Bakcell LTE rollout on track

The second largest operator in Azerbaijan, Bakcell, has announced its intention to install 400 new LTE BTSs by the end of 2018. With around 1,300 LTE sites of 7,000 in Azerbaijan currently, Bakcell is on track to roll out across the country over the next few years from its current LTE coverage in Baku, the Absheron peninsula and over 30 districts of Azerbaijan.

Belgium: Orange Belgium claims to be first to demo real 5G use cases 

Planning a 5G network rollout of 2020, Orange Belgium is investing heavily in 5G, and has announced their success in demonstrating real life use cases in collaboration with Nokia. CEO Michael Trabbia explained how he sees 5G use cases developing, saying: ‘For residential consumers 5G will allow an increasing use of very high-definition videos and real-time immersive augmented/virtual reality experiences. In the professional sphere 5G will allow us to offer dedicated and tailor-made connectivity adapted to specific requirements of new innovative applications such as wireless manufacturing, real-time automation, smart cities, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, remote medical assistance etcetera’

Finland: Telia claims Helsinki infrastructure ready for 5G deployment

Telia claims to have all of the right infrastructure in place for 5G deployment in Helsinki, and that it has opened a pre-commercial 5G network in the city. Key elements of their infrastructure include high capacity IP networks and a virtualised core network, as well as access to test frequencies provided by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority. With expansion of this infrastructure due in Q418, it looks like commercial launch is on the cards in 2019.

France: KKR working on Altice financing

Following their purchase of a 49.9% stake in Altice’s SFR towerco, KKR is believed to be working on a EUR500mn debt package and EUR300mn of capex financing for the new entity.  KKR is believed to be underwriting the deal itself and contacting several banks, although sources say that the aggressive terms of the financing has resulted in a smaller pool of interested parties, and that KKR could use its own debt fund.

Germany: Tower numbers to rise from 27,000 to 36,000 by 2021 

Deutsche Telekom is on track to add a further 9,000 towers to its existing portfolio, with more than 400 new towers built in Q318 alone. Walter Goldenits, CTO at Telekom Deutschland, said ‘With respect to 5G we cannot afford to ease up with mobile communications expansion. We must continue to drive infrastructure expansion forward”. Deutsche Telekom is the leader in Germany when it comes to expanding networks.  

Ireland: New round of funding for Cignal

Irish towerco Cignal has announced refinancing up to €65m in order to accelerate network rollout across Ireland. The funding will enable Cignal to construct new infrastructure in coverage blackspots and urban areas where independent infrastructure is needed.

Italy: Wind Tre weighing up tower divestment  

The newly merged Wind Tre (created through Hutchison’s acquisition of VEON’s 50% stake in Wind earlier in 2018) is investigating the sale of its remaining tower portfolio. Estimated at around 7,000 towers and valued at up to US$1bn, Bloomberg reports that a formal process could begin by the end of this year. With towercos including Cellnex, INWIT and EI Towers already operating in Italy, and Digital Colony and American Tower keen to expand their footprints in Europe, Hutchison will be confident of receiving plenty of interest in the assets.  

Italy: MNOs submit bids in 5G auction 

Telecom Italia, Vodafone Italy, Wind Tre, Iliad and Fastweb  have submitted bids worth around EUR2.48bn in Italy’s recent spectrum auction. Broadband operators, Linkem and Open Fiber also registered to participate but did not submit bids.

Kazakhstan: Telia disappointed after Kcell talks fail  

The acquisition of Telia’s Kazakh opco Kcell by state-backed Kazakhtelecom, agreed in January, has been abandoned. Despite approval from the Kazakh regulators after initial concern caused by Kazakhtelecom’s existing joint venture in the Kazakh mobile space through JV Tele2-Altel, it’s believed that the deal was abandoned after negotiations failed to reach an agreement on price.  

Latvia: Bite Latvia to invest over €10mn on network upgrades in 2018 

This year to date Bite Latvia has invested €9mn on network upgrades, with another €1mn planned before the end of the year. In addition to their 800 existing base stations, Bite plans to meet doubling Latvian data demand with another 30 base stations by the end of the year, with plans to roll out massive MIMO early in 2019. 

Portugal: Altice tower sale completed

Altice Europe has confirmed that its agreement with a consortium including Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and Horizon Equity Partners to buy 75% of new towerco Towers of Portugal has closed. The new towerco will be the first independent tower owner in Portugal, owning 2,961 sites. 

Spain: Telefónica sells a further stake in Telxius

After selling 40% of the business to KKR in 2017, Telefónica has agreed to sell a further 10% stake in infrastructure arm Telxius to the holding company of Amancio Ortega, Europe’s richest man.

Pontegadea, Ortega’s family-run holding will pay EUR378.8mn in a deal that will help Telefónica reducing their debt pile, which stood at more than 2-1/2 times its core profit at the end of last year. The deal values the Telxius shares at around 19% more than KKR paid for them last February, allowing TEF to maintain sustainable returns for shareholders as well.

Telefónica will remain Telxius’s biggest shareholder and maintain operational control of the unit.

UK: O2 UK IPO probably postponed until after Brexit  

O2 UK, owned by Spanish Telefónica, was expected to list on the London Stock Exchange this year. It is now understood that these plans have been put on hold amid market uncertainty caused by a chaotic Brexit countdown.  

UK: Fibre backhaul deal for Three and O2 

Three and O2 have signed a deal with UK fibreco SSE Enterprise Telecoms to use SSE’s fibre ring to enhance backhaul for the two MNOs and prepare for further 4G and 5G deployments by connecting cell sites and masts. The deal will see SSE (licensed to lay fibre throughout Thames Water’s waste water network) add ~100 points of connectivity exit the central London sewer network via two BT exchanges.  

In a statement, Three UK CEO Dave Dyson said: ‘New and innovative models are essential to improving the customer experience of mobile networks by increasing the availability of dark fibre for mobile backhaul and driving competition in the market. Our partnership with SSE Enterprise Telecoms and O2 is one of the first examples of using existing infrastructure to improve connectivity in an urban area.’  

Brendan O’Reilly, Chief Technology Officer of O2, added: “This kind of agreement is essential to allow for continued investment and improvement of services for our customers. This partnership is a great example of SSE Enterprise Telecoms, Three UK and O2 coming together in a collaborative and innovative way to address the growing challenge and pressure of obtaining access to fibre for mobile backhaul in the UK”. 

UK: Vodafone aiming for 1,000 5G sites in the next year

After claiming to have conducted the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G technology, Vodafone has announced its intention to roll out 1,000 5G sites by 2020. Following its announcement in June 2018, Vodafone is rolling out 5G infrastructure in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester, and now has announced plans to roll out 5G in Cornwall and the Lake District in 2019.

Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery said: ‘Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile phone call, sent the first text and now we’ve conducted the UK’s first holographic call using 5G. We also lead the industry in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with the world’s largest dedicated global IoT network.’

UK: Digital Colony enters UK market through acquisition of Stratto

Investment firm Digital Colony has doubled down on its commitment to the European market with the acquisition of a second infrastructure firm, UK-based Stratto. A leading provider of DAS and small cell networks in the UK, Stratto focusses on indoor coverage in large buildings and plans to play a key role in the densification of UK infrastructure ahead of 5G rollout.

Regional: Vodafone to sell towers?

Incoming Vodafone CEO Nick Read has suggested a turnaround in Vodafone’s attitude to divesting its towers, mooting the sale of European infrastructure valued at €12bn, in order to address its €31bn debt pile. Vodafone has 110,000 towers across Europe, of which it directly controls around 55,000. Read our article on Vodafone’s towers

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