17 July 2019
Angola: Unitel privatisation points to opening of telecoms market
Unitel, Angola’s number one mobile operator and number two company by revenue, may be part privatised in an important signal of market opening in one of Africa’s most significant and most closed markets. Shareholders are seeking international investment as previous structural reforms begin to bite. Analysts have valued Unitel at a minimum of $2bn, on 10.4mn subscribers, revenues of $958m and EBITDA of $306m.
Chad: Millicom sells opco to Maroc Telecom
Maroc Telecom has successful acquired the Tigo Chad opco of Millicom International Cellular. Maroc Telecom predominantly operates in west central Africa, and adds Chas to its portfolio of operations in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Niger, Benin, Togo, Central African Republic, Gabon. According to the Chad regulator, Tigo served 3.6mn subscribers in 2018, with a market share of just over 50%.
Cote D’Ivoire: Orange to invest US$300mn
Orange is investing big in Cote D’Ivoire to upgrade its network and provide new services. 4G coverage will be expanded across the country and service quality boosted. Orange is also looking to acquire a banking licence from the central banks so they can start offering micro-credit from 2020 through Orange Bank.
Ethiopia: Liberalisation of Ethiopian market continues apace
In official comments on July 5thsaw Ethiopia’s State Minister of Finance Eyob Tekalign Tolina confirm that the newly established regulator would be issuing two new telecoms licences to international mobile operators. TowerXchange understands that MTN, Etisalat, Orange and Vodacom are the most likely firms to be awarded the new licences. The minister also confirmed a 49% stake in Ethio Telecom is to be privatised. The process is expected to begin from August.
Niger: Niamey gets LTE, other regions to follow
Following the April 2018 award of a 4G licence to Airtel for US$20.6mn, Airtel Niger has officially launched commercial LTE services in Niamey. Coverage will be expanded to other regional capitals and major cities in the future. Niger will soon pass into American Tower’s orbit as Eaton Towers’ assets in the countries were acquired in a deal announced in May and the launch of 4G is bullish for additional tenants in the small sahel market.
Nigeria: 4G LTE networks launched and expanded in Nigeria
Nigeria is set for a boom in LTE services following the award of 800MHz spectrum to MTN. MTN Nigeria is launching and LTE-A network in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. The 4G+ serviceuses spectrum in the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands to enable maximum download speeds of 200Mbps and improved service quality. The 800MHz spectrum was once owned by Visafone and has now been transferred. VDT Communications, the fixed-wireless broadband operator, has announced plans to expand its 4GLTE service beyond Lagos. The expansion will be completed in stages, first 100% covering Lagos state then moving to other commercial centres and eventually reaching 19 states by 2020. VDT will begin offering services to personal subscribers as well as expanding coverage.
Tanzania: Local listing waived for Airtel subsidiary
Following Airtel’s IPO in London, the government of Tanzania has waived the requirement for telecoms companies to list on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange. The Electronic and Postal Communications Act of 2010 required telecoms operators to float 25% of their shares on the DSE, including towercos. A previous tower sale to American Tower by Airtel Tanzania had foundered on this requirement, so a waiver may enable more international towercos to invest in the country, and may rekindle American Tower’s interest in Airtel Tanzania’s 1,400 towers, which are currently on the block. Tanzania’s leading towerco, Helios Towers, are also likely to be interested.
India: Brookfield may close Reliance Jio Infratel acquisition by Q319
Sources suggest that Brookfield is close to finalising the acquisition of Reliance Jio Infratel, and that the deal may be announced within Q3 of the 2019 calendar year. The acquisition could create the world’s second or third largest towerco, with Reliance Industries claiming there are 170-175,000 towers in the portfolio, although many are works in progress. It also remains to be seen how many of the 43,263 last reported to be on the books of RCOM’s towerco Reliance Infratel transition to the new entity: reports suggest only around 30,000 towers have tenants, suggesting the balance may be decommissioned.
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.
India: Government considers bailout of state-owned operators
BSNL and MTNL could receive a US$10.7bn bailout by the Indian government to fund a voluntary redundancy scheme, 4G spectrum and capex. According to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the plan is more economic than closing the two operators which – stated the DoT – would cost nearly double.
India: Aircel and DoT still disputing over resolution plan
Bankrupt Aircel submitted a proposal to the Department of Telecommunications to assign US$2.4mn to each of its operational creditors. The proposal was rejected by the DoT as it is insufficient to cover Aircel’s dues for its license and spectrum. The DoT has also opposed Aircel’s plans to sell its spectrum rights to cover its debts. To solve the matter, the DoT has until July 22 to present an affidavit and Aircel will have a week to respond, with the National Company Law Tribunal then set to make a final decision to the resolution plan by the end of July.
Indonesia: Indosat talks tower sale
Indosat Ooredoo is setting plans in motion to sell 3,000 towers for an approximate value of US$300mn. JP Morgan is acting as sell-side advisor and to date, the list of bidders has not been released.
Malaysia: MCMC opens first-ever spectrum auction consultation
The Malaysian regulator MCMC is currently seeking feedback ahead of a spectrum auction for mobile broadband services. Interested parties can participate in the consultation until August 30, with MCMC requesting opinions on the ideal spectrum block per operator in the 700MHz and 2300MHz bands; suggested allocation plans as well as award timeline and process; as well as appropriate range for spectrum allocation fees. In a press release on the matter, the MCMC stated that “Optimising the use of spectrum is important to ensure improved quality of service, wider coverage and better mobile broadband speeds. This is also in line with the aim of achieving the average speeds of 30Mbps in 98% of populated areas by 2023 under the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP).”
The Philippines: Mislatel receives Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity
Mislatel received a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) this week, officially allowing the company to operate in the country. President Duterte was cited saying: “Let me take this opportunity to pose this challenge to Mislatel: break the prevailing duopoly in the telecommunications industry and fulfil your commitment to provide better telco services to our people”. The newly licensed operator will be renamed DITO Telecommunity Corp. and is planning to start its network rollout as early as this month, with the vision to start commercial operations in 2020.
The Philippines: Frontier Tower Associates is latest towerco to build common towers
Frontier Tower Associates Philippines Inc, part of the Frontier Tower Associates Group chaired by Asian tower veteran Patrick Tangney, has formed a partnership with Globe and with Aboitiz InfraCapital to build common towers in the Cebu, Davao, and Subic regions of the Philippines.
“We have rolled out and operated thousands of towers in the ASEAN region; our operations team has also in the past rolled out more than 1,000 towers in the Philippines that form a core part of existing mobile phone networks. In the run-up to our launch, the FTAP-Aboitiz team has been conducting radio planning in a number of regions, developing tower designs specific to the Philippines, and building a landbank of site locations relevant for mobile phone companies,” Tangey said.
Bahrain: Viva Bahrain launches home broadband 5G network
MNO Viva Bahrain has announced the launch of its home broadband 5G network through new add-on plans and 5G-enabled devices. CEO Nezar Banabeela claimed: ‘Driving Bahrain’s digital telecommunications future with investments in revolutionary technologies and applications has been the forefront of VIVA Bahrain’s ICT services. The start of our 5G commercial journey is a milestone for us towards this direction as we pave the way for future connectivity and add it to the Kingdom’s leading 4G network.’ Viva announced the completion of 5G readiness in selected locations across Bahrain in February 2019, before inking a deal with Huawei later the same month in preparation for a nationwide launch by June.
Kuwait: Ooredoo Kuwait joins Zain and Viva in launching 5G home broadband
Ooredoo Kuwait has joined its rivals Zain and Viva in launching a commercial 5G home modem device and associated data plans – matching Zain and Viva’s KWD45 (US$148) monthly cost for a 500GB package, plus a KWD65 (US$214) 1TB bundle, showing the high ARPUs available. Ooredoo is claiming download speeds up to 2.3Gbps. The launch follows last month’s decision by the country’s Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority to grant 3.5GHz 5G technology licences. 5G smartphone launches are yet to be announced.
Saudi Arabia: Zain KSA rolls-out 5G services in three year deal with Nokia
Zain Saudi Arabia has launched 5G services using Nokia’s end-to-end portfolio. The 5G network utilises spectrum in the 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, along with Massive MIMO, to deliver enhanced network capacity, coverage, and improved downlink and uplink speeds. In addition, Zain will introduce E-Band microwave in certain areas to allow for ultra-high capacity backhaul networks. Under the three-year deal with Nokia, thousands of 5G sites will be deployed going forward.
Saudi Arabia: Zain postpones KSA tower sale to IHS, towerco remains committed to the region
On 20th June, the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission wrote to Zain Saudi Arabia with a determination that IHS Towers currently lacked the regulatory approvals to continue with the acquisition of Zain’s towers. On 23rdJune Zain and IHS Towers therefore agreed to postpone the deal to discuss the transaction further with the Saudi telecoms regulator. Originally announced in November 2018, the IHS-Zain KSA deal has marked an inflection point in the MENA tower market. Zain signed an agreement with IHS Towers for the sale and leaseback of 8,100 towers, plus a 1,500 build-to-suit programme, in a deal worth SAR2.52bn (US$672mn) in Saudi Arabia.
Bulgaria: Operator commences trials of 5G technology
Bulgaria operator Mobiltel has commenced trials of 5G technology, following the activation of one base station at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. The trial, using spectrum in the 3.6GHz band and Nokia equipment will run for six months. The operator is aiming to commence commercial operations over its 5G network in 2020. Telecoms regulator the Communications Regulation Commission allocated 100MHz of spectrum in the 3440MHz-3540MHz band to the country’s three main cellcos – Vivacom, Telenor Bulgaria and A1 Bulgaria – in late June. Telenor is aiming to start 5G trials in Q3 2019.
Italy: WindTre teams up with local fibreco Fastweb to delivery
In a bid to reduce the cost of its 5G roll-out, WindTre is teaming up with Swisscom-subsidiary and Italian broadband company Fastweb. Fastweb and WindTre will share spectrum and build a 5G network to be managed by WindTre, but using Fastweb’s fibre to connect small cells and towers. The fibreisation of macro and micro cells is a prerequisite for 5G roll-out, and sharing backhaul infrastructure with a broadband provider will reduce the costs of delivering that fibreisation.
Norway: Telenor Norge testing 5G as alternative to fixed broadband with commercial roll-out planned for 2020
Telenor Norge has announced plans to undertake a new 5G pilot at Flokeneset. With it being the first 5G pilot in Western Norway – Telenor said it will install 5G in order to test the next generation of mobile broadband technology as a replacement for copper-based fixed network broadband infrastructure. Testing will take place between September and December 2019, with the option of an extension and the pilot will influence its roll-out of 5G commercially from 2020 onwards.
Monaco: Principality rolls-out Huawei-built 5G network
Monaco Telecom has rolled-out a 5G mobile network based on technology supplied by Huawei. It follows the signing of an agreement between Monaco Telecom and Huawei last September to make the principality the first country in Europe to be fully covered by 5G. Despite the US government’s concerns over potential security risks, Monaco Telecom’s CEO Martin Peronnet, stressed that the company was working with the principality’s digital security agency to implement all necessary measures and ‘systematically isolate’ each component within the network.
Spain: Cellnex places €850mn of convertible bonds due in 2028
Europe’s leading towerco Cellnex has placed €850mnbonds, initially the equivalent of 5% of the company’s share capital. Cellnex had previously placed €800mn of convertible bonds across two tranches in January 2018 and 2019, and the placements follow their €1.2bn capital increase in March 2019. Cellnex thus remains in a strong position to compete aggressively for M&A opportunities in European communications infrastructure.
UK: Spyder Facilities acquired by Digital Colony’s UK Digital Infrastructure Platform
Digital Colony announced further growth of its UK platform through the acquisition of Spyder Facilities Limited, a leading UK wireless infrastructure company with over 5,000 locations available for wireless transmission technologies including the latest 5G roll-out. Digital Colony’s UK platform currently includes StrattoOpencell, the leading UK in-building service provider, and iWireless Solutions, a leading service provider that delivers outdoor small cell and wireless connectivity solutions to smart cities, transport hubs, stadia, airports, tunnels and large-scale campuses. The addition of Spyder compliments Digital Colony’s UK platform and positions it to offer an even wider range of services to mobile network operators and real estate. TowerXchange believes that Spyder owns around 120 towers in the UK.
China: China Mobile accelerates 5G launch – plans to go live in 50 cities by year end
China Mobile has brought forward it’s 5G commercial launch plans , announcing that the service will go live in 50 cities by the end of 2019 rather than in 2020 as previously stated. RCR Wireless cites the operator as saying that it would deploy over 50,000 5G base stations across the country by the end of the year, with intent to expand 5G commercial services to all Chinese cities above the prefecture level by 2020.
China: China Telecom raise concern about the gap between revenues and network costs
Reporting from MWC19 Shanghai, Mobile World Live reported that Wei Leping, chairman of Telecom’s Technology Steering Advisory Committee, raised concerns that the industry is facing declining service revenues whilst at the same time facing higher costs for network rollouts, saying China Telecom does not want to be drawn into a ‘so-called arms race’ that will drain its resources.
Argentina: Two spectrum auctions imminent
The Argentinian Minister for Modernisation, Andres Ibarra, recently confirmed that the country is going ahead with two multi-band spectrum auctions over the next two months, made of frequencies that were handed over by state-owned ARSAT last year. The first auction will be open to top national operators – Claro, Personal and Movistar – and the second one to regional MNOs.
Chile and Peru: Entel explores tower sale
The MNO is currently assessing the sale of over 2,000 assets across Chile and Peru.
Colombia: MNOs demand actions against Claro’s dominant position
Representatives of three MNOs – Tigo, Avantel and Movistar – are requesting that the Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones (CRC) recognises and takes actions against Claro’s dominant market position. América Móvil’s Claro serves almost 30mn subscribers in Colombia (Q119) which equals to the market shares of the three other MNOs combined.
Mexico: MTP seeking buyer?
Mexico Tower Partners might be up for sale according to sources close to the towerco.
Mexico: Major MNOs become Red Compartida’s customers
Jonathan Atkin at RBC Capital Markets reported that Telcel has started to co-locate on ALTÁN’s sites while AT&T and Telefónica are utilising the Red Compartida to augment their coverage and, in Mexico City, capacity.
Nicaragua: SBA Communications acquires towers from PTI
SBA has purchased 55 sites from PTI, part of the portfolio that the latter acquired via the Uniti deal.
Peru: Telefónica announces tower sale
Telefónica has announced the sale of 658 (of a total of 833) towers for approximately US$79.8mn. The operator might be selling the assets to Telxius but to date, details of the buyer have not been announced.
Peru: Torrecom acquires sites
Torrecom launched operations in Peru earlier this month, following the acquisition of 21 towers.
17 June 2019
Argentina: Telecom granted US$300mn loan
IDB Invest and Telecom have sealed a US$300mn package that will enable the MNO to implement its growth plan. Planned investments include HFC cable, fibre-optic and LTE networks.
Argentina: ENACOM awards more 450MHz spectrum for rural connectivity
ENACOM has released 450MHz spectrum to cover 126 rural areas in the provinces of Chubut, Chaco, Catamarca, Jujuy, Mendoza, Neuquen, Rio Negro, Santa Cruz, Santiago del Estero, San Juan, Salta and Tucuman. The initiative will connect 284,916 inhabitants to data services for the very first time.The regulator has already provided 450MHz spectrum to other locations in Santiago del Estero, Tierra del Fuego, Rio Negro, Santa Fe and Santa Cruz earlier this year, as part of the government’s Plan de Conectividad Rural.
Brazil: TIM Brasil to trial 5G with Huawei
Florianopolis will be the first city where Huawei and TIM Brasil will initiate their 5G trials, utilising the 3.5GHz band. 5G will allow the operator to start offering innovative applications for smart cities, virtual reality, IoT and self-driving vehicles among others.
Ecuador: Digital Ecuador strategy announced
The Minister of Telecoms and Information Society has recently released the government’s plan to reach 98% connectivity in the country by 2023. The plan includes the installation of Wi-Fi hotspots and offering most government services online, among others.
El Salvador: América Móvil’s paperwork for TEF deal rejected
América Móvil is planning to re-file the paperwork for the takeover of Telefónica’s operations in El Salvador, following the rejection of the local regulator. The deal is valued at US$315mn.
Peru: New rules for leasing spectrum published
The local government has released a set of new regulations that allow companies holding spectrum license to lease access to frequencies to licensed third parties. The new Decree (015-2019-MTC) sets the rules to lease spectrum and the initiative aims at enhancing competition and an efficient use of the spectrum.
Regional: Eaton to be acquired by American Tower
American Tower will add Eaton Towers’ 5,510 towers to its global holdings of over 170,000 sites following the announcement of a US$1.85bn acquisition deal, with a per tower value of US$333k. Eaton Towers owns 1,420 sites in Ghana, 1,460 in Uganda, 1,320 in Kenya, 640 in Niger and 670 in Burkina Faso. American Tower will enter Niger and Burkina Faso for the first time, but the deal will lead to consolidation in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda where both American Tower and Eaton are already active. The deal is expected to close before the end of Q4 2019, subject to the usual closing conditions and regulatory approvals. See the full deal analysis on the TowerXchange website.
Regional: Airtel Africa IPO to go ahead
Bharti Airtel is planning a listing of its African division, with a proposal submitted for an initial public offering to the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Airtel will attempt to raise US$1bn in the IPO. The company has appointed JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Absa Group, Barclays Bank, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs and Standard Bank as advisers. An earlier injection of funding from private backers reduced Airtel Africa’s net debt from US$7.7bn last year to $4 billion in March. Airtel may also list on Nigeria’s Stock Exchange. Airtel Africa operates in 14 African countries and generated turnover of US$3.1bn in the year to end-March 2019, from 98.9mn mobile subscribers, including 30.0mn data users. The turnaround in financial position places Airtel Africa in a significantly improved position to deploy capital into increasing coverage and upgrading networks as demand for 3G and 4G in its African markets grows.
Kenya: Safaricom to double 4G sites by March 2020
Safaricom expects to invest over US$351mn to double its 4G network coverage to 5,000 sites by March 2020. The large majority of these sites will be on existing Safaricom sites, and many will require reinforcing to enable to addition of extra antennae. This will extend 4G coverage to all major towns and 80% of the country’s population. The announced expansion follows the merger of the number two and three MNOs in Kenya, Airtel and Telkom, as well as a period of sustained erosion in Safaricom’s market share, falling from 71.9% in September 2017 to 63.3% today.
Namibia: Slow and steady roll-out of MTC sites continue
As part of the plans to erect 524 new sites in MTC’s “081Every1” programme, new towers have been erected in Uutsathima, Onamatanga and Ehafo to improve access to mobile internet in rural areas. Another twelve network sites are planned by Namibia’s number one MNO in the Kavango West, Otjozondjupa, Omaheke, Kharas, Hardap, Omusati and Oshikoto regions, they are scheduled to go live imminently.
Mozambique: New unified license paves way for network expansion
Following the long-awaited merger of Mozambican Telecommunications (TDM) and Mozambique Cellular (mCel), the new combined company, Tmcel, has been awarded a unified license by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Mozambique. The unified license allows Tmcel to provide services regardless of the technology used and relaxes rules around spectrum and numbering. A Tmcel executive Mohamed Jusob said the operator “is committed to be, within the next four years, the largest and best telecommunications company in the country.” Given the disparity between sites that would involve a combination of nearly 2,000 new towers or co-locations by 2023.
Tanzania: Airtel puts its towers up for sale
Despite its planned IPO, Airtel Africa issued a notice in mid-May requesting expressions of interest for its 1,400 towers in Tanzania, the deadline was May 17. This is Airtel’s most attractive remaining portfolio, much coveted relative to its towers in Chad, Gabon, Madagascar and Malawi. It is unclear how the east African tower sale will interact with the planned IPO in London.
Uganda: MTN Uganda roll-out rural sites
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), in partnership with MTN, launched 22 new 3G sites in rural areas. The sites were funded by the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) at UCC and were built in association with MTN at sites which wouldn’t otherwise be economically viable. Some existing base stations were upgraded from 2G to 3G while others have newly been built to deliver 3G connectivity. The RCDF is now focused on broadband rollout and 3G, where prior rounds had focused on using 2G to expand access to underserved areas. The RCDF contributed US$800k subsidy towards these upgrades, the RCDF is funded through license payments from Ugandan MNOs.
Zimbabwe: Econet Wireless and NetOne to share towers
Zimbabwe’s number one and number two MNOs, Econet and NetOne have signed a network sharing agreement. The terms of the agreement have not been released, but the agreement will allow both networks to expand their networks while minimising additional capex. Zimbabwe’s three MNOs deployed only 75 new sites in 2018, and with the economic situation remaining fraught, infrastructure sharing remains the best option for network expansion.
Australia: Telstra plans 5G expansion
Australian market leader Telstra has started marketing its first 5G-compatible smartphone and will make its 5G network accessible to the public before the end of the month. The company has already deployed its 5G network across ten cities and wants to expand its coverage to 35 over the next 12 months.
India: Airtel set target for IPO of Airtel Africa
Bharti Airtel is planning to IPO its African division on the London Stock Exchange and is aiming to raise US$750mn. More information in the Africa news section.
India: Telecom Minister confirms plans for 5G auction
The 5G spectrum auction should take place within the year, as announced by the new telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. 5G tests will commence over the next three-four months too. Representatives of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been quoted by various news sources complaining about the high cost of 5G frequencies.
India: Aircel’s spectrum to be returned to DoT
Bankrupt MNO Aircel has been demanded to return its spectrum by the Department of Telecommunications. The MNO has been attempting to sell the spectrum as part of its asset divestment, but the government has firmly rejected the plan since – as cited by the Economic Times – “spectrum is not an asset of any company.”
Japan: Rakuten to build the world’s first 5G open vRAN network
Rakuten Mobile, the newly established Japanese MNO, will partner with NEC Crop to build the world’s first 5G open vRAN architecture in Japan. Both companies will work together and develop a 3.7GHz 5G Massive MIMO antenna to provide a compact, lightweight option, reducing installation and operation costs due to its low power consumption, as stated on a recent press release. Rakuten and NEC will deploy around 16,000 low-cost 5G base stations across the country over five years
Malaysia: U Mobile to partner with Nokia for Single RAN deployment
Malaysian MNO U Mobile has inked a three-year contract with Nokia to deploy a Single Radio Access Network (RAN) as well as microwave and IP-based mobile transport technologies, which will enable the operator to expand the delivery of mobile data services across the peninsula. Both companies will also be working together on 5G trials.
The Philippines: Smart expands 4G network in Palawan
Smart Communications, the mobile division of PLDT, is boosting its 4G LTE coverage in Palawan, one of the country’s most touristic areas. The company is deploying additional sites and upgrading its network in the area. The operator will also roll out fibre broadband services for tourist and businesses.
Vietnam: VNPT-Vinaphone’s network reaches 60,000 base stations
State-owned operator VNPT-Vinaphone has increased its total number of 3G and 4G base stations to 60,000 after completing the deploying of 30,000 new LTE base stations across the country. The company has also announced an agreement with two international vendors to start preparing its network for 5G deployment.
5G commercial deployment licenses issued to four operators in China
On June 6 2019, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued 5G commercial deployment licenses to China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, and to new entrant China Broadcast Network. On the same day, MIIT and SASAC issued a document translated as “Suggestions for developing telecom infrastructure co-build co-share in 2019”, which indicates a requirement from government to further enhance the sharing of telecom infrastructure, particularly with a view to rolling out 5G swiftly and efficiently. The document also calls for the integration of city resources into the co-build, co-sharephilosophy.
China Tower appoints Gu Xiaomin as CEO
The world’s largest towerco, China Tower Corporation, which operates 1.95mn towers in China, has appointed Mr Gu Xiaomin as General Manager (CEO) of the company, effective June 10 2019. Mr Gu has been part of the China Tower management team since the company was founded in 2014. Current Chairman and General Manager Tong Jilu will remain in the post of Chairman.
China Tower creates China Tower Energy Company
On June 5, 2019, China Tower corporation’s energy subsidiary China Tower Energy Company was officially established, with registered capital of RMB5bn (US$720mn). China Tower Energy Company will be 100% owned by China Tower. China Tower provides power as a service to all it’s 1.95mn cell sites, making it by far the world’s largest buyer of telecom energy equipment and services. China Tower Energy Company’s scope includes batteries, solar, wind and other energy products, as well as energy technology development, technical services and technical consultation. China Tower Energy Company will be well placed to compete in the fields of Electric Vehicle charging and energy storage. China Tower Energy Company will play a key role in the rollout of 5G in China, and will be at the vanguard of R&D to efficiently overcome the challenges of meeting the 2-3x power requirement of 5G.
Algeria: Mobilis wins contract to provide 750 sites for low-population areas
Following a competitive tender ran by Algeria’s Authority for Regulation of Post and Electronic Communications, Mobilis, part of Algerie Telecom, won a contract to deploy 750 new sites in low-population areas, and to provide coverage on 178 roads.
Iraq: Orange stake in Korek Telecom confiscated by regulator
Following an extended dispute between Orange and Korek’s Iraqi shareholders, Orange has seen its 44% of shares in Korek Telecom transferred to local investors. Orange acquired a stake in the Kurdistan telco in 2011 and has been involved in litigation with Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) since then after the CMC notified Orange it was cancelling the acquisition. Recently, Orange has accused Korek’s directors of misappropriating funds.
Saudi Arabia: TAWAL established as STC-owned towerco in Saudi Arabia
On the 1stApril 2019, TAWAL was spun-off from Saudi Telecom Company (STC). 14,000 towers were transferred internally from STC to Tawal, making it one of the 25 largest towercos in the world, according to TowerXchange figures. Around 70% of STC’s sites are rooftop with the remainder predominantly greenfield. A small but significant number of sites sit off-grid and relay on diesel generators for energy. TAWAL is still establishing itself as a towerco, with a tenancy ratio below 1.1x, it currently employs around 15 people directly, with around 200 staff on secondment from STC.
UAE: Etisalat and Du launch 5G-ready handsets
The gulf passes an important milestone this month with both Etisalat and Du launching 5G handsets to match their 5G-ready networks. Previously networks were not accessible to consumers without specialist equipment. Both Du and Etisalat have launched with the ZTE Axon 10 Pro, and further handsets are expected soon. Other states in the gulf like Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are all expected to have live 5G networks and useable handsets in coming months. Du expects to have 700 5G base stations active by the end of the year. Etisalat plans hundreds of sites this year and would need to further increase capex in 2019 to match Du’s expected network.
Oman: Oman Tower Co. signs revenue sharing deal with Oman’s Petroleum Development Oman (PDO)
Oman Tower Co has signed a revenue sharing agreement with PDO for the use of 63 towers. The deal will also allow PDO to use new planned towers to improve coverage in new oil fields, as well as other sites developed by Oman Tower Co and other government entities. The deal allows Oman Tower Co to access the extensive existing network of PDO. PDO owns and operates one of Oman’s largest telecom infrastructure networks across its 90,000 km2 Block 6 concession area, but it is currently underutilised due to changing demands for technology. The Oman Tower Co holds a license to commercialise and rent spaces on towers in Oman. Details of the revenue sharing deal, projected new build or additional sharing opportunities were not published.
Regional: Cellnex added to the MSCI Europe index
Cellnex Telecom shares (ticker: CLNX) have been added to the MSCI Europe index, following the May 2019 semi-annual index review. Previously, Cellnex had been a constituent of MSCI Europe Small Cap Index but following the recent acquisition of 10,700 sites in France, Italy and Switzerland the company’s size has boosted it into the main index. The MSCI index is used by several passive funds to identify stocks to own for investors who wish to track certain portfolios. Cellnex is listed on the Spanish stock exchange and is part of the selective IBEX 35 and EuroStoxx 600 indices. It is also part of the FTSE4GOOD and CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), “Standard Ethics” and Sustainalytics indexes. Cellnex’s reference shareholders include ConnecT, with a 29.9% stake in the share capital, as well as CriteriaCaixa, Blackrock, Canada Pension Plan and Wellington holding smaller stakes.
France: Whittling down to a shortlist of prospective TDF buyers
Back in May, Bloomberg cited anonymous sources suggesting bidders for French broadcast and wireless towerco TDF were down to a shortlist including serial tower investors Macquarie, digital infrastructure aggregator Digital Colony, Antin Infrastructure Partners, which formerly owned of FPS Towers in France, and American Tower, to whom Antin sold FPS Towers.
France: Orange rumoured to be reviewing infrastructure ownership strategy
Unconfirmed rumours continue that Orange is reviewing the status of several infrastructure assets on its balance sheet, including towers. One of Europe’s largest MNOs with a footprint across France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, Ireland and the UK, where they are a 50% shareholder in EE. Orange has agreed active infrastructure sharing deals in Spain, Poland and Romania, and has partnered with Three to create MBNL in the UK. While Orange has partnered with independent towercos in Africa, agreeing ‘manage with license to lease’ deals with IHS in Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire and selling towers to Eaton Towers in Uganda and Egypt, the MNO has not yet extended their passive infrastructure monetisation strategy to Europe. Orange retains the last substantial captive tower portfolio in France, with around 15,000 towers in the country.
Italy: INWIT to absorb ~11,000 Vodafone Italy towers
TIM and Vodafone have reached agreement on merging their tower portfolios within towerco INWIT. Each has around 11,000 towers, INWIT with a tenancy ratio of 1.9x, Vodafone with 1.6x, with a 1.75x combined tenancy ratio, pre-synergies. TIM and Vodafone already have a deep infrastructure sharing agreement, which accounts for many of the existing co-locations, as well as a RANsharing agreement. The combined towerco would also take the lead in new site deployment, including small cells and DAS, and decommissioning of overlapping sites. The agreement is expected to be signed in Summer 2019.
Italy: Wind Tre bringing ~7,000 towers to market
Italian MNO Wind Tre, created through the merger of CK Hutchinson’s Tre (Three) and VEON’s Wind, has carved out it’s ~7,000 towers into a newco Pisa, with a view to selling a 49% stake in the business, in part to fund its €6bn 5G network upgrade plan.
UK: Cellnex partners with BT to lease up 220 high towers
Cellnex has secured the marketing and operating rights for 220 high towers owned by BT in the UK. Previously used primarily as broadcasting and transmission sites, the towers are also being used to co-locate wireless equipment. The deal is not structured as a sale and leaseback, but it does fix “the fundamentals for a long strategic partnership with BT” for Cellnex, as revealed in an exclusive interview about the deal with Ester Fernandez, UK Country Manager for Cellnex, later in this Journal. The partnership will increase the scale of Cellnex’s UK portfolio to over 820 sites.
UK: Vodafone project Skylon remains secretive
Under project Skylon, Vodafone has been reviewing whether to retain or sell minority or majority stakes in approximately 55,000 towers across Europe. Sources suggest the project is moving slowly, and few details have emerged to date beyond growing speculation that a minority stake in Cornerstone could be sold, and the reaching of agreement to fold Vodafone’s Italian towers into TIM’s towerco INWIT.
UK: New rural infraco joint venture proposed between EE (BT), Vodafone, O2 and Three
Subject to the approval of UK regulator Ofcom, the UK’s four leading MNOs have agreed to create a new infrastructure sharing company to improve the economics of rural connectivity. The “single rural network” would manage the sharing of existing masts and the building of new masts. The theory is that the new infraco would be funded both by over half a billion pounds of MNO investment, and by a £200mn reduction in license fees paid by MNOs.
The UK government has targeted 95% geographic coverage in the UK by 2022, whereas 4G coverage currently stands as low as 67%.The MNOs suggest that their single rural network plan would bring national coverage up to 88%.
8 May 2019
Americas and Europe: Telefónica divests data centres
Telefónica has reached an agreement with Asterion Industrial Partners to sell eleven data centres for €550mn. The facilities are located in Spain, Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
Argentina: Claro to connect 250 rural communities with satellite
Claro has inked a deal with Comtech Telecommunications Corp to connect more than 250 rural communities across Argentina with high-speed 2G/3G and LTE backhaul, using satellite backhaul solutions and enabling signal for hundreds of thousands of Claro’s subscribers.
Chile, Peru: Entel announces investments and considers tower sale
Entel is planning to invest US$600mn in 2019, of which US$170mn in Peru and US$430mn in its domestic Chilean operations. Over half of the investment will be allocated to upgrade 4G coverage and capacity across both operations.
Various news sources, including local outlet Diario Financiero, are reporting that Entel Chile is assessing the sale of its tower portfolio. The company has also denied the rumours of a potential sale of its Peruvian unit, where the company plans to continue expanding its footprint.
Colombia: Mintic prepares for spectrum auction
Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technology and Communications (Mintic) has invited companies to officially express their interest in competing in the auctions for the 700MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.5GHz bands, designed to bring quality 4G connectivity to rural regions and pave the way for 5G.
Mintic is looking to auction a total of 70MHz in the 700MHz band, plus 5MHz more in the 1.9GHz band in the fourth quarter of the year but hasn’t yet specified a date for the 2.5GHz tender.
Guatemala: Election will delay spectrum auction
Cristian Aguilar, Guatemala’s Vice Minister of Communications, has stated that the country’s planned auction of 1700MHz AWS frequencies in June 2019 will be delayed by the country’s general election, taking place on 16 June.
Uruguay: Antel launches first 5G network in CALA
Last month, Uruguay’s state-owned ANTEL successfully launched the first 5G commercial network in Latin America. In partnership with Nokia, Antel is offering 5G in the Barra de Manantiales area, Maldonado Department, where the first 5G base stations are operational and ready to provide services.
The operator plans to expand 5G radio in the rest of Uruguay, while the 5G services for telephone and other devices will begin to be commercialised within the next month.
Angola: Fourth license awarded, cancelled and re-opened to applicants in April
Telstar Telecomunicações, a local start-up was awarded and stripped of Angola’s fourth mobile license last month. Originally seeing interest from 27 domestic and foreign companies, the mobile license competition ended with just two applicants. Less than two weeks after the award of the license Telstar’s award was cancelled because of “non-compliance with the terms of the procedure, the requirements relating to the balance sheet and profit and loss statements, and the statement of overall turnover for the last three years.” The license competition has since been relaunched.
Kenya: New operator enters concentrated Kenyan market
Kenyan operator Jamii Telecommunications has extended its temporary 4G LTE license to a full operating license for its Faiba brand. ‘Jamii Telecom has already paid the first instalment and it is no longer on a trial license,’ confirmed CA Director General Francis Wangusi. A change to spectrum payments, allowing for payment in instalments rather than an upfront lump-sum has enabled Jamii to enter the market, and may enable further new entrants. Following the Airtel-Telkom merger, over 95% of Kenya’s mobile users will be served by just MNOs.
Nigeria: 7,000 Globacom towers at risk of dismantling by Civil Aviation Authority
On the 23rd April the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issued an ultimatum to Globacom Limited and other unnamed mobile operators that many of their towers may be pulled down. Claiming that the operator had “blatantly failed to obtain the statutory Aviation Height Clearance” permits, the NCAA gave the operator 30 days to resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Following a series of interventions and meetings from the regulators a significant number of Nigeria’s 40,000+ towers have received the NCAA permits, although Globacom was singled out for particular censure. It remains to be seen what action will be taken following the expiration of the deadline on the 23rd May.
Uganda: UCC consults on making infrastructure sharing mandatory
A public consultation has been launched by the Uganda Communications Commission into a review of the country’s Telecommunications Licensing Framework. The current framework has been in place since 2006 and is no longer appropriate given the proliferation of telecoms players in the country today. The consultation has requested submissions around increased infrastructure sharing and highlights its benefits. It continues: “Providing for mandatory infrastructure sharing as a license obligation could potentially curb duplication in high demand areas and encourage parity of infrastructure building across the country.”
India: Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea to start 5G trialing
A Telecom Ministry panel recently deliberated on the characteristics of the 5G spectrum trial for the three MNOs. Jio, Airtel and VIL will start the trials for three months, a timeframe scalable to one year if required for network stabilisation. The three MNOs will work respectively with Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson and 5G runs are likely to start this coming June.
India: American Tower buys 13% of Tata’s JV
AMT has recently bought out a 13% stake from Tata Teleservices in their tower ventures for approximately US$356mn. The buyout raises AMT’s stake in ATC Telecom Infrastructure to almost 90%, with the remaining shares owned by Macquarie’s funds.
India: Jio Digital Fiber to raise capital via syndicated loans
The newly launched Indian fibreco is planning to raise US$3.89bn in syndicated loans. The capital would be used to enhance its business operations.
In a previous move, the MNO had transferred the control of its fibre and tower units to two trusts created by Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Ltd, after receiving the green light to demerge the two businesses from the National Company Law Tribunal. The tower unit, with its 175,000+ sites, is becoming the second largest towerco in the world. Reliance Jio will be anchor tenant on all the towers, which will be leased to third parties for co-location.
Indonesia: Smartfren to work with ZTE for 4G expansion and 5G trial
MNO Telekom PT Smartfren (Smartfren) has selected ZTE of China to expand its 4G LTE networks in and collaborate on the development of 5G technology in Indonesia.
The operator’s President Director, Merza Fachys, stated: “Currently, we are preparing to conduct a 5G trial in Indonesia. Not only that, our collaboration with ZTE also includes the expansion of Smartfren’s 4G networks to deliver better service quality in Indonesia.”
Japan: MIC approves 5G spectrum allocation
An advisory panel to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has recently approved the allocation of frequency bands for 5G advanced services to the four MNOs that made applications NTT DOCOMO, KDDI (au), Softbank Corp and player Rakuten Mobile.
The approvals dictated that all four MNOs should launch 5G services using the new spectrum in every Japanese prefecture within two years, and effectively sub-divided Japan into 4,500 ‘blocks’ (zones), requiring all four spectrum holders to set up base transceiver stations (BTS) in at least half of these within five years. The MIC also published its approvals relating to 5G BTS deployments for all four companies. All four MNOs aim to commercialise 5G services in 2020 and will invest US$14.4bn in the five-year deployment phase.
Malaysia: Telenor discussing merger with Axiata
Telenor Group and Axiata Group are evaluating a potential non-cash merger of their telecom and infrastructure assets in Asia, in which Telenor would take a majority stake. The new company would be headquartered in Malaysia and would serve nearly 300 million customers using approximately 60,000 towers across nine countries in Asia.
Norway’s Telenor would own 56.5% of the new entity, based on equity value, with Axiata holding 43.5%. both have acknowledged that this is preliminary subject to adjustments and due diligence, and there is no certainty that the talks will result in any transaction agreement.
Myanmar: IGT to acquire MIG’s towers
Last month, Singapore Myanmar Investco (SMI) announced the sale of Myanmar Infrastructure Group’s (MIG) towers to market leader Irrawaddy Green Towers for US$ 8mn. IGT will be acquiring around 100 sites and MIG’s main client Ooredoo has already approved the transaction.
Myanmar: Telenor 4G network reaches 307 townships
Norwegian’s Telenor arm in Myanmar has extended its 4G network to 307 of Myanmar’s 330 townships via more than 6,100 LTE sites nationwide. The company has already deployed 856 new LTE sites this year and is aiming to increase that figure to 6,100 LTE sites by the end of the year.
The Philippines: China Telecom signs agreement to create Mislatel
Last month, China Telecom and Philippines conglomerate Udenna Corporation finally signed the official agreement to create Mislatel, the joint venture that will become the Philippines’ third mobile operator, committing to invest US$5.4bn.
After some public doubts, the Philippines’ senate approved the joint venture in February but now Mislatel has revealed plans to postpone its initial launch date from 2020 to early 2021.
The Philippines: Smart to boost LTE-A capacity and coverage in Batangas
PLDT’s wireless arm Smart Communications is improving its mobile internet services in Batangas, one of the country’s biggest and most populated provinces. The MNO will be deploying more LTE base stations and adding new sites to better address needs of its customers, as stated by Smart’s Senior VP for Network Planning and Engineering Mario Tamayo.
The Philippines: Globe in talks with Mislatel for tower share
Globe Telecom and new entrant Mislatel are in discussion to share access to the former’s towers, as confirmed by representatives of the two MNOs during a hearing on common tower policy last month.
South Korea: Ministry shares 5G stats
The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) has revealed that around 260,000 users have signed up for 5G since the three country MNOs launched services last month. According to the figures provided by MSIT, there are now 54,202 5G base stations in operation across South Korea.
Vietnam: Viettel deploys first 5G site
Market leader Viettel Telecom has installed its first trial 5G base transceiver station in Hanoi. The MNO plans to deploy around 70 sites in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by mid-year as part of its evaluation and test process for 5G technology ahead of the big country rollout expected for 2020.
Vietnam: Indochina Telecom becomes first MVNO in Vietnam
The company, which will be operating on the VinaPhone network, is initially introducing services for workers in industrial parks in nine provinces and cities, including Hanoi. The new MVNO plans to introduce a variety of packages tailored to different groups and user segments and will cooperate with Vietnam’s mobile network operators to negotiate the best deals.
Oman: Vodafone entering Oman as strategic partner to new domestic MNO
It has been announced that Vodafone has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the country’s regulator to become a strategic partner to a locally-funded MNO, it will be the third MNO in the country following Omantel and Ooredoo. Prior to this announcement, it had been rumoured that Vodafone would receive a license directly.
UAE: Etisalat spending US$ 1.1bn on digital transformation
Etisalat says it will invest US$1.1bn during 2019 on digital transformation, which will include upgrades of its mobile and fibre networks. The firm is rolling out hundreds of 5G-ready base stations in anticipation of the first 5G handsets landing in UAE by June.
Hatem Bamatraf, CTO at Etisalat International, told Zawya: “We are stepping into an era which marks the revolution of ‘Intelligent Connectivity’ underpinned by ubiquitous and hyper connectivity. This term is used to describe the powerful combination of flexible, high speed 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This will have a significant and profound change on individuals, industries, society and the economy, transforming how we live and work.’ He added: ‘Etisalat foresees the future of connectivity and is already exploring use cases with new technologies and services that will blend our physical and digital world.”
UAE: Du increases capex from US$270mn to US$460mn
In a bid to keep pace with Etisalat and enhance the Emirates reputation as a connectivity hotspot, Du is planning on rolling out 700 5G-ready base stations in 2019. Spending in the first quarter was up 74% versus the same period last year. This represents an acceleration of its previously announced capex plans, which were due to only be around 40% up year-on-year.
Regional: Cellnex acquires 10,700 sites in France, Italy and Switzerland, plus deal for 4,000 build-to-suit
On Tuesday 7th May Cellnex announced a raft of new deals. Cellnex will acquire 5,700 sites in France currently operated by Free, the French Iliad-owned MNO. Cellnex will pay €1.4bn for a 70% controlling stake of the new company that will operate the 5,700 sites acquired from Iliad in France. In Italy Cellnex will also acquire 2,200 sites from Iliad, paying €600mn for 100% ownership and control. In Switzerland, Cellnex has also reached an agreement with the MNO Salt to acquire its 2,800 sites.
Cellnex is paying €700mn and will control 90% of the new company that will operate the sites. In addition to these sale and leaseback transactions, the agreements also foresee built-to-suit programmes in the three countries between 2020 and 2027 including up to 2,500 new sites in France, up to 1,000 new sites in Italy, and up to 500 sites in Switzerland.
Cellnex estimates that by 2027 it may invest a total of €1.35bn in the 4,000 BTS sites. The deals are subject to the usual regulatory approvals, but upon completion Cellnex will have over 34,000 towers and DAS nodes in six European countries. Including acquisitions and BTS to 2027 the deals would increase Cellnex’s EBITDA run rate by €510mn.
Regional: Digital Colony acquires Zayo
Announced May 8th, global digital investment firm Digital Colony and the EQT Infrastructure IV fund will be acquiring the leading provider of global communications infrastructure Zayo. Zayo owns bandwidth infrastructure services including 210,606 route kilometres of fibre in North America and Europe which connects data centres, mobile towers and cloud providers in some of the world’s most important metro markets.
Digital Colony and EQT are paying US$35.00 in cash per share, valuing Zayo at US$14.3 billion, including the assumption of US$5.9 billion of Zayo’s net debt obligations. Digital Colony recently acquired UK-based iWireless Solutions and has made a raft of past acquisitions establishing itself as a major integrated digital infrastructure provider. Sweden-based EQT are one of a number of private equity groups investing in digital infrastructure.
Czech Republic: Ceske Radiokomunikace to come to market
Following reports that Macquarie was preparing Slovakian Towercom for sale in 2018, Czech news outlets are now reporting that they are preparing Czech asset, Ceske Radiokomunikace, for sale. With around 800 towers, Ceske Radiokomunikace is the biggest radio and television broadcasting network in the country, with telecoms tenants across the portfolio. Buyers are thought to include PPF Group, who own the largest towerco in the Czech Republic, CETIN, and are currently mooting the creation of a CEE-wide towerco with newly acquired assets across the region.
Germany: Vodafone LTE rollout ahead of schedule
Vodafone Germany has added an additional 1,300 LTE antennas across Germany so far this year, including 600 new sites. Vodafone is aiming to commission a total of 2,800 new LTE stations to extend 4G into new areas in Germany, reaching three million Germans with LTE so far in 2019 alone.
Italy: French Vivendi reiterates commitment to Telecom Italia
Telecom’s main shareholder Vivendi has reconfirmed its commitment to the Italian mobile network operator. According to Reuters, the company’s executive chairman Arnaud de Puyfontaine said he is confident of achieving success in Italy, adding that Vivendi needs to be patient in its Italian ambitions, saying ‘Rome was not built in a day’.
Vivendi has been involved in conflict with TIM’s new shareholder, Elliott Advisors, who are keen to pare the operator back to a retail model, resulting in attempts to change the company’s board in April.
Italy: Windtre sale progressing
Windtre, CK Hutchison’s Italian MNO has stepped up their progression towards the sale of their ~8,000 towers in Italy, beginning Vendor Due Diligence to report on the financial health of the tower portfolio with the aim of improving the price of their asset. European investors remain keen to acquire tower assets, although a note of caution is slipping into conversations as the French market looks like overheating and more and more MNOs are carving out and seeking to monetise their towers.
Spain: 5G network sharing deal for Orange and Vodafone
Following Vodafone’s agreement to collaborate more closely with Telecom Italia for 5G rollout, Vodafone has announced an extension of their 2006 network sharing deal with Orange in Spain. The agreement applies to rural and suburban areas, with both MNOs pursuing their own network strategy in large cities, as well as maintaining responsibility for their own spectrum and core networks.
Switzerland: Salt towers on the market
In a move which will surprise very few, Xavier Niel’s Swiss MNO, Salt, has invited indicative bids for its portfolio of 2,700 towers in Switzerland. Drawing interest from both strategic and financial buyers, Niel will no doubt be hoping to mirror the success of Swiss rival Sunrise, who sold 2,339 towers to Cellnex in 2017 for €430mn. Niel’s French MNO, Iliad, is looking to sell a stake in its 5,700 towers in France and may well do the same for towers in Italy and Ireland soon.
UK: Digital Colony makes third small cell acquisition
Digital Colony, who acquired UK small cell and indoor connectivity businesses Stratto and OpenCell in 2018, has announced another UK acquisition in the form of iWireless Solutions, a leading small cell service provider that delivers wireless connectivity solutions to some of the largest and highest profile venues in the UK.
Digital Colony anticipates that iWireless Solutions will complement and bring outdoor small cell capabilities to StrattoOpencell, which delivers carrier-grade multi-operator indoor coverage to over 120 connected buildings, using over 2,700 cells. The acquisition of iWireless Solutions brings extensive outdoor connectivity experience including in the City of London, London Olympic Stadium, Twickenham Stadium, and other major outdoor UK venues.
“We have always championed small cells, and there is a growing industry consensus that they will be a crucial component in delivering mobile coverage, both inside and outdoors, for today’s networks and even more so as we enter the 5G era,” said Graham Payne, CEO of Digital Colony’s UK digital infrastructure platform. “We are delighted to welcome Ravi and the entire iWireless Solutions team to the family, their first-class approach to service integration, optimisation and radio network design is kindred to StrattoOpencell’s and will do a lot to further strengthen our deep mobile network operator relationships and outdoor small cell offerings.”
5 April 2019
Central and Latin America
Argentina: ENACOM to release 450MHz band to improve rural connectivity
President Mauricio Macri has announced that the country’s telecoms regulator (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) will free up the 450MHz spectrum aiming to improve rural connectivity. ENACOM has also created a Rural Connectivity Board to ease access to the spectrum.
Brazil: Algar Telecom acquires B2B operator in Pernambuco
Algar Telecom, the biggest MNO in Minas Gervais, has acquired B2B operator Smart Telecomunicacoes as the company keeps expanding its footprint in the northeast of Brazil.
Brazil: Oi starts 5G test
Brazilian MNO Oi has started its first 5G test in Buzios, a resort town in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The trial, supported by Huawei’s equipment,, is utilising a 100MHz block of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. Moreover, Oi has upgraded its network in Buzios to support LTE-A technology as well as extended its FTTH technology in the area.
Brazil: América Móvil buys Nextel
Mexican telecoms giant América Móvil, operating in Brazil as Claro, has announced the acquisition of 100% of local rival Nextel’s. Claro will pay US$905mn to co-owners NII Holdings (70%) and AI Brazil Holdings (30%). The acquisition is now subject to regulatory approval from the National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) and the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica, CADE).
With this move, Claro Brasil keeps consolidating its position in the country, mostly in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where they will increase capacity, subscribers, coverage and service quality.
Brazil: TIM using satellite backhaul to provide 4G and IoT
TIM Brasil is using Gilat’s satellite backhaul solution to enable 4G services in rural and unserved areas such as small towns and highways. The company is also targeting the agribusiness IoT market. Gilat will supply 1000 VSATs to complement TIM’s cellular coverage initiative, “4G TIM in the Field”.
Brazil: Oi’s towers on sale
Brazilian newspaper O Globo has confirmed the rumors and published that Oi is trying to sell some of its towers in order to reduce its debt. The newspapers says that the operators wants to sell off five data centres, 400 towers and 6,000 km of fibre. Furthermore, the MNO would be looking at selling its Angolan unit too.
Central America: Millicom to start integration of Telefónica’s units
Following the recent acquisition of Telefónica’s units across Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica (US$1.65bn), Millicom is looking at consolidating the new businesses before any new M&A. As part of the integration, Millicom is expected to possibly incorporate the acquired units under its Tigo brand.
El Salvador: Telefónica seeks regulatory approval for unit sale
Telefónica is said to have submitted an application to the national Superintendencia de Competencia for the sale of its mobile unit to América Móvil. The antitrust agency will review the documentation and, if approved, it will have 90 days to assess the impact on the competition across the mobile market.
Burkina Faso: 4G a gogo in the Sahel
Orange has extended its LTE services in Burkina Faso, it was announced last month. Orange’s 4G srrvices now reach Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, Koubri, Banfora and Manga. Shortly after Orange’s announcement, Maroc Telecom-owned Onatel finalised its acquisition of a 4G licence and launched its services, which it claims is available in 35 locations. 4G roll-out will require significant new investments in Burkina Faso’s urban areas.
Ghana: 4G and 4G+ launched b Vodafone and MTN
Vodafone Ghana launched 4G services in Accra on the 19thMarch. At the same time MTN Ghana launched its 4G+ services which provide faster data speeds for its customers. The advanced 4G networks have been much anticipated in the state, and further investment in densification to service increased data demand is expected.
Orange: New ESCO contracts in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Conakry
Continuing in its strategy of out-sourcing its tower power management to ESCOs, Orange has added two new contracts in Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry. This brings to six its total of ESCO deals in addition to DRC, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. TowerXchange understands the deal includes the potential for providing power beyond towers to include Orange retail outlets in areas without reliable grid availability.
MTN: Listings for Ugandan and Nigerian units likely
MTN is considering increasing the local stake in its Ugandan subsidiary after pressure from the Ugandan government to boost local shareholding. MTN Nigeria is also likely to float on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in the first half of 2019, with a plan to boost private Nigerian ownership in the company from 20% to 35%.
South Sudan: MTN bet on recovery in the world’s youngest country
MTN is planning on investing US$35 in expanding its operations in South Sudan. With the five year civil war hopefully drawing to a close, it is hoped that the revival of transmission networks, expanded coverage and 3G upgrades will help recover in the central African state. The move will more than double the number of active sites in the country, from 200 to around 410. According to GSMA only 14% of South Sudan’s 13.1mn people are connected. MTN and Zain of Kuwait are the country’s only two MNOs.
Zimbabwe: Telecoms privatisation to ease financial constraints on cash-strapped state
It was reported at the end of last month that Zimbabwe’s government was planning on selling shares in mobile network operators NetOne and Telecel, plus a share of the fixed-line operators TelOne. TelOne and NetOne may be merged before sale, in an attempt to improve their attractiveness to overseas investors. The deal is hoped to raise US$350mn.
Bangladesh: BTRC launches significant market power initiative
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has launched an initiative to declare significant market power (SMP) in the tower sharing business sector. The move is part of the 2018 pro-competition regulation and the BTRC is now setting up the criteria to declare a SMP operator.
India: Reliance Communications cancels asset sale
Reliance Communications has decided to cancel its planned asset sale to Reliance Jio. The Economic Times cites “lack of consent from its lenders and difficulty in securing the necessary permissions from regulators” as the main reasons behind the cancelled deal.
Indonesia: Mitratel acquires PST
Telkom’s towerco subsidiary Mitratel has recently acquired a 95% stake in Indonesian towerco PT Persada Sokka Tama (PST). Mitratel will purchase the remaining 5% stake within the next two years. The acquisition, that aims to consolidate Mitratel’s positions, will add over 1,000 towers in various regions across Indonesia.
Indonesia and Japan: NTT Docomo and Indonesian STP start inspection trials
NTT Docomo and Indonesian towerco Solusi Tunas Pratama (STP) has started inspection trials across certain sites in Indonesia utilising drone technology. The trials are run by the Docomo sky for Tower Inspection service, which has been developed by the operator for use across its Japanese network. If successful, the companies aim at launching a full scale commercial service in 2019.
Japan: Rakuten, KDDI and Softbank to partner with utility TEPCO for 5G
Japanese MNOs KDDI, SoftBank Corp and Rakuten Mobile Network will work together with utility provider TEPCO Power Grid to explore base station sites and equipment sharing. The operators will access TEPCO’s poles and other electric power infrastructure, where they will explore and test new 5G technologies and systems.
Pakistan: edotco seals sharing agreements with Pakistani MNOs
edotco, which runs 950 sites across Pakistan, has sealed site-sharing agreements worth a combined US$80mn with the three major operators of the country – Jazz, Telenor and Zong. The deal will see the MNOs sharing towers and enable edotco to offer better connectivity services and energy management.
Philippines: DITC continues plan to deploy 50,000 towers
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has reinforced its plans to work closely with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and local MNOs – Globe, Smart and Mislatel – to accelerate the rollout of a 50,000 common tower network over the next seven year. DICT aims to install 3,000 new sites in year one, rising to a per-annum rate of 10,000 site deployments in years five, six and seven, while all three operators have also shared its support to the initiative.
Later this month, DICT’s Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr. will meet with the MNOs to identify suitable locations for new sites. Meanwhile, 19 tower companies has now signed MOUs with the regulator.
Philippines: DICT may look at two more MNO entrants
DICT’s Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr. has said that the government is considering a frequency redistribution to a fourth or even fifth operator in order to ensure optimal use of the radio frequency spectrum.
Middle East and North Africa
Bahrain: Batelco to deploy 5G network over next three years alongside Ericsson
Batelco and Ericsson have signed a deal to deploy a 5G network across the island state. Over the next three years the telco will deploy 5G New Radio, transport and core equipment. The announcement comes alongside Batelco’s announcement of a deal with AMS-IX to launch a new Internet Exchange for traffic in the Gulf, both investments are designed to support the Kingdom’s development as a high tech hub for the region.
Oman: Ooredoo invests in Massive MIMO
Ooredoo Oman has added Massive MIMO technology to a further 37 locations in the Sultanate in preparation for the deployment of 5G. The additional antennae will add more capacity for LTE services and increases the speed at which data is transferred across the network to 100 times faster than normal cellular connections, according to the Qatari-owned network.
Saudi Arabia: IHS Towers announce deal details with Zain KSA
IHS Towers has announced that Zain has signed an agreement to sell and lease back the passive physical infrastructure of Zain KSA for SAR2.52 billion (US$672 million). This includes 8,100 mobile telecommunication sites across the Kingdom. The transaction is subject to approval by the Saudi regulator CITC and other customary closing conditions. The agreement also involves the building of an additional 1,500 new sites over the next six years. The agreement follows form the announcement of similar plans between Zain and IHS Towers in Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia: The march to 5G continues
Following the announcement of their deal with IHS Towers, Zain Group announced the acquisition of 100MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band for SAR624 million (US$166 million). The 15-year long deal makes the 5G-compatible spectrum available from 1stJanuary 2020. At the start of April Saudi Telecom Company announced the creation of ‘the world’s first Multi-Vendor Integration Verification’ for its 5G network. STC has been deploying its 5G network since 2018 and is working with Huawei, Cisco, Ericsson and Nokia. STC plans to launch 5G in the Kingdom in the coming months.
France: Altice closes FTTH unit transaction
Altice Europe has closed a deal to sell a 49.99% stake in new FTTH unit SFR FTTH to an OMERS Infrastructure-led consortium which also includes Allianz Capital Partners and AXA Investment Managers. The deal is worth €1.7bn for a unit which aims to cover five million homes in France over the next four years with a specialism in the design, construction and operation of telecoms infrastructures for local government in less densely populated areas of France.
France: Bids in for TDF
French broadcast towerco TDF has received a first round of bids, with Spanish towerco Cellnex believed to be very interested in adding the TDF sites to their French and KKR Infrastructure and Ardian also believed to be in the running. Cellnex is believed to have already approved a capital enlargement of €1.2bn in order to make the bid, with the acquisition of a 60% stake in the French broadcast towerco valued at around €3bn.
France: Iliad tower sale underway
Bids are believed to be in for French telecoms operator Iliad’s ~850 towers in France, as the MNO seeks to raise cash following a tricky 2018. Iliad’s expenditure doubled between 2017 and 2018, with the company losing half of its market value over the last year, losing about 250,000 mobile subscribers in France in 2018 while at the same time investing in entering the Italian and Irish markets. Iliad is believed to be looking to sell a minority stake to an investor in order to recude the pressure on cashflows into 2020.
Latvia: BITE planning infrastructure upgrade
Latvian MNO Bite is planning to spend €4.5mn on network development in 2019 in order to support a targeted 53% increase in capacity. This will include deploying 50 new base stations as well as upgrading a further 100 sites. With a current total of 810 base stations in Latvia, this represents a significant commitment to improving capacity.
Spain: Spanish tower sale continues
Bids have now been received for Regional Spanish towerco Telecom-CLM (Telecom Castilla-La Mancha), in a process run by Dutch bank ING. Telcom-CLM owns and operates broadcasting towers available for telecoms colocation in Madrid and the central parts of Spain, and is currently owned by private equity investor GED Capital.
China: China Tower net profit increases 36.4% year on year
On March 4th, 2019, China Tower Corporation (CTC) announced its annual performance through December31, 2018. Annual business income reached CNY71.819bn in 2018, an increase of 46%, and net profit reached CNY2.65bn, an increase of 36.4% compared with last year. EBITDA reached CNY41.77bn. Tenancy ratios increased from 1.44x to 1.55x over the year, with over 3mn tenants now on 1.948mn towers.
China: CTC has deployed 1,000 5G pilot sites
Under the guidance of the MIIT, and in co-operation with China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, CTC has built more than 1,000 5G pilot stations in 23 cities across 19 different provinces in China to meet MNOs’ “Low cost, high efficiency and fast layout” objectives.
China: CTC partners with Railway, Grid and Post
CTC has signed comprehensive cooperation agreements with China Railway Corporation, State Grid, Southern Power Grid and China Post.
China: Guangdong Smart Tower Pole Industry Alliance established
On March 14 2019 the “Guangdong Smart Tower Pole Industry Alliance” was formally established. It will promote the efficient integration and intensive construction of urban infrastructure, especially pole and tower facilities.
China and Laos: CTC signs co-operation agreement to bring infrastructure sharing and smart cities to Laos
China Tower Holdings Southeast Asia Tower Company and Laos Modin Special Economic Zone have signed their first cooperation agreement on telecom infrastructure sharing services and smart city projects.
12 March 2019
France: Free Mobile case dismissed
Bouygues’ five-year case against competitor Free Mobile in the Commercial Court of Paris has been rejected. Bouygues was seeking damages of €718.5mn against Free Mobile for ‘misleading commercial practices’ in terms of Free’s 2G and 3G roaming agreement between the new French MNO and incumbent Orange, reducing roaming speeds in order to keep their costs lower. As the case was dismissed, Bouygues was ordered to pay €350,000 to Free Mobile for legal fees.
Netherlands: Tower sale on the cards for VodafoneZiggo
Following a 2% revenue decline in 2018, Dutch quad-play operator VodafoneZiggo has revealed that it is in preliminary discussions to find a buyer for its tower portfolio. With Cellnex looking to consolidate in the Dutch market, and Deutsche Funkturm already operational, there will no doubt be plenty of interest in these ~600 assets.
Russia: New 5G venture goes ahead despite protests
Rostelecom and Megafon have confirmed the launch of their 5G joint venture ‘Digital for Business’. The startup will focus on shared 5G infrastructure and the acquisition of 5G spectrum, initially in large cities and moving into wider national coverage. The venture will be headed by Vadom Semenov, a member of the Rostelecom board of directors.
Bolivia: Phoenix Tower International acquires Trilogy International Partners’ towers
PTI has agreed to purchase 600 towers from Trilogy’s subsidiary NuevaTel. 400 sites have already been transferredand the total value of the transaction is US$100mn.
Chile: regulator announces 5G auction plans
Chilean regulator Subcretaria de Telecomunicaciones (Subtel) has announced plans for a 5G spectrum auction, with a total of 60MHz in the 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands available to potential bidders.
During Mobile World Congress, Subtel stated that several global operators had already shown an interest in entering the market through the contest and the initial public consultation documents for the auction will be made available by the end of March.
Central America: Telefonica sells Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica units
Telefonica has announced the sale of the entire share capital of Telefonica Moviles Panama, Telefonica de Costa Rica and Telefonia Celular de Nicaragua to Millicom for a combined enterprise value of USD1.65 billion in cash
Colombia: MinTIC announces long-delayed 700MHz auction
The Ministerio de Tecnologias de Informacion y las Comunicaciones (MinTIC) has announced that the much awaited 700MHz spectrum auction should take place in October this year.
Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia: Uniti Towers sells assets to Phoenix Tower International
PTI has agreed to purchase Uniti Towers’ LatAm business, including around 500 towers across Mexico, Nicaragua and Colombia, for US$100mn.
Peru: Telefónica launches “Internet para todos”
The Spanish telecom group is launching an open-access, wholesale broadband mobile internet service in Peru that aims to expand coverage in rural areas. The project, Internet para todos (IPT), is supported byFacebook, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Development Bank of Latin America and aims to bring a new, open approach to network deployment that can be replicated across Latin America to deliver mobile broadband to remote areas.
Africa and Middle East news
Ethiopia: Ethiopian tower sale mooted as Ethio Telecom privatization heats up
Last month we reported that the Ethiopian government had created an independent telecoms regulator, this month we can reveal that discussions on how to privatise Ethio Telecom’s towers are also taking place. Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed the privatisation was going ahead in the Financial Times and that the telco was the number one priority for privatisation. TowerXchange understands there are ambitions to finalise the privatisation by the end of the year and to issue up to two further operator licences. A number of African and Middle Eastern carriers are said to be showing an active interest. TowerXchange further understands that ownership of the country’s 7-8,000 existing towers remains undecided, with multiple options being explored, including management within Ethio Telecom, a partnership with an independent towerco or a comprehensive sale and leaseback. Plans on how to manage the country’s substantial build-to- suit requirements are also ongoing. Infrastructure coverage of Ethiopia is at about 85 percent and there are 60 million mobile subscribers in a population of 105mn.
The GCC: 5G development racing ahead in the Gulf
Several deals have been inked in the Gulf in the last month for 5G equipment, software and services. In Saudi Arabia the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has inked deals with Nokia and Ericcson. The end-to-end Nokia 5G roll-out in the west and south of Saudi Arabia is already underway and expected to be finished by 2020. STC’s Ericsson deal uses the 3.5GHz band and will deployed alongside existing sites, the implementation is also already underway. In Qatar, Ooredoo has selected Ericsson to modernise its existing mobile network begin rolling-out 5G in the peninsula. Bahrain’s Viva has selected Huawei for its 5G partner in Bahrain and Kuwait. Huawei is also a vendor of choice in the United Arab Emirates where both Etisalat and Du are working with them. Etisalat is also working with Ericsson and Du is also working with Nokia, leading to three vendors being active across the seven Emirates of the UAE.
Kenya: After merger announcement, Airtel expands 3G and 4G coverage
Following last month’s announcement of a merger between Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya, Airtel Kenya has announced plans to roll-out over 800 3G and 4G across 40 locations to improve the reach and quality of its data services. The announcements follow Saraficom’s half year results announcement that its 4G coverage had grown 21ppts year on year to 53%, and its 3G coverage to 91%.
South Africa: Rain and Nokia launch 5G-ready network in Cape Town
South African operator Rain and Nokia have announced the first 5G-ready network in South Africa. The deployment is set to start in the first quarter of 2019 with services launching mid-2019 when 5G ready handsets become available. The deployment uses 3600MHz spectrum because rain already owns the 5G-capable frequencies, the system uses Massive MIMO technology. The roll-out will continue through 2020 and extend coverage to more areas.
South Africa: MTN annual report moots potential disposal of towerco equity stakes
MTN’s recently released annual report hints that some or all of the equity stakes it has built up in African towercos may be sold off. The report states: “We also reviewed our non-mobile assets, including our existing investments in tower companies and e-commerce ventures. While these are important and material investments where we need a tight commercial and operational integration with our mobile assets wherever possible, they are not viewed as long-term strategic holdings of the group. As a result of this review, we plan to realise at least R15 billion in asset realisations over the next three years excluding any proceeds from IHS. Proceeds will be used to reduce holding company debt.” TowerXchange understands MTN owns a substantial minority stake in IHS Towers as well as 49% stakes in ATC Ghana and ATC Uganda. The telecom giant also plans to pull back from its marginal telecoms markets and has already sold its 53% shareholding in Mascom Wireless Botswana to Zimbabwe’s Econet for around US$300 million.
India: Vodafone Idea in talks to create fibre JV with Bharti Airtel
Vodafone Idea is in talks with Bharti Airtel to create a joint venture for their fibre infrastructure. In a recent Economic Times article, Airtel’s Chairman Sunit Mittal was quoted stating “We have asked Vodafone Idea to come and join the fibre company… We are starting with our own fibre company and if Vodafone Idea brings its fibre assets, then they will get appropriate shares.”
Indonesia: Indosat evaluates tower sale
The Wall Street Journal reports that Indosat could be assessing additional tower sales following the 2012 sale of 2,500 sites to Tower Bersama. The operator owns a portfolio of over 8,500 sites in the country.
Indonesia: Tri is building more than 8,000 4G and 4.5G BTS
PT Hutchison 3 Indonesia (Tri), who aims to become the leading MNO in the country, is massively investing in its infrastructure improvement. At the end of 2018, the operator started an aggressive expansion initiative and is now building more than 8,000 4G and 4.5G-enabled base transceiver stations. Tri’s CEO Cliff Woo stated that the operator’s 4G and 4.5G networks has connected more than 7,900 villages, in 281 cities and districts across the country and the company’s CEO also mentioned that its BTS infrastructure is ready to adopt 5G technology.
Regional: Axiata reignites edotco’s IPO talks
Various news outlets including Bloomberg announced that Axiata is re-evaluating a potential IPO of edotco. According to Bloomberg: “Axiata aims to list the unit in Kuala Lumpur as soon as this year and may seek a valuation of around $2.5 billion for the company.”
Oman: Ooredoo reaches 96% 4G population coverage
Ooredoo Oman’s ‘Supernet’ network now reached 96% of Oman’s population, following an extension into 25 new areas. “The availability of 4G services in rural areas is a big achievement along our journey,” said Eng. Ahmed Al Abri, Ooredoo’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, “It allows customers to stay connected with friends and families for longer to share, stream, chat, message and more. We remain committed to enriching the digital lives of people in Oman and providing them with a fantastic data experience.”
Kuwait: Viva and Huawei rolling out nationwide 5G
Viva Kuwait claims to be rolling out over 1,000 5G sites this year in strategic partnership with Huawei. They also announced the establishment of a 5G Innovation Centre in 2019, to explore, develop and launch new 5G use cases.
Egypt: Telecom Egypt announces new 5G plans
Telecom Egypt has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nokia to work on 5G use cases and roll out a 5G network. Adel Hamed, TE’s Managing Director & CEO, said: “We are delighted to sign this MoU with our strategic partner Nokia which paves the way for the development of 5G use cases in Egypt. This MoU marks a new chapter of the partnership between the two companies as it will allow our company to support the realisation of the digital transformation strategy in Egypt.”
Morocco: Changes to telecoms law boost ANRT powers
Changes to the Moroccan Post and Telecomunications Act have been made to give more power to the national regulator, Agence Nationale de Reglementation de Telecom (ANRT) which will allow the ANRT to impose penalties of up to 2% of turnover in cases of infringement. Other issues are also tackled including consumer protection and infrastructure sharing.
14 February 2019
Belgium: MNOs incentivised to cover white spots
Philippe De Backer, Belgian Telecom Minister, has revealed plans to reduce spectrum fees for MNOs who improve their coverage in grey and white spots in Belgium. The government aims to encourage MNOs to invest in 23 rural areas with poor coverage, incentivising them with discounts of 80% on spectrum fee.
Finland: EIB invests €90mn in DNA 5G infrastructure
DNA, a Finnish multi-service operator, has reached a funding agreement with the European Investment bank (EIB) for €90mn. The initial €50mn element was agreed on in Q318, with the second, €40mn installment secured in Q119. DNA intends to spend the loan on 5G rollout, as well as increasing the capacity of its 4G network.
Russia: 5G infrastructure operator plans getting pushback
As Russian MNOs, government and infrastructure players enter into talks to determine the shape of 5G infrastructure in Russia, the ‘big three’ Russian MNOs (MTS, Beeline and MegaFon) are reported to be unhappy about government plans to create one entity to build and manage 5G infrastructure. While the Russian government claims that a single entity could cut the cost of 5G rollout by half, Russia’s largest MNOs are pushing for a collaborative approach between all of the MNOs. The proposal has also been given the thumbs down by the Federal Antimonopoly Service, although communications players Rostelecom and Tele2 Russia are both in favour of the government’s plan.
Spain: Towerco for sale
Regional Spanish towerco Telecom-CLM (Telecom Castilla-La Mancha), has recently launched a sale process, with TMT Finance reporting that Dutch bank ING is running the sale. Telcom-CLM owns and operates broadcasting towers available for telecoms colocation in Madrid and the central parts of Spain, and is currently owned by private equity investor GED Capital.
Switzerland: 5G auction complete
Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt, Switezerland’s mobile network operators, have spent CHF379mn (US$378mn) on 5G compatible spectrum in the latest wave of auctions in Europe. Swisscom paid CHF195.6mn, Salt deployed CHF94.5mn and Sunrise’s spectrum bands cost CHF89.2mn.
Sunrise CEO Olaf Swantee was quoted as saying: ‘We prepared meticulously for the auction, resulting in prudent use of our resources to secure valuable spectrum. This clever bidding strategy has secured the implementation of our 5G strategy as planned … We were able to acquire the strategically most important bands at a very favourable price per MHz, even better than the competition … We are therefore very satisfied with the outcome of the auction. Now it’s up to the Federal Council to amend mobile network radiation limits so the economy and entire population can really benefit from this positive starting point.’
UK: CTIL plans moving ahead
CTIL, the joint venture between Vodafone and O2 which manages 16,500 UK towers, will be subject to ‘potential monetisation’ as part of Vodafone’s plans to reduce debt through the sale of tower infrastructure in Europe. This could involve the re-structuring and partial sale of the entity, as well as opening up the infrastructure to make it available to additional tenants on a commercial basis.
Argentina: ARSAT to release frequencies in favour of telecom players
ENACOM is looking at repurposing some frequencies that were exclusively reserved to ARSAT to promote the competition among telecom players. The new Decree 58/2019 will require ENACOM to ensure ARSAT still holds enough frequencies to fulfil its purposes.
Brazil: Oi looking at divesting more non-core assets
The troubled Brazilian MNO hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) to divest more telecom towers and data centres. The company looks at raising between US$404-538mn to finance improvements across its mobile and broadband operations.
Mexico: Movistar sells fibre assets in Mexico
Movistar Mexico has sold off certain non-core fibre-optic assets at the end of last year. According to an article on Spanish newspaper El Economista, Movistar’s subsidiary Pegaso PCS has transferred unspecified network assets to Even Telecom and Neutral Networks, companies owned by Latin American private equity firm Southern Cross Group.
Regional: Liberty-Millicom’s merger talks fall apart
The two regional MNOs briefly negotiated a merger deal that was later scrapped due to Millicom’s concerns regarding the cash involved in the bid (US$7.6bn). Millicom operates in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay while Liberty (established in 2017 following the split from Liberty Global) is active in over twenty markets across CALA.
Regional: Telefónica in talks to sell Central America units to America Movil for US$648mn
Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has announced its intention to sell two of its operations in Central America to América Móvil for US$648 million. The company is looking at selling the entire share capital of Telefónica Móviles Guatemala and 99.3% of Telefónica Móviles El Salvador.
Regional: Uniti Group assessing sale of CALA unit
Uniti Towers, the CALA unit of Uniti Group, is reportedly up for sale. With around 500 towers across Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua, Uniti Towers was launched following the acquisition of NMS’ assets in 2016.
Ethiopia: New regulator to enable telecoms competition in Africa’s second largest country
Last week Ethiopia announced the creation of an independent telecoms regulator to oversee and manage the communications sector. Establishing an independent regulator is one of the key steps towards privatising Ethio Telecom and the issuance of licences enabling international MNOs to enter the country, ending one of the few remaining state monopolies in Africa. A surge in investment form 2013 onwards saw coverage expand from below 30% to around 60% today, but further expansion has stalled due to a lack of debt capacity by the Ethiopian state. The new regulation creates a duty and responsibility for Ethio Telecom to share its towers with any newly licenced MNOs. However, the draft copy of the regulation published was silent on the establishment or licencing of independent tower companies. The announcement of an independent regulator follows last month’s announced investment in a new fibre-optic backbone for the East African state, and the broader liberalisation programme championed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Kenya: Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya to merge
Following abandoning talks in June of last year, this week it was announced that Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya have agreed to a merger. The new company will operate as Airtel-Telkom and will seek efficiencies of scale and improvements to operations to propel the combined entity into profitability. Both brands will survive independently but it is hoped the merged company will be better able to compete with Safaricom, which currently holds 69% of the Kenyan market. It is unclear where this leaves the KES1 billion (USD9.8 million) fibre, 3G and 4G investment announced by Telkom Kenya last month. Telkom is 60% owned by Helios Investment Partners, with the rest held by the Kenyan government. Airtel Kenya’s sole shareholder is India’s Bharti Airtel. Eaton Towers acquired Airtel’s Kenyan portfolio of 1,285 towers when Airtel Africa divested most of its African towers. Last year American Tower acquired 715 towers from Telkom Kenya. Only a limited number of towers overlap, and so it is unclear to what extent this merger will lead to decommissioning over the short term.
South Africa: Helios Towers forms South African JV and announces deal for SA Towers
Helios Towers South Africa (HTSA) was formed earlier this year. It is 66% owner by Helios Towers and 34% owned by local full-service fibre and mobile network construction provider Vulatel. Helios Towers owns over 6,500 towers in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Congo Brazzaville, and is now entering South Africa to build greenfield mobile tower infrastructure and fibre-optic infrastructure. Shortly after its announced formation, it was also announced that HTSA was acquiring a controlling stake in SA Towers for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition of SA Towers will come with a small portfolio of towers, a pipeline of build-to-suit tower opportunities and a management team with extensive local planning and permitting experience.
South Africa: Electronic Communications Amendment (ECA) Bill withdrawn, wholesale open-access network (WOAN) in doubt
South Africa’s new communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has withdrawn the Electronic Communications Amendment (ECA) Bill. Among other changes to telecoms regulation, the ECA Bill had proposed the creation of a wholesale open-access network (WOAN) which would have been handed high-demand spectrum and tasked with creating a carrier neutral network of shared wireless infrastructure. The ECA Bill and its proposed wholesale network and forced infrastructure sharing had been widely opposed by the South African telecoms sector. It is unclear if the ECA Bill will be reintroduced in its current form or if plans for the WOAN have been shelved permanently.
Tanzania: Airtel Tanzania resolves ownership brouhaha with Tanzanian government
Australia: TPG suspends network rollout due Huawei ban
TPG Telecom is stopping its planned mobile network rollout following Australia’s ban on the MNO infrastructure partner Huawei. In August 2018, the federal government blocked the telecoms from rolling out Australia’s 5G network saying the involvement of any companies “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” presented too much of a risk. Previously, TPG had selected the Chinese vendor as its supplier for the network, as the company believed doing so would allow for a simple upgrade path from 4G to 5G technology.
India: Jio creating fibre and tower units
Reliance Jio might spin off its tower portfolio to reduce its debt. The Economic Times have reported that the MNO is demerging its towers and fibre assets as part of a company-wide modernisation plan and to reduce its capex while getting closer to completing its network rollout. The newly formed entities are being created and called Jio Digital Fibre and, for the tower unit, Reliance Jio Infratel.
Indonesia: Indosat Ooredoo prepares for network expansion
The operator is issuing bonds in three different phases to finance its network expansion initiative. The Jakarta Post reported that Chris Kanter, the MNO’s President Director, plans to allocate a total of US$706mn to finance the company’s network infrastructure – including radio frequency, packet core and gateway–as well as to enhance its IT infrastructure. BCA Sekuritas, CGS CIMB Sekuritas Indonesia, DBS Vickers Sekuritas, Indo Premier Sekuritas and Mandiri Sekuritas have been appointed joint lead underwriters, while Bank Rakyat Indonesia has been appointed as trustee.
Laos: edotco enters Laos
edotco has filed an announcement with the Bursa Malaysia (the national Stock Exchange) regarding its entrance into Laos in light of the growth potential of the market over the next three years. edotco has acquired an 80% stake in local company Mekong Tower Company Limited (MTCL) as part of its entrance strategy.
Myanmar: edotco keeps pushing sustainable solutions
edotco is developing two renewable energy initiatives in Myanmar that aim to increase operational and energy efficiencies as well as reduce opex while reinforcing the company’s environmental commitment.
The Malaysian infrastructure innovator has recently launched the first hybrid solar-wind turbine energy solution in the country, a home-grown innovation that provides complete off-grid reliability, serving as an efficient way to power up towers located in remote areas with low electricity access. Additionally, edotco Myanmar has collaborated with local solar provider Mandalay Yoma on an initiative that is connecting towers with mini solar grids to reduce diesel generators dependence, carbon emissions and noise pollution.
Regional: Telenor being pushed to spin off its towers
Constructive Capital, an activist investor in Telenor, is pushing the MNO to spin off its telecom tower portfolio. According to the investor, the move would increase the MNO’s share price by as much as 84% as well as reduce its debt.
The Philippines: Telecommuting Act pushes MNOs to improve service
The national government has approved a new law to allow telecommuting to ease the congestion in metropolitan areas. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting secretary Eliseo M. Rio highlighted that “The ball is now on the telcos’ court to gear up for the possible increase of demand for faster and more reliable internet connection. The government is upping the ante when it comes to investing on ICT projects, but if we wish for impact to be felt by the people sooner, we expect the telcos to do the same.”
The Philippines: DITC to continue tower initiative despite Mislatel controversy
DITC has confirmed that it will continue with its common tower initiative despite the controversy surrounding Mislatel’s appointment as the country’s third telco.
DICT’s Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio recently declared that they will proceed with its common tower project even if Mislatel license gets cancelled: “We will go ahead with the initiative even if we have only two telcos because the fact remains that we still need an additional 50,000 towers to improve our connectivity.”
The Philippines: Five new towercos enter the market
DICT has added five towercos to its common tower provider programme. IHS Towers, edotco Group, China Energy Engineering Group, RT Telecom and Aboitiz InfraCapital have joined ISOC Infrastructure and ISON ECP Tower as the seven entities allowed to operate in the country. Eliseo M. Rio, DICT acting secretary, was cited by local news outlets stating that “We will welcome more parties in this venture as it will address the country’s backlog on telecommunication towers, […] as with less than 20,000 towers, the Philippines has the least amount of mobile infrastructure compared to its neighbours.”
The Philippines: Mislatel to start operating in 2020
Newly licensed Mislatel has announced its plan to launch commercial service in late 2020 – pending various required approvals – and cover at least 17 key cities within the first two years of operations. The MNO will target 37% population coverage after one year of operations and 84% after five years.
The Philippines: PLDT, Globe rumoured to sell off their towers
Earlier this week, House Representative Luis Campos Jr. suggested that the country’s incumbent MNO’s PLDT and Globe will likely end up selling off their tower assets to any one of the seven independent tower companies currently involved in the country’s common tower initiative. ‘We see both PLDT and Globe eventually assigning their 16,000 towers to any or all of the non-aligned firms providing shared towers, now that the government has permitted at least seven of them to operate,” Campos Jr. stated.
Vietnam: Viettel considering North Korea expansion
Vietnamese telecoms giant Viettel is reportedly exploring an entrance into North Korea. The operator initially requested permission to build its network in the county back in 2010 and it’s now waiting for some sanctions to be lifted while expecting the country to be opened to foreign investors. After successfully launching operations in Myanmar last year, the global operator is also in talks to buy stakes in existing MNOs in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Vietnam: Viettel to start testing 5G
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has granted Viettel with the country’s first license to test 5G mobile communication services.
The trial period is valid for one year until 21 January 2020 and allows the military-owned operator to test the technology in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s two major cities. Viettel is permitted to test 5G at up to 73 locations but they can’t charge users testing its service.
Saudi Arabia: STC pushing 5G rollout further
Saudi Telecom Company has announced the first phase of its 5G rollout programme, with over 450 sites now deployed. According to CEO Nasser Al Nasser on Al-Arabiya TV, STC will launch its 5G network in H2 2019.
Saudi Arabia: Massive MIMO milestone hit in Jeddah
Zain KSA has begin rolling out Massive MIMO in Jeddah alongside their deployment partners Nokia, using Nokia’s AirScale Massive MIMO antenna. Abdulaziz Al Deghaither, CEO of Zain Saudi Arabia, said: ‘This pilot is a significant milestone in our journey towards 5G. The deployment of Massive MIMOhelps us meet our customers’ evolving needs for the best experience even while using multiple bandwidth-hungry applications. As our longstanding partner, we are confident that Nokia’s proven expertise will allow us to provide innovative use cases to Zain KSA’s individual and enterprise customers.’
10 January 2019
Oman: Third MNO license to be issued imminently
According to Oman’s regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Oman’s third MNO will be granted a license in the near future and an announcement will be made as to the new MNO in early 2019. As new spectrum is allocated to the country’s MNOs and plans for more effective tower sharing are underway, the Omani telecoms landscape will see significant change in 2019.
Tunisia: Timescale for 5G licenses announced
Tunisian Minister for Technologies Communication and Digital Economy, Anouar Maarouf, has announced that 5G licenses will be issued in 2021, as part of Tunisia’s push to grow its digital economy. It is belived that operators will be allowed to stagger their payments to ensure a faster rollout.
France: TDF for sale
TDF is believed to have hired two banks in order to launch a sale process at the end of January. Acquired by Brookfield, Arcus and APG in 2014, TDF has focussed on fibre growth in recent years and CEO Olivier Huart has turned around the fortunes of France’s incumbent broadcast towerco, which is now reporting growth after a few tough years. The sale is expected to raise as much as €5bn, or 14x EBITDA.
Italy: Cellnex secures 5G agreement with Fastweb in Italy
Cellnex’s latest deal will allow Italian ISP Fastweb to access Cellnex’s 5G infrastructure in Rome, Genoa, Bari and Matera.
“Through this agreement, Fastweb confirms its commitment to play a leading role in developing 5G infrastructure and services in Italy and today the company has added another key element to its strategy to position itself as the first Italian fixed-mobile telephony operator that is fully convergent for 2020,” said Andrea Lasagna, Fastweb Technology Manager.
“The agreement with Fastweb represents one more step in our strategy to create innovative multi-operator infrastructures” said Alfonso Álvarez, deputy GM of Cellnex Italia. “We are proud that an operator such as Fastweb has chosen our infrastructure for testing 5G, a technology that will offer better connectivity, at high speed, capable of handling an unprecedented amount of data.”
Spain: Telefonica reacts to Eliott rumours
Rumours that US investor Elliott is eyeing opportunities in Telefonica have been denied, but the news has put additional pressure on Telefonica Chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete. Elliott’s sacking of the Telecom Italia CEO in Q418 and plans for the rapid sell off of infrastructure are applying further pressure on Telefonica, Europe’s joint second most endebted MNO with KPN, to deleverage. At Vodafone and CK Huchison explore ways to exploit their towers to pay down debt, it remains to be seen what move Telefonia (which carved out its towers and subsea cable in to Telxius in 2016) will do next.
Brazil: Surf’s up! starts LTE rollout in Sao Paulo
Mobile virtual network enabler EUTV (Surf Telecom) has started the deployment of its 4G LTE network in Sao Paulo. Surf Telecom, which has held a 15MHz block of 2.5GHz spectrum since 2016, aims for its network to be operational in the next few months, starting in the municipalities of Diadema and Maua Maua. Connectivity will not be offered to end-users but will be used to support Surf’s existing MVNO clients.
Surf’s CEO Yon Moreira da Silva confirmed to a local media outlet that 20,000 antennas will be installed on cell sites owned by American Tower and Phoenix Tower International between now and the end of 2020.
Mexico: Televisa buys Axtel’s fibre business
Mexican broadcaster and cable TV provider Grupo Televisa has acquired some of Axtel’s fibre assets for US$234 mn, adding 4,432 km of fibre and 227, 802 commercial and residential clients to its portfolio.
Axtel is selling its fibre assets in Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Ciudad de México, Ciudad Juárez and Zapopan, as the company will keep looking for potential buyers for its remaining fibre portfolio in the country.
Venezuela: Movistar won’t leave the country
Movistar’s President in Venezuela, José Luis Rodríguez Zarco, confirmed last December that the Spanish MNO will continue operating the 2,700 sites that the company owns in Venezuela despite the country’s difficult social and political situation. During 2018, the company suffered from vandalism and thefts in 348 sites and around 100 towers are currently out of service.
Burkina Faso: 4G rollout on the horizon as government approves technology neutral licenses
The government of Burkina Faso has approved technology neutral licenses, enabling the country’s MNOs to use 2G and 3G spectrum for 4G networks. Onatel (owned by Maroc Telecom) launched 4G trials in December, with Orange having trialled 4G in November, suggesting that the operators are ramping up for a launch.
Nigeria: MTN and Central Bank of Nigeria reach agreement over repatriation dispute
After an ongoing dispute regarding the alleged inappropriate repatriation of US$8.1bn by MTN Nigeria, the operator has submitted documentation to the Central Bank of Nigeria which has satisfied the bank that historical dividend payments to MTN Nigeria’s shareholders do not need to be reversed. The bank has however maintained that private placements of around US$1bn in 2008 were irregular and a such MTN and the CBN have reached a resolution that MTN will pay the notional reversal amount of US$52.6mn without admission of liability.
South Africa: Liquid Telecom to launch open access LTE network
Liquid Telecom has announced plans to launch an open access LTE network in 2019, offering wholesale roaming to other MNOs.
Australia: Telstra enables 5G in Sidney and Melbourne
Right after Australia’s 3.6GHz spectrum auction in December, Telstra has enabled 5G for the first time at its cell sites in Melbourne and Sydney. The MNO started switching to 5G technology at its towers back in August, and it has now become the first Australian MNO to have 5G-enabled sites in all major cities. The company has enabled 5G at a total of 187 mobile base stations.
Cambodia: edotco buys 325 towers
Regional infrastructure leader edotco has recently announced the acquisition of 325 towers in Cambodia. The assets were acquired from South East Asia Telecom (Cambodia) Co Ltd, in line with edotco’s expansion strategy. The deal, which was approved by the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia in late December, strengths edotco’s position as the leading independent tower company in the country.
Indonesia: Smartfren will take over Bolt!’s 4G operations
Indonesian MNO PT Smartfren Telecom is taking over the operations of 4G LTE mobile internet provider Bolt PT Internux, whose frequency permit was recently terminated by the Ministry of Communications and Information Tehcnology (MCIT) after the company failed to pay the fees to operate for more than two years.
The Philippines: Globe to invest in data centres
Through its ICT division Globe Busines, Philippines’ operators Globe Telecom has entered a new joint venture with TechZone Philippines to provide data center services to local IT gaming enterprises.
TechGlobal Data Center will provide services from TechGlobal’s carrier-neutral data centre in the Philippines, which is currently being operated and maintained by Globe Telecom’s Data Centre Operations team.
Myanmar: Ooredoo and Nokia set up a 5G centre for Myanmar University
Myanmar’s Ooredoo has partnered with Nokia to set up the first 5G-ready Technology Centre in Myanmar. The Centre is the result of a joint project with Yangon Technological University (YTU), which will be utilized by the students of Myanmar’s first diploma program in telecommunications.
Sri Lanka: Dialog Axiata completes 5G pilot
Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata has successfully completed South Asia’s first fully functional 5G pilot transmission over commercial grade base stations and end-user devices.
The pre-commercial 5G trial was conducted alongside the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), using spectrum in the 3.5-GHz band that was assigned by the regulator for 5G trials. The trial achieved pilot speeds of over 2Gbps.
In August 2017, Dialog Axiata conducted a 5G demonstration in a laboratory environment, in conjunction with Huawei and Ericsson. The company said that 20% of its base stations are now 5G ready due to the deployment of Massive MIMO technology.
Thailand: NBTC will shut down 2G by October 2019
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is set to shut down the existing 2G networks by 31 October 2019 to give mobile operators more efficient network capacity and pave the way to 5G wireless broadband service by 2020.
21 December 2018
Kuwait: Zain lays foundations for 5G rollout
Zain Kuwait has announced that it will be ready for 5G rollout as soon as spectrum can be allocated and the regulatory authorities grant permission to launch. According to the Kuwait Times, Zain stated that ‘once commercially launched, the 5G network will empower government entities and enterprise (B2B) digital transformation, smart city development and the fourth industrial revolution’.
Saudi Arabia: IHS and Zain reach agreement for second portfolio of towers
Zain and IHS Towers have announced an agreement for the sale and leaseback of 8,100 towers in Saudi Arabia for around SAR2.43bn (US$648mn). As with the two parties’ agreement in Kuwait, which is expected to close imminently, the deal will cover passive infrastructure only, for a period of 15 years with a five-year renewal option and a build to suit agreement for a further 1,500 towers over six years.
Egypt: Etisalat Misr increasing funds for infrastructure deployment
Etisalat’s Egyptian opco, Etisalat Misr, is reported to have increased infrastructure capex for 2019 to as much as EGP4.5bn (US$251mn). Quoted in the Daily News Egypt, Etisalat Misr CEO Hazen Matwally stated that the increase in plans is driven by fast growth in data demand in the country.
France: Altice finds investors for FTTH offering
Allianz Capital Partners, AXA Investment Managers-real Estate Assets and OMERS Infrastructure have agreed to buy 49.99% of Altice’s fibre SPV, SFRFTTH for €1.8bn, valuing the asset at €3.6bn in a transaction due to close in H119. Like SFR TowerCo, SFRFTTH has been created to consolidate Altice’s infrastructure assets in France, in particular in less densely-populated areas, encompassing five million fibre plugs and with an ambition to pass ‘at least one million’ new homes per annum over the next four years.
Russia: UFG buys out Macquarie stake in Russian Towers
UFG announced this week that it has bought out a ‘large minority stake’ in Russian Towers from co-investor Macquarie Russia & CIS Investment Fund (MRIF). Russian Towers is the largest and most geographically diverse towerco in Russia and has worked hard to develop partnerships with localities and other infrastructure providers in the country.
Dominic Reed, Partner at UFG Private Equity remarked: ‘We are pleased that the UFG Asset Management platform increased its commitment to Russian Towers. This transaction re-enforces our interest in infrastructure as a distinctive asset class in our markets’.
Alexander Chub, CEO of Russian Towers commented: ‘We have had tremendous benefit from Macquarie’s expertise in similar businesses around the globe and we are grateful for MRIF’s important contribution to the success of Russian Towers during their time as shareholders’.
UK: CityFibre and Arqiva partner up for London small cell trial
As towers, fibre and other communications infrastructure increasingly converge, Arqiva and CityFibre have announced the ‘largest pilot of wholesale, 5G-ready small cell infrastructure’ in the UK. Due to be rolled out in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, this multi-million pound project will involve creating a new 15km high density fibre ring with over 90 cabinets to enable the sharing of infrastructure and will be multi-operator capable to allow MNOs to ‘explore advanced technology including centralised C-Ran architecture and 5G.’ Arqiva already has a agreement with Hammersmith & Fulham to make use of the borough’s lampposts and other street assets, which are seen as an ‘integral part’ of the network rollout.
UK: BT and EE to remove Huawei equipment from towers
Following the move by governments in the US, Australia and New Zealand to block Huawei’s presence in critical national infrastructure, and the UK government’s current assessment of whether to do the same, BT has announced that it will strip Huawei equipment out of its core 4G network within the next two years.
A BT spokesperson said that Huawei remains an “important equipment provider and a valued innovation partner” to BT and a Huawei spokesman said the supplier continued to work with BT on 5G. “Huawei has been working with BT for almost 15 years,” the spokesman said. “Since the beginning of this partnership, BT has operated on a principle of different vendors for different network layers. This agreement remains in place today.”
Brazil: Oi to partner with Nokia to increase FTTH connectivity
Brazilian operator Oi has signed a long-term technology partnership with Nokia that will enable the MNO to meet increasing demand for fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in the country. The agreement will also expand Oi’s mobile broadband coverage and capacity ahead of 5G implementation. The Finnish vendor will extend Oi’s FTTH network to cover ten million homes by 2021 as well as deploy its AirScale single RAN solution to support 2G, 3G and 4G services, while preparing for the delivery of 5G.
Colombia: ETB sale blocked by court
An administrative court has prohibited the Capital District of Bogota from selling its 88.4% stake in local MNO Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogota (ETB), which reaffirmed an initial decision handed down by the country’s Fourth Administrative Court in July 2017.
Cuba: ETECSA launches 3G
Cuban state-owned operator Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) has officially launched 3G mobile internet access for pre-paid customers. The network utilises the 900MHz frequency band and is accessible for subscribers with compatible handsets.
Cuba: Telefónica offers to connect Cuba
Telefónica has offered to connect Cuba to its international cable system, aiming to improve the country’s internets access. The company has made the announcement during an official visit to the country by Spain’s president Pedro Sanchez, who was accompanied by a delegation of Spanish companies interested in expanding their businesses in the island.
The Spanish multi-country operator offered to connect Cuba via branch line to its submarine cable network.
Honduras, Paraguay: Millicom to partner with Ericsson for network upgrades
Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has selected Ericsson to modernise Tigo’s RAN infrastructure in Paraguay and Honduras. MIC has signed a multi-year deal with the Swedish vendor, who will implement its Ericsson Radio System portfolio into approximately 1,000 cell sites across the two countries.
Additionally, Ericsson will expand Tigo’s existing networks on both markets, modernising the existing 2G, 3G and 4G sites, as MIC prepares for the future implementation of IoT and 5G. The upgrade will also improve indoor coverage by deploying Ericsson’s Radio Dot System as well as enable full 4×4 MIMO capabilities.
Mexico: Millicom interested in Telefónica assets
Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has expressed its interest in Telefónica assets, as the Spanish giant explores the divestment of its Mexican and Central American subsidiaries. An article at El Economista highlights that MIC’s CFO Tim Pennington confirmed his firm’s interest, although MIC’s existing Central American footprint could lead to competition concerns in some regional markets.
Telefonica Mexico is likely to be valued at between €1.1bn (US$1.3bn) and €1.9bn, while the telco’s combined Central American units are valued at around €760mn.
Regional: Airtel Africa appoints banks for IPO plans; tower sale on hold?
Airtel Africa has kicked off its IPO plans, appointing eight banks (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, BofA Merrill Lynch, Absa Group, Barclays, BNP Paribas and Standard Bank) to run the process. The move is part of Airtel Africa’s plans to reduce its debt which currently stands around US$5bn whilst also providing funds to support its operations in an increasingly competitive market. Airtel had previously commenced plans to sell towers in five markets in which it is yet to divest tower portfolios, reportedly having received bids from multiple towercos and beginning the process to narrow down the offers to 2-3 shortlisted bidders. With IPO plans looking to move forward, observers feel that the tower sale may be delayed until after the listing is finalised although at the time of going to press we await further news.
Angola: MTN withdraws from fourth license tender
MTN has reportedly withdrawn its interest in acquiring Angola’s fourth MNO license, claiming that the tender is flawed. Angola currently has two operational MNOs, market leaders Unitel who dominate the market and Movicel, whilst Angola Telecom holds the country’s third MNO license. Reports suggest that MTN’s withdrawal leaves just one player in the running for Angola’s fourth operating license, a local start-up called Telstar Telecomunicações.
Ghana: AirtelTigo completes network integration
After having merged operations in October 2017, AirtelTigo has announced that it has completed the integration of Airtel and Tigo’s respective networks. The operator is now Ghana’s third largest operators by subscribers.
Niger: Government orders closure of Airtel and Orange offices over unpaid taxes
The Niger government has ordered the closure of Airtel’s operations in the country over reportedly unpaid taxes accounting to 62mn CFA francs. Airtel, Niger’s largest operator disputes the claim which accounts to approximately 70% of its annual revenues from the market. The news follows on from recent steps taken by Niger’s tax authorities on Orange’s opco in the country, with the government demanding 22bn CFA francs, a figure disputed by the operator.
Nigeria: MTN enters into settlement talks with Central Bank of Nigeria regarding US$8.1bn dispute
2018 has been a difficult year for MTN, with its share price having plummeted since authorities in Nigeria (the operator’s largest market) alleged that the MNO had illegally transferred US$8.1bn out of the country, made worse by the fact that MTN Nigeria stands accused of owing US$2bn in unpaid taxes. At the start of December, MTN entered into talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria to try and reach an out of court settlement on the US$8.1bn dispute with discussions currently reported at an advanced stage.
South Africa: ECA bill adoption postponed until after 2019 general elections
South Africa’s Electronic Communications Amendment Bill which proposes the introduction of a whole sale open-access operator (WOAN) will no longer be passed in parliament before the 2019 general elections after the Democratic Alliance questioned its constitutionality.
Australia: 5G auction obtains US$616mn
The four Australian MNOs have collectively paid A$853 million (US$616.02 million) for 3.6-GHz 5G spectrum in the country’s latest auction. The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) has confirmed the successful completion of the auction, with all 350 available lots sold. The licenses will commence in March 2020 and run until December 2030.
Market leader Telstra led the bidding and secured 143 lots, while Optus obtained 47. A joint venture established between Vodafone Australia and TPG won 131 lots and the final successful bidder was UK operator Dense Air Australia, which has revealed plans to offer carrier neutral 5G densification services.
India: Jio to hive off tower and fibre assets
According to the Economic Times, Reliance Jio’s board has approved plans to hive off the MNO fibre and tower assets into two separate units. The decisions aim at facilitating the operator assets monetisation in the future as competition between Indian tops telcos increases. Jio owns and operates over 300,000km of fibre and around 220,000 towers.
Indonesia: Tri to build 8,000 4G towers
Hutchison 3 Indonesia (Tri) plans to build 8,000 new 4G sites next year to improve its mobile internet capabilities in the country. Tri’s COO Dolly Susanto said that the move will help the operator to reach its target of adding between five and ten million new customers in 2019.
Indonesia: Indosat Ooredoo expands it LTE-A network
Ooredoo’s Indonesian subsidiary has announced its plan to expand its LTE-A network (branded ‘4G Plus’) in North Sumatra. The operator has already deployed 586 new cell sites in the region and is now set to deploy 244 sites by February 2019.
Pakistan: PTCL and SCO to start fibre roll out in FATA
Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL) and the Special Communications Organisation (SCO) are partnering to deploy 600km of fibre-optic infrastructure in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The deployment is part of the government’s universal service programme that aims at facilitating access to basic telephone and data services in the area.
The Philippines: Globe gets US$40mn loan from BPI
Globe Telecom Inc. has recently signed a US$40mn loan facility with the Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI). “The loan shall be used to partially finance the company’s maturing obligations, capital expenditures, and general corporate requirements,” Globe said in a regulatory filing submitted by its director Jose Mari Fajardo.
Thailand: NBTC will auction 2.6GHz spectrum next year
Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is planning to auction spectrum in the 2600MHz band in the second half of 2019.
22 November 2018
Afghanistan: ATRA begins consultation on 4G
The Afghanistan Telecoms Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has recently launched a public consultation process for the efficiency of spectrum usage and 4G frequencies in order to determine the spectrum allocation process. Afghanistan’s regulator has set a price of US$25mn for an authorisation comprising 2×10MHz in the 2100MHz band and allowed MNOs to each purchase a license with unlimited availability.
Bangladesh: Teletalk announces infrastructure investments
Teletalk has announced several projects to improve and expand its network which include the deployment of 6,800 new sites and the upgrade of 5,500 existing ones. The MNO plans to invest US$656mn and the projects feature, among others, the deployment of 1,500 2G and 3G towers in rural areas as well as 1,100 4G towers in Dhaka and district headquarters.
China：5G cell sites booming in China
A new cell site for 5G network has started operating on the 16th November 2018 in Hai Nan province in China. The site is managed by China Mobile Hai Nan branch. Hai Nan province is planning to keep its expansion on the cell sites for 5G in 2019. It is stated that Hai Nan province becomes the 17th province in China which has built cell sites for 5G. To achieve the nationally 5G launch on the 3rdquarter of 2019, three Chinese MNOs, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, are speeding up to have the trials for 5G network across the regions in China.
India: Vodafone Idea reports first post-merger results
Vodafone Idea published its first quarterly results since the merger and reported a net loss of INR49.5bn for the quarter. Subscribers went down from 435.4mn to 422.3mn and ARPU declined from INR92 to INR88. On a positive note, combined 3G and 4G subscriptions increased from 95.3mn to 99.7mn.
Japan: KDDI to launch 5G-based services next year
KDDI’s president Makoto Takahashi has recently confirmed that the operator will launch initial 5G-based services in 2019 to include high definition images and drone security. Takahashi mentioned that the initiative will start on a limited pre-commercial basis next year in order to fully launch the services by 2020.
Japan: SoftBank gets approval for IPO
SoftBank Group Corp has obtained approval to hold a JPY2.4 trillion (US$21.04 billion) initial public offering (IPO) of its domestic telecoms business. As reported by Reuters, the IPO could be one of the biggest to date. The company aims to gather the funds to reduce debt and continue investing in innovative projects to drive future tech trends globally.
SoftBank wants to sell 1.6bn shares at a price of JPY1,500 each, as confirmed in a filing to the Ministry of Finance. The final IPO price will be established on 10 December and SoftBank Corp will list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on 19 December, with an expected initial market value of JPY7.18tr.
Malaysia: Government to launch fibre rollout initiative
Malaysian government aims to launch its ‘National Fibre Connectivity Plan’ in 2019 with an allocation of MYR1 billion (US$240mn). Finance minister, Lim Guan Eng, stated: “The plan will develop our broadband infrastructure to ensure more efficient spectrum allocation to achieve the targeted 30Mbps speed in rural and remote areas within five years, as part of the overall plan to achieve world class infrastructure at affordable prices.”
Malaysia: edotco and Melaka to collaborate on infrastructure upgrade and roll out
Pan-Asian infrastructure giant edotco will collaborate with Melaka ICT Holdings Sdn Bhd (MITCH) to roll out and upgrade telecoms infrastructure in Melaka. 14 sites have already been earmarked for deployment of innovative infrastructure, aiming to boost wireless broadband service and quality in the region.
New Zealand: Vodafone signs 5G, IoT deal with Ciena
Vodafone New Zealand has signed a deal with Ciena that will support 5G, IoT, ultra-high definition (UHD) video and other bandwidth-heavy applications. The partnership aims to deploy “an adaptable and agile network” to meet Vodafone customers’ changing demands in real time. The MNO started testing 5G with Nokia in Auckland earlier this year. Furthermore, new Vodafone NZ’s CEO Jason Paris stated that he is trying to get the company “in shape” for an IPO in 2020.
Pakistan: Zong deploys 10,000th 4G site
Zong has reached the milestone of 10,000 4G sites across Pakistan, being the first MNO in the country to achieve the target. Over the next three years, the operator plans to add 5,000 4G sites to serve its growing base of LTE subscribers (which accounted for 47.5% of the total national 4G market or 8.52mn subscriptions as of Q3 2018).
The Philippines: Mislatel confirmed as third MNO
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has confirmed the consortium formed by local businessman Dennis Uy and state-owned China Telecommunications Corp. as the third telco player.
The NTC issued a new major player confirmation order on Nov 19 to the Mislatel consortium formed by Udenna Corp., Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., China Telecom and Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. Inc. Mislatel has now 90 days to submit to the NTC the necessary documents.
The new operator’s spokesman has publicly announced that the company has “hit the ground running” to meet regulator’s requirements. The Filipino-Chinese consortium is now raising P10 billion in capital, securing clearances from the Philippine Competition Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as getting approval from Congress on changes in its management, as Mislatel spokesman Adel Tamano stated. “We will make it a point to comply with everything in 90 days,” Tamano said.
South Korea: SK Telecom sign MoU with Keysight for 5G network deployment
South Korean MNO SK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US-based vendorKeysight Technologies and both companies will collaborate on 5G network design development and technology testing. The MoU covers the development of 5G device performance validation technology, test cases and processes to help verify new products performance.
Vietnam: CMSC takes over MNPT and MobiFone
The recently created Committee for the Management of State Capital (CMSC) has taken over the management of state-owned operators Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) and MobiFone Telecommunications Corporation. CMSC will officially take over the two firms, previously managed by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). The decision aims to improve operator’s efficiency and competitiveness. NPT and MobiFone are expected to undergo equitisation from next year.
Egypt: Telecom Egypt reports ten-fold increase in subscribers in the past year
Egypt’s newest mobile network operator, Telecom Egypt has reported a ten-fold YoY increase in its total subscriber base after just over a year of operations in the country. As of Q3 2018, the operator’s subscriber base is up to 3.59mn, versus 352,000 a year earlier.
Oman: Omantel to announce tower sale?
After months of speculation about a potential tower sale in Oman, an announcement from Omantel is expected to be imminent. The operator is understood to have around 2,000-2,500 ground-based towers, with roughly double that in rooftop sites.
Saudi Arabia: Progress from the CITC regarding towerco legislation
It is understood that the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission has made progress in recent weeks with regards to the creation of a towerco license in the country. The lack of a regulatory framework has been a key factor in holding up Zain’s tower sale to IHS and the commencement of commercial operations by Saudi Telecom Company’s Communications Towers. Some onlookers expect STC’s Communication Towers to commence operations by early 2019, whilst others in the market remain more sceptical as to the timeline for towercos to start operating in the market.
UAE: Regulator confirms 5G spectrum allocations
UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that it has issued spectrum to both Etisalat and du in the 3.3GHz-3.8GHz range.Tariq Awadhi, executive director for spectrum management at the TRA, is quoted as saying: ‘This year, Etisalat and Du have been officially allocated 100MHz each to establish a 5G network. To begin with, they have started establishing it commercially on a small scale. Currently, it is available for home broadband.’
Ireland: eir commits €150m for network expansion
Recently acquired MNO eir has announced plans to invest €150mn in improving its mobile network in both rural and urban parts of the country, stating that it plans to add ‘hundreds’ of new sites to its network over the next two years. In addition, Iliad-owned eir plans to begin rolling out 5G in selected Irish cities from 2019.
Italy: EI Towers delists to have another run at RaiWay merger
Infrastructure fund F2i and Mediaset have successfully completed a takeover of Italian tower operator EI Towers, resulting in the delisting of EI from the Milan Stock Exchange. In July this year Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset announced its decision to convert its 40% stake in EI into a ‘significant minority’ stake in 2i towers, an SPV set up with F2i in order to facilitate the de-listing. EI’s attempts to acquire RaiWay in 2015 were blocked by the government at the time, who insisted on retaining 51% of the broadcaster. It’s hoped that, with Mediaset taking a back seat, the Italin government might be more in favour of a merger in 2019.
Italy: TIM investigates 5G network sharing, gets new CEO
Telecom Italia and Vodafone Italy were rumoured to have signed a non-disclosure agreement ahead of discussions on a 5G infrastructure sharing deal in Italy. As the highest bidders in Italy’s recent 5G spectrum auction, the deal could incorporate not only towers and active equipment, but also wireless spectrum. The results of the conversations, however, which had been planned for conclusion in Q119, will depend on the direction of new CEO Luigi Gubitosi, as Amos Genish was controversially ousted the day after the network sharing discussions were reported.
Norway: Ice Group planning IPO
Norwegian Ice Group plans to raise NOK3bn ($350mn) by launching an initial public offering and listing on the Oslo bourse. Ice Group did attempt a listing in 2017, which was cancelled in September 2017, however Ice Group CEO Eivind Helgaker said of the current plans: ‘We believe our continued network build-out will further enhance our customer proposition, competitiveness and overall profitability. The planned IPO is expected to provide us with added strategic and financial flexibility to support our growth ambitions. My team and I look forward to unlocking the significant potential we see in the Norwegian market.’
UK: Wireless Infrastructure Group purchasing Arqiva’s indoor business
Scottish Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) has agreed to buy Arqiva’s entire portfolio of indoor networks for an undisclosed sum. WIG recently raised £220m in long term funding and also acquired 27 Irish towers through the acquisition of Highpoint Communications. The Arqiva deal covers 42 networks across the UK, including Canary Wharf, Luton Airport and shopping centres such as Bluewater, Arndale and Meadowhall.
UK: Three UK committing £2bn infrastructure overhaul
In preparation for 5G, Three UK claims to be well underway towards completing a series of network upgrades worth £2bn, including acquiring the UK’s ‘leading 5G spectrum portfolio’, building a high-capacity dark fibre network connecting 20 new datacentres and rolling out new cell site technology in urban areas. UK chief executive Dave Dyson said: ‘This is a major investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure. UK consumers have an insatiable appetite for data and 5G unlocks significant capability to meet that demand … We have been planning our approach to 5G for many years and we are well positioned to lead on this next generation of technology. These investments are the latest in a series of important building blocks to deliver the best end to end data experience for our customers.’
Regional: Vodafone tower plan takes shape
Nick Read has added some colour to his earlier statement about divesting European towers, now stating that Vodafone plans to increase utilisation of 58,000 towers by either encouraging rival operators to use them (possibly in a model similar to UK JV CTIL, where Vodafone shares their network with Telefonica) or through selling a minority stake in a new single internal unit which is in the process of being created to drive efficiencies. Nick Read stated that “It’s important to maintain strategic control, the likelihood is more a minority (investment) if we go that route.”
Brazil: TIM makes non-binding offer to Nextel
TIM board of directors has given its green light to TIM Brasil to put forward a non-binding offer to acquire Nextel. Nextel Brasil holds 1.3% of the national mobile market but, more importantly, considerable spectrum rights in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Colombia: Telefónica absorbs local subsidiaries
Telefónica Colombia has incorporated two of its subsidiaries (Metrotel and Telebucaramanga), adding around 600,000 customers to its pool. The operator plans to upgrade its regional networks to LTE and to adopt fibre-optic technology.
Mexico: IFT to tender 5G-band in 2019
The Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT) will tender several additional frequencies in the 1700MHz and 2.5GHz bands in 2019. IFT has recently freed up the 600MHz band for 5G mobile use which could be auctioned in Q1 2019.
Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania: Airtel initiates process to sell remaining tower portfolios
Airtel has commenced proceedings to sell assets in its remaining five markets, Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania. The operator has previously sold towers in ten countries, divesting their portfolios to Helios in the DRC and Congo B, to American Tower in Nigeria, to IHS in Rwanda and Zambia and to Eaton in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Kenya and Uganda. Several parties are understood to have submitted bids, with two to three shortlisted bidders expected to be listed in the next few days.
Congo B, DRC, Ghana, Tanzania: Helios Towers announce Q3 2018 results and US$100mn loan facility
Helios Towers have reported revenues of US$88.1mn in Q3 2018, up 1% year-on-year, with adjusted EBITDA up 22% year-on-year to US$45.2mn. Tenancy ratio has increased 0.07x to 1.99x across their portfolio of 6,560 towers. The company has signed a US$100mn loan facility with Standard Bank, Barclays and the Mauritius Commercial Bank to fund expansion in existing and new markets as well as fund general corporate purposes.
DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda: Africell to expand networks with US$100mn loan
Africell has signed a US$100mn loan agreement with the US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to fund expansion of its networks across it’s existing operations in the DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. OPIC’s loan is part of their recently announced US$1bn Connect Africa initiative designed to improve data connectivity and access across the continent.
Madagascar: Towerco of Madagascar to be sold
Lazard has been given the mandate to run the sale of TELMA’s Towerco of Madagascar which owns approximately 1000 towers in the country. With an EBITDA of around US$30mn, sources suggest a valuation north of US$300mn could be achieved. The sale process is expected to be formally launched before the year end with both towercos and other investors having expressed an interest in the company.
Nigeria: Nigerian Communications Commission clears Teleology Holdings takeover of 9mobile
The Nigerian Communications Commission has cleared the takeover of the country’s fourth largest operator, 9mobile, by Teleology Holdings. Teleology Holdings reached a deal to acquire 9mobile back in February 2018, after the operator (formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria) defaulted on loan repayments, forcing its lenders to take over.
25 October 2018
Australia: DCA shares guidelines for next round of Mobile Blackspot Programme
The Department of Communications and the Arts (DCA) has recently 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 AUD25 million (USD18 million) 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 10 December 2018 to submit applications.
Bangladesh, Pakistan: VEON cancels share offer for Banglalink and Jazz
VEON has cancelled its offer to take direct ownership of Banglalink and Jazz, currently owned via its subsidiary Global Telecom Holding. The US$2.55bn share offer was launched in July but has been cancelled in light of the devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee.
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: KDDI to raise USD797m for 5G rollout
Japanese operator KDDI plans to raise JPY90 billion (USD797 million) 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
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
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.
Afghanistan: Consultation process for 4G spectrum begins
Having awarded 4G licenses to each of the country’s operators, the Afghanistan Telecoms Regulatory Authority has commenced a consultation process to determine how spectrum will be allocated, with a particular focus on the frequencies to be assigned. There are currently five MNOs operating in the Afghan market, Afghan Wireless (AWCC), Roshan, MTN, Etisalat and Afghan Telecom.
Bahrain: New regulations to affect up to 90% of Bahrain towers
In an extensive document produced by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) Bahrain, towers and telecoms infrastructure will be scrutinised and must confirm to new standards within 15 years. Affecting the quality and type of materials used, as many as 90% of Bahrain’s 1,500 towers will need to be ‘rectified’ to ensure quality, efficiency and minimal impact on their surroundings through the use of camouflage solutions.
Saudi Arabia: Mobily and Huawei sign MOU for 5G
Mobily and Huawei have signed an MOU covering a five year “Network 2023” plan which will see the two companies collaborate on designing and deploying a 5G network for the operator in the country.
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.
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 Bridge and American Tower keen to expand their footprints in Europe, Hutchison will be confident of receiving plenty of interest in the assets.
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.
UK: O2 UK IPO probably postponed until after Brexit
O2 UK, owned by Spanish Telefonica, 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.
Brazil: TIM and Vivo sign roaming agreement
TIM Brasil and Vivo have recently sealed a 3G roaming agreement that allows the two MNOs to use each other’s 3G infrastructure in 570 cities and towns.
Regional: Intelsat invest in Africa Mobile Networks
Satellite company, Intelsat, has made a strategic investment into rural connectivity provider Africa Mobile Networks. Africa Mobile Networks deploys low cost, solar powered rural base stations for mobile network operators, offering a network-as-a-service (NaaS) solution. The agreement will see Africa Mobile Networks use Intelsat’s satellite network to connect base stations to operator core networks.
Ghana & Uganda: GSMA launches Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity
The GSMA has launched the Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity, backed by the UK’s Department for International Development (DIFD). The fund is designed to test innovative ways to deploy mobile broadband in rural areas in partnership with Vodafone Ghana and MTN Uganda, and will provide grants of up to £300,000 to eligible companies. Applications must focus on one at least one of the following areas: active base station technology; passive infrastructure; energy; backhaul; operation and maintenance; or sustainable business models.
Tanzania: Bids received for Tigo Tanzania
Millicom has received non-binding offers from several parties for its opco Tigo Tanzania. Operators rumoured to have expressed an interest in the opco include Econet, MTN, Airtel and Vodacom (with the latter two companies already having a presence in the market).
Uganda: Teleology takes over Uganda Telecom
Private Equity firm Teleology Holdings has announced the acquisition of Uganda Telecom for a total of US$71mn, fighting off competition from Mauritius Telecom and Afrinet. Teleology Holdings will take a 67% stake, with the government retaining a minority position. Teleology Holdings made headlines earlier in the year, announced as the winning bidder in the acquisition of 9mobile (formerly Etisalat) in Nigeria
China Tower’s Q3 revenue largely increased
China Tower has just officially announced its 2018 Q3 results. It shows that the company’s revenue has increased 6.1% to CNY 53.6 billion. the company’s net profit has risen 16.7% CNY1.96 billion ($283 million), The growth comes from three business sectors, tower business was up 3.7% to CNY51.5 billion and its indoor distributed antenna system (DAS) business grew 79.3% to CNY1.33 billion. Compared with the same period of 2017’s CNY 63 million revenue, this year trans-sector site application and information (TSSAI) business revenue increased to CNY675 million.
Wednesday 10th October, 2018
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).
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.
Philippines: Vodafone linked with third operator bid
Vodafone Group is reportedly considering its participation in the Philippines’ third telco bid. According to GMA News, Philippine Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno confirmed the British telco interest. The secretary mentioned that the British MNO interest was one of the ‘highlights’ of the country’s economic team’s recent meetings with the UK business sector
Vodafone joins a long list of foreign companies that DICT has identified as potential bid participants including China Telecom, KDDI of Japan, South Korea’s LG Uplus, Vietnam’s Viettel Group, AT&T (US), Telenor Group of Norway and Grameenphone.
Philippines: DITC shares official timeline for third MNO selection
Last week, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) along with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) revealed the official timeline for the selection of the New Major Player (NMP). The decision follows the publication of the terms of reference (TOR) and the government aims to finalise the selection process by November 7th.
Afghanistan: Etisalat agree to share network with Aftel
Etisalat Afghanistan has agreed to host state owned MNO Aftel on its infrastructure in Afghanistan, expanding the collaboration beyond the existing 60-70 towers they currently share. Aftel’s market share is less than 5%, but they hope to grow aggressively in Afghanistan through network sharing and cooperation with Etisalat. Towerco Asia Consuntancy Group also offers ~100 towers for co-location in Afghanistan.
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.
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.
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.
Argentina: Telecom Argentina delays investments amid economic crisis
Reuters reported that Telecom Argentina intends to delay its US$5bn investment plan as a consequence of the currency crisis faced by the Argentine peso. In 2018, the peso has lost approximately 50% value against the US Dollar. Despite the recent approval of a Stand-By Arrangement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the agency now expects the current Argentinian recession to be worse than originally forecasted.
Brazil: CADE gives green light to Algar-CEMIG deal
The Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (CADE) has given the green light to Algar Telecom for the acquisition of CEMIG Telecom’s assets. As per the deal, formalised this past August, Algar would pay US$20.5mn for the assets auctioned as part of CEMIG’s Lot 2, which included infrastructure in Ceara, Bahia, Pernambuco, Goias and Belo Horizonte.
Chile: Government to ease access to land for infrastructure projects
The Subsecretaría de Telecomunicaciones (Subtel) has sealed a deal with the Ministry of National Assets that will ease access to government-owned land for the rollout of telecom infrastructure. The sites for which Subtel will receive bidding and leasing information could be utilised for telecom towers as well as fibre deployment. The agreement includes government buildings in the list which could be suitable for urban sites. The deal aims at reducing digital marginality especially in the south of Chile.
Jamaica: Phoenix Tower International acquires Digicel’s towers
Phoenix Tower International (PTI) via its subsidiary Phoenix Tower Jamaica Limited, announces that it has closed its sale and leaseback transaction with Digicel to acquire the ownership or management rights relating to 451 wireless communication tower sites for US$90mn.
Speaking about the transaction, PTI CEO, Dagan Kasavana, stated; “This latest transaction between PTI and Digicel deepens our excellent working relationship and strengthens PTI’s position as the premier wireless infrastructure provider in the Caribbean. Jamaica is poised for significant wireless growth and data consumption in the years to come and PTI looks forward to helping our Jamaican customers, landlords, and communities we operate in meet these growing demands successfully.” Commenting on the agreement, Digicel Group CEO, Alex Matuschka, said; “With similar agreements with PTI for sites in El Salvador and the French West Indies, this was the next natural step and we are delighted to be extending our partnership. This move is consistent with our stated intent to divest non-strategic assets and focus on building our business for the future.”
Regional: Phoenix Tower International seals loan
Phoenix Tower International (PTI) has closed a US$485mn senior secured term loan facility to boost its international expansion. The transaction consists of US$290mn senior secured 5-year term loan and US$195mn delayed draw which will allow PTI to continue expanding internationally. The credit facility was led by Scotiabank, with Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Santander, ING Capital, Natixis, Banco General, Orix Capital, and Towerbank participating and is the first Pan-Latin America facility of its kind secured by infrastructure assets.
Ghana: AirtelTigo expanding scope of network upgrades
Following upgrades in the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Ashanti and Volta regions, the recently merged AirtelTigo has announced further network integration and upgrades for the Western, Greater Accra and Central regions in Ghana, with the work set to be completed next month.
Mozambique: Vodacom launches 4G
Vodacom Mozambique has launched 4G in four cities (Maputo, Matola, Nampula and Beira) and in the municipality of Dondo following their receipt of a new Unified Telecommunications License earlier this year. Although Vodacom are the first to launch 4G in Mozambique, telecoms regulator the National Communications Institute of Mozambique Instituto Nacional das Comunicações de Moçambique, INCM) is expected to launch an auction of 4G-capable spectrum in the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands in October 2018.
South Africa: No merger between Telkom SA and MTN
Following a report in the Sunday Times which stated that Telkom SA was considering a merger with rival MTN in South Africa, Telkom has issued a rebuttal, stating that the company is not currently in discussions with MTN about a merger.
Tanzania: Millicom considering sale of Tigo Tanzania
Following the sale of their Rwandan opco to Airtel, the sale of their Senegalese opco to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofima and Teyliom Group and the merger of their Ghanaian opco with Airtel, Tigo is now believed to be preparing their Tanzanian opco for sale.
Despite the Electronic and Postal Communications Act 2010 forcing Millicom to list 25% of their opco on the Dar-Es-Salaam stock exchange, they have managed to reach an agreement with the Tanzanian government that the next owner will handle the IPO. Potential buyers include Zimbabwean Econet, MTN, Bharti Airtel and Vodacom, the last two being already present in Tanzania.
Thursday 27th September, 2018
Ghana: Targets 100% mobile coverage by 2020
Ghana’s Minister of Communications has announced that the country aims to achieve 100% population coverage by 2020. At present, around 2,000 communities do not have access to mobile connectivity. In 2017, Ghana added 100 new rural sites, connecting 500 previously unconnected communities; in 2018 the country has added a further 80 sites, with plans to complete 200 sites by the year end.
Nigeria: Globacom carrying out major network upgrade
Nigerian MNO, Globacom is undertaking a major upgrade of its network, increasing capacity in major cities whilst extending 4G coverage to new urban areas. The company is adding new base stations and laying over 4,000km of fibre.
Uganda: MTN license renewal approved; stock market listing proposed
Uganda’s largest MNO with 43% of subscribers has had its licensed renewed by the Ugandan government. Under the terms of the license renewal, MTN must consider a stock market listing and also support mobile number portability whilst also providing nationwide network coverage and meeting quality of service requirements.
Zimbabwe: Econet Wireless to restructure?
Rumours have emerged that Econet Wireless Group, the group which owns Zimbabwe’s leading MNO, Econet Wireless and pan-African fibreco, Liquid Telecom is rumoured to be considering a restructuring with an IPO of Liquid Telecom or London share listing for Econet Group being proposed.
Bangladesh: BTRC receives fees for four tower licenses
Four tower companies selected by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission have deposited Tk 25 crore each in concept of license fees. edotco Bangladesh Company Limited, TASC Summit Towers Limited, ISON Tower Bangladesh Private Limited and AB Hightech Consortium deposited their fees right after getting notification of award the Commission.
BTRC awarded the notifications to the entities in August after getting approval from the posts, telecommunications and information technology minister. Eight companies had applied to the commission but just the four mentioned infracos got highest marks from a 15-member evaluation committee formed by BTRC to secure the licences.
Meanwhile, Norwegian-based Telenor Group has expressed his disconformity to the regulator for not being one of the four companies selected and they have recently sought information on why their application was refused.
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 could join Sterlite Technologies and two investment firms in the bid process. However, the latter has not confirmed its interest in the assets.
Assets include spectrum, towers and fibre infrastructure collectively valued at around 323.62bn 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 constellation and the company will have around 900 satellites to provide high-speed internet services across the globe.
Malaysia: Ericsson to expand Celcom’s 4G network
Malaysian MNO Celcom Axiata has signed a contracted 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: TPG’s Apollo to become biggest towerco in Myanmar after PAMEL’s acquisition
The largest consolidation in Myanmar has just taken place with Apollo Towers Myanmar acquiring the portfolio of rival towerco Pan Asia Majestic Eagle. Once the transaction is complete, Apollo will bypass market leader Irrawaddy Green Towers, which runs approximately 2,500 towers across Myanmar, with a portfolio of around 3,000 sites.
The approval hasn’t been officially announced yet, but 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.
Pakistan: edotco to end acquisition for 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.
Philippines: DICT finally sets terms of third operator selection
The sale of bid documents for the selection of a third MNO in the Philippines is due to start on October 6.
The documents will cost US$18,450 and the entries can be submitted until November 5. The Telecoms Ministry of the Philippines has finalised the terms of the selection of the third MNO.
The selection will be based on a beauty contest style process and will take into consideration the commitment of the level of service, coverage goals and internet speed targets. The new document follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to select a winner himself if the regulator couldn’t finalise the terms.
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 (USD0.64) 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.
Oman: Ooredoo Oman’s SuperNet LTE reaches 95% coverage
Following expansion work in Muscat, Al Batinah, Al Sharqiyah, Al Dakhikyah, Buraimi, Wusta, Musandam, Dhofar and Dhahirah, Ooredoo has reached 95% LTE coverage with its ‘SuperNet’ 4G network, increasing it 50% countrywide since their expansion work began in Q417.
Jordan: Operators criticize tax plans
The Jordanian government has announced plans to increase a tax on telecom services form 24% to 26%, as well as introducing a new 1% ‘solidarity tax’ on net profits for all companies in the country, aimed to support scientific and social initiatives. Spokespeople from all three Jordanian MNOs stated that this increase in already heavy taxes (on top of the 16% General Sales Tax and a levy of 10% of operating revenues) would damage their ability to invest further in network infrastructure and rollout.
Azerbaijan: Bakcell LTE rollout on track
The second largest operator in Azerbaijan, Bakcell, has announced its intention to install 400 new LTS 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.
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.
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.’
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. More in depth editorial in this announcement to follow shortly.
Mexico: Telefónica plans to sell Mexico and Central America units
Spanish telecom giant Telefónica is reportedly in talks to divest its Mexican and Central American units. The MNO is considering both a partial and an entire sale of its assets.
According to a report in the newspaper El Economista, Telefónica’s Mexican unit is valued around €1.1-€1.9bn, while the company’s 60% interest in its Central American unit is worth about €760mn. The company is seeking ways to reduce its debts as well as improving its stock value.
Thursday 13th September, 2018
Mozambique: 4G auction scheduled for October
Mozambique’s National Communications Institute has announced that the 4G spectrum auction will be held on 25 October. Bidders will include the country’s three MNOs, Vodacom, Movitel and mCel.
South Africa: Vodacom and Telkom discuss roaming deal
Vodacom and Telkom are in negotiations for the latter to replace Vodacom’s roaming partner Cell C. Earlier this year, Cell C entered into a roaming agreement with MTN covering smaller cities and rural areas. Whilst Cell C’s roaming agreement with Vodacom was not terminated, the reduced traffic on Vodacom’s resulted in Vodacom losing around ZAR1bn in revenues.
South Africa: Spectrum trading proposed under ECA bill; 5G spectrum to be awarded in September 2019
The latest draft of South Africa’s Electronic Communications Amendment Bill proposes the allowance of spectrum license trading as well as the framework for the licensing of a wholesale open access network operator. The bill is yet to be approved by ICASA. Additionally, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has stated its intent for South Africa to be an earlier deployer of 5G, with spectrum auctions proposed for September 2019.
Uganda: 100% coverage expected by end of 2019
The Uganda Communications Commission has stated that its expects 100% mobile coverage by the end of 2019. A new licensing regime will require a minimum of 3G connectivity to every parish, whilst 4G is to be expanded beyond the main urban centres. National roaming is to be implemented to provide consumers with coverage, even in areas their service provider is yet to reach.
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.
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.
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.
The Philippines: 12 candidates for Philippines’ third MNO license
At least 12 companies have shown their interest in competing to become the Philippines’ third operator, including five local players and seven international entities. China Telecom, 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 TiereOne 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: Smart boosts the total number of BTS by 45%
Smart Communications, the wireless arm of Philippine telco PLDT Inc., has recently deployed an additional 3,900 new LTE base stations, boosting the total number of BTS on-air by 45% to 12,600.
The PLDT unit saw data traffic increase by 79% in January-June 2018, compared to the same period of 2017, prompting Smart to also switch on five component channel (5CC) aggregation in Metro Manila’s biggest metropolis, Quezon City, joining Boracay and Marikina, where speeds of over 500Mbps are already achievable it says, using 5CC-capable smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9.
Meanwhile, in January-June 2018 PLDT increased its fibre footprint to 204,000 km, rolling out over 29,000 km of new cable.
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.
Costa Rica: Tigo closer to seal acquisition of cable companies
Sutel, the Costa Rican telecoms watchdog, has given the green light to the acquisition of Cable Television Doble and Cable Zarcero by Tigo.
Peru: Entel approves purchase of Directnet
Entel’s board has approved the acquisition of Directnet for US$3.5mn. Directnet owns spectrum in the 2300 and 2400MHz bands that can be utilised for mobile services.
Peru: ZTE to deploy 1000 BTS for Bitel
Vietnamese-backed Bitel has contracted ZTE for the deployment of 1,000 new BTS by 2020. The rollout will begin with 200 sites across 183 Peruvian provinces.
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.
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.
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.
Russia: MegaFon delisting planned for 5th October
Having completed a share buyback in August, MegaFon is pressing ahead with its planned delisting from the London Stock Exchange, expected to become effective on 5th October 2018. MegaFon is also looking to monetise its towers arm, First Tower Company, and has spun off various parts of the business into stand-alone units over the last 18 months with varying degrees of success.
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. An exclusive interview with Richard Bourne, CEO of Stratto, will follow shortly.
Wednesday 29th August, 2018
Angola: Unitel to bring 4G to five more cities in 2018; nationwide mobile network coverage expected by 2022
Leading Angolan operator, Unitel, has announced that it expects to bring 4G to five more cities in 2018. The operator which currently covers 42% of the country’s communes with its services, plans to reach all 542 communes in three years’ time, investing heavily in 3G technologies
DRC: Helios to invest in backbone
Helios Towers are building a 1,800km backbone in the DRC. The backbone network will include dozens of 80-100m towers, which will reach above the forest canopy onto which will be mounted huge backhaul dishes. The towers, each around 40km apart will bring 2G for the first time to many regions, and will also bring 3G and 4G to remote parts of the country.
Kenya: Airtel to expand 4G coverage beyond Nairobi and Mombasa; Telkom extends network
After having launched LTE services in May, Airtel Kenya has announced plans to expand its 4G coverag beyond Nairobi and Mombasa. Telkom Kenya, which recently agreed the sale of its towers to American Tower continues its expansion and densification plans, having recently added 200 new 4G sites in Nairobi.
Nigeria: MTN secures NGN200bn loan to fund network capex
MTN Nigeria has signed a NGN200bn loan with a consortium of twelve local banks. The funds will be used for capital expenditure and working capital. MTN is Nigeria’s largest MNO by subscribers.
South Africa: Cabinet approves Electronic Communications Amendment bill
The South African cabinet has approved the tabling in parliament of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill. The bill proposes the introduction of a wireless open access network, through which spectrum would be pooled and given to a national wholesale open access network operator joint owned by the government and industry.
Australia: TPG Telecom confirms merger talks with Vodafone
TPG Telecom has recently shared a statement confirming that the company is currently discussing a potential “merger of equals” with Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA). However, TPG noted that it is no certainty that any transaction will be forthcoming as a result of the conversation, although it confirmed it would keep the market informed of any developments regarding the matter. Hutchison Telecommunications Australia (HTA), which holds a 50% interest in VHA, issued its own statement, and confirmed they are aware of the talks between its subsidiary and TPG. HTA also stressed that the discussions may come to nothing.
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 AUD42.2 million (USD30.7 million). In a recent 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 AUD4.5 million on the construction of eight more sites across Tasmania by March 2019.
China, Laos: China Tower Corporation investing in Laos
China Tower Corporation (CTC) has signed an agreement with the Lao government and Click Lao Marketing and Consultancy on August 28 to form a joint venture company named Southeast Asia Tower Company. CTC will be the majority shareholder with a 70% stake and the other two entities will own 15% each.
The Southeast Asia Tower Company will build and operate telecom towers as well as supply power and deploy indoor distribution systems across Laos. CTC will lead the towerco’s daily operations as well as appoint its senior management.
This is the first overseas investment of the State-owned Chinese towerco. The Southeast Asia Tower Company will be benefitting from CTC’s experience in technology, sites management and operation.
India: Reliance Communications completes sale of infrastructure and fibre
Reliance Communications has completed the divestment of its 43,000 towers, 178,000km of fibre and 248 media convergence nodes alongside 122.4MHz of 4G spectrum. The portfolio of assets is being acquired by Reliance Jio for Rs20bn (approximately US$285mn); money that Reliance Communications will utilise to reduce its debts.
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.
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.
The Philippines: PLDT boosts number of live LTEbase 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: Viettel, AT&T and Telenor interested in third operator license
Vietnamese government-owned Viettel has recently confirmed that is currently evaluating an expansion into the Philippines. The company has confirmed is considering its participation in the bid for the third telco slot, as they told Reuters in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, the acting head of the Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Eliseo Rio, Jr, has revealed that US-based AT&T Inc. and Norway’s Telenor Group have also expressed interest in challenging the PLDT-Globe duopoly.
Bahrain: Batelco to finalise company structure by early September
Bahrain’s incumbent MNO Batelco has been asked by the TRA (Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) to submit plans for splitting the company into separate retail and wholesale divisions by 6th September 2018. The TRA is asking Batelco to transfer staff and assets into a Separated Entity in order to deploy the National Broadband Netwrk and associated wholesale products and services in order to create fairer competition in a market which has been dominated by Batelco to date.
Iraq: Zain chooses Ericsson to modernise sites
Zain Iraq has announced that Ericsson has been chosen to modernise a selection of sites with the Ericsson Radio System, with the aim of providing higher capacity and improving network performance. They have also partnered on IoT deployment, with the aim of accelerating the development of the technology in the region.
Azerbaijan: LTE roll out continues
Azerbaijan’s thrid largest MNO, Azerfon, has managed to expand LTE to 35 regions of the country in H118. Azerfon (Nar) now claims the ‘majority’ of its 2m subscribers can now access LTE thanks to 7,000 base stations covering 93% of the country.
Russia: MegaFon share buyback complete: delisting going ahead
Russian MNO MegaFon has confirmed that its holding company MegaFon Investments (Cyprus) Ltd has completed its share buyback programme of 18.6% of MegaFon’s outstanding Ordinary Shares and will now commence the cancellation of its Global Depositary Receipts on the London Stock Exchange.
Colombia: Tower One seals leasing deal with Avantel
Tower One, an independent towerco active across CALA and listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange, has sealed a ten-year fixed-term MLA with Colombian MNO Avantel. To date, Tower One owns and operates 42 sites across Argentina and Colombia.
Wednesday 15th August, 2018
Ethiopia: Viettel eyeing market entry
Vietnamese telecom company Viettel is considering opportunities to enter the Ethiopian market, following the government’s plans to liberalise the telecoms sector. The opening up of the Ethiopian monopoly on the telecoms sector is a huge opportunity, and could take the form of a sale of a stake in state-owned Ethio Telecom, the granting of new licenses or some combination of both options. Viettel currently operates or holds licenses in Mozambique, Burundi, Cameroon and Tanzania, but is not the only interested party, with South African MTN and French Orange expressing an interest as well.
Kenya: Alphabet Loon to launch with Telkom Kenya
Telkom Kenya and Alphabet’s Project Loon will deploy balloons to beam high-speed internet access to cover rural and suburban populations from next year, marking Loon’s first commercial deal in Africa. After being used to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico following a hurricane in 2017, it’s hoped that the technology can help Kenya achieve full internet coverage for its population.
Nigeria: IHS returns regional infrastructure license
IHS has returned the regional infrastructure company (InfraCo) license which was awarded in January 2015 by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) after struggling to secure ‘right of way’ approval from local governments. IHS also had difficulties deploying infrastructure in its licences North Central Zone. The licence allows for the deployment of metro fibre and associated equipment on an open access, non-discriminatory and price-regulated basis, with IHS and MainOne Cable awarded them in 2015 and a further two permits given to Zinox Technologies and Brinks Integrated Solutions in Q118.
South Africa: Electronic Communications Amendment Bill redrafted
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has finalised amendments to the controversial Electronic Communications Amendment Bill which is due to be presented to the cabinet by the end of September. In 2016 the government drew heavy criticism for stating that all wireless service providers would be required to return their previously assigned spectrum for allocated to the WOAN project, and as yet it is still unclear whether the government will reserve spectrum for its wholesale open-access network (WOAN) or whether mobile operators will be asked to support WOAN in return for exclusive-use spectrum rights.
Zimbabwe: Foreign firms interested in NetOne
A stake in 45%-50% of Zimbabwean state-owned MNO NetOne has drawn the interest of at least four foreign firms, including an American-funded Lebanese consortium, a South African telecoms giant, an Abu-Dhabi-based firm and a group of ex-pat Zimbabwean investors. A report by the Zimbabwe Independent added that the potential investors ‘had showed willingness to clean up NetOne’s balance sheet and inject fresh capital into the state-run entity’. Despite being the first MNO to launch cellular services in Zimbabwe, NetOne has failed to make a profit and has rebuffed previous offers from MTN, who are not believed to be on the list of bidders this time around.
Egypt: Telecom Egypt and Etisalat agree to share virtual fixed voice services
Telecom Egypt has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Etisalat Misr to provide the latter with ‘virtual fixed voice services’, covering ‘all the basic terms that shall allow both companies to formalise a commercial agreement in due course’. The deal will enable Etisalat Misr to provide its customers with fixed voice services over the fixed line incumbent’s nationwide network, in a tie-up it represents ‘a major step towards enhancing cooperation between both companies and achieving mutual benefits, which will in turn enrich the Egyptian market with the diversification of offers and services’. Etisalat Misr will benefit by being able to provide its customers with a fixed voice offering, while Telecom Egypt expects to boost revenues generated as a result of the increase for its domestic wholesale business.
Oman: Regulator to review market
Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is planning to review the telecoms market in order to identify potential constraints to competition, as well as to prevent abuse of dominant position by MNOs. Muscat Daily reports that the regulator is commissioning a consultancy project to assist in a ‘Market Review’, with consultants invited to submit proposals for the subject tender by August 28.
‘The TRA is also cognisant of new concepts (e.g. OTT content, IP interconnection, IoT, cloud computing, IXPs) that directly or indirectly have impact on the market reviews. As such, market definitions and dominant positions may have changed since the last market assessment,’ the TRA said, adding: ‘It may also be noted that the Market Definition and Dominance Decision of 2013 is also due to be revised in 2018, therefore the TRA now intends to review all existing and potential new markets.’
Brazil: American Tower and Algar won Cemig auction
In a recent auction, American Tower acquired Lot 1 of Cemig Telecom’s assets which include its Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro assets for an approximate price of USD87.5mn. Lot 2, which includes assets in Goiás and the Northeast of Brazil, was acquired by Algar Telecom for USD20.3mn.
Bangladesh: Four towercos to receive licenses to operate
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has identified the four towercos that will be awarded 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.
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: Reliance Communications gets approval to sell its assets
Reliance Communications (RCOM) received the green light from India’s Supreme Court to sell its assets (including towers, spectrum and fibre) to Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio). RCOM is required to pay USD80.3mn to Ericsson by the end of Q3 2018 and the sale of its assets will be instrumental to meet the September 30 deadline. The asset monetisation plan has already started with RCOM agreeing to sell spectrum to Jio on August 11.
Philippines: Smart and Ericsson will deploy 5G
Smart Communications, the wireless arm of PLDT Inc., will partner with Ericsson to deploy a pilot 5G network in H119. 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.”
Thailand: AIS and DTAC submit bids for 1800MHz
Thailand MNOs Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) have each submitted bid applications for the second round of the 1800MHz spectrum auction scheduled for August 19. Both operators have placed THB2.5 billion (USD75mn) to guarantee their bids for four slots – the maximum allowed – in the 1800MHz band. True Move retaliated and claimed that the bandwidth it is operating on is enough to accommodate subscribers’ growth. Meanwhile, NBTC’s auction for spectrum in the 850MHz band has been cancelled, after none of the three operators expressed an interest in the frequencies.
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.
Italy: Seven operators in the running for 5G spectrum
Seven telcos have pre-qualified for Italy’s auction of 5G wireless spectrum, set to get underway in September. Current MNOs Telecom Italia (TIM), Wind Tre, Vodafone and Iliad are in the running, as well as Fastweb, Linkem and Open Fiber. The bidders will all compete for frequencies which will allow them to deploy ultra-high-speed mobile networks.
1275MHz of spectrum is on offer in the 700MHz band (75MHz between 694MHz-790MHz), 3.6GHz band (200MHz between 3600MHz-3800MHz) and 26GHz band (1000MHz between 26.5GHz-27.5GHz), with the government hoping to raise at least EUR2.5 billion (USD2.9 billion) from the sale. A report from CorCom says that Iliad is set to concentrate on the 700MHz range, which has a portion of frequencies reserved for a new entrant, while Open Fiber is said to be interested only in the 26GHz spectrum.
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 to 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.
United Kingdom: BT scales back plans for G.fast technology
After the recent governmental ‘Future Telecoms and Infrastructure Review’ in the UK, fixed line incumbent BT is believed to be scaling back plans to roll out G.fast technology to tens of millions of premises, instead focussing on upgrading 5.7mn copper lines to the technology. Instead, Openreach, BT’s network unit, has upped its fibre rollout plans in the next two years from two million to three million premises.
Thursday 2nd August, 2018
Kenya: Loon launches first commercial service in Africa with Telkom Kenya
Alphabet subsidiary Loon has signed an agreement with Telkom Kenya to launch a 4G network in the country using its ultra high altitude balloons. The network will cover rural and sub-urban regions in Kenya and marks Loon’s first commercial service in Africa. Read TowerXchange’s interview with Project Loon’s Strategy and Operations Director, Mauro Goncalves de Oliveira Filho.
Mozambique: 4G spectrum auction imminent
The National Communications Institute of Mozambique has announced that a 4G spectrum auction could be imminent. At present all three MNOs, Vodacom, state-owned mCel and Viettel owned Movitel only have 2G and 3G licenses in the country.
Nigeria: Deadline extended in Teleology Holdings’ acquisition of 9mobile
The deadline to finalise Teleology Holdings’ acquisition of 9mobile has been extended in order to give all parties concerned time to complete the necessary documentation. Teleology Holdings was confirmed as the preferred bidder for the MNO back in February , the deal is expected to close imminently.
Uganda: Regulator steps in on Eaton – Smile dispute
The Uganda Communications Commission has stepped in to resolve a dispute between Eaton Towers and Smile Communications in the Ugandan market. Eaton Towers had disconnected Smile’s network after unpaid bills; access to the network has been restored since the dispute has been resolved.
Uganda: Mauritius Telecom frontrunner in UTL stake sale
Mauritius Telecom has emerged as the frontrunner in the acquisition of a majority stake in embattled state-owned fixed and mobile network operator, Uganda Telecom. The company has offered US$45mn for the 69% stake, laying out plans to invest a further US$100mn over a three year period. Safaricom had been linked with the deal but is understood to have pulled out.
China: China Tower Corporation’s IPO rollout coming
China Tower Corporation (CTC), the world’s largest telecoms tower operator, plans to raise up US$1.4bn from ten cornerstone investors for its HK IPO of up to US$8.7bn, in what would be the world’s biggest listing in four years. CTC, the Beijing-based mobile phone infrastructure firm, has set an indicative price range of HK$1.26 to HK$1.58 (US$0.16-US$0.20) per share for the Initial Public Offering (IPO), valuing itself at between US$28bn and US$35bn.
India: Vodafone and Idea receive final green light to merger
The Department of Telecommunications has given the final green light to the merger of the two operators, following a payment of US$1.06bn in spectrum liberalisation fees and one-time spectrum charges. The merger should close later this month and will generate long-term savings to the two operators up to US$10bn.
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.
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, Bangladesh: 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.
Philippines: ISOC Infrastructures wants to become new Philippines towerco
Filipino company ISOC Infrastructures has teamed up with Malaysia’s OCK Group Berhad as they seek to build 25,000 cell towers across the Philippines in the next seven years.
The company has submitted proposal to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and DICT’s acting secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said they will study the proposal. The move follows the government’s new tower policy, which aims to drive infrastructure sharing among telco players.
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.
Earlier this month, 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.
Philippines: Globe to deploy 5G by 2Q19
Globe Telecom has announced it is on course to deploy 5G in the second quarter of 2019. The MNO is currently focused on upgrading its core, radio and transmission network to support 5G by the end of the year, and plans to start offering a 5G fixed wireless mobile broadband service in 2Q19. Globe executives recently visited China to meet with Huawei deputy chairman Eric Xu to discuss their 5G partnership.
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 companies.
Iraq: Government announces plans to auction fourth license
The Iraqi government has announced plans to auction a fourth mobile license in the country with PWC having been appointed to assist in the tender. The fourth license holder would join national operators Zain, Asiacell and Korek Telecom in the country. Read TowerXchange’s study of the Iraqi market.
Pakistan: Axiata to sell its majority stake in Multinet Pakistan
Axiata has announced that it will be divesting its 89% stake in Multinet Pakistan for a nominal fee of US$1 to minority shareholder Adnan Asdar Ali. With declining performance, Multinet’s contribution to Axiata’s financial performance was reported to be minimal.
Tunisia: Vodafone and Tunisie Telecom ink collaboration agreement
Vodafone and Tunisie Telecom have signed a three year agreement whereby Vodafone will support the latter in areas including technology and procurement. The two operators will also cooperate and roaming and are examining ways to further deepen their collaboration agreement
France: MNO consolidation back on the table
According to Orange Group CEO Stephane Richard, consolidation in the French market is ‘unavoidable’. Pressure on MNOs to roll out 5G infrastructure and diversify their offering are likely to lead to a new round of merger talks between the four telecoms operators from 2019 onwards. Richard stated that Orange would not take a leading role in a potential consolidation of the telecoms market but would facilitate any deal and could buy some assets.
Germany: 3,000 LTE base stations added in H118
Telefonica Deutschland claims to have installed or upgraded more than 3,000 LTE base stations between January and June 2018, with a focus on improving performance in densely populated areas and along transport infrastrucutre such as railways and motorways.
‘Whether in major German cities or in the countryside – we are currently driving the LTE expansion like no other company, so that our customers benefit from an improved and faster O2 network,’ commented Cayetano Carbajo Martin, Member of the Board of Directors and CTO of Telefonica Deutschland, adding: ‘We will continue to push forward in the future and take extensive measures to expand the network in the interest of our customers.’
Norway: Telenor sale to PFF gets green light
PFF’s proposed acquisition of Telenor’s Central and Eastern Europen assets has been approved by the European Commission (EC). The transaction, valued at $3.3bn, is expected to be completed in Q318 and will include Telenor’s opcos in Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Montenegro, as well as technology service provider Telenor Common Operation.
Owned by Czec entrepreneur Petr Kellner, PPF already owns 81.1% of O2 Czech Republic and its O2 Slovakia unit, and 100% of Czech infrastructure provider Ceska telekomunikacni infrastruktura (Czech Telecommunications Infrastructure, or CETIN), created after carving out O2’s infrastructure assets.
UK: Government commits to fibre strategy
The UK’s Department for Digital, Communication, Media & Sport (DCMS) has published a national, long-term strategy for the UK’s telecommunications sector, focussing on the provision of full fibre services. The ‘Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR)’, proposes changes that the state says are needed to ensure that in future, the majority of the population will have access to 5G, including calls for 15 million premises to be connectable via full fibre broadband by 2025, while targeting nationwide coverage by 2033. Recommendations in the review include: the introduction of new legislation that will guarantee full fibre connections for new build developments; reforms to the regulatory environment for full fibre broadband that will drive investment and competition and is tailored to different local market conditions; an industry-led switchover from copper to full fibre coordinated with regulator Ofcom; and a reform of regulation by Ofcom so as to allow unrestricted access to Openreach’s ducts and poles for both residential and business use.
The DCMS has acknowledged there will be some parts of the country where it is unlikely the market will be able to deliver on its own, saying that nationwide availability of full fibre is likely to require additional funding of between £3bn and £5bn to support commercial investment in the final 10% of areas (most of which are rural).
Dominican Republic: Phoenix Tower International acquires 1,049 towers in Dominican Republic
Boca Raton-based Phoenix Tower International (PTI) has reached an agreed with Altice Dominicana, a subsidiary of Altice Europe N.V. to purchase 100% of Teletorres del Caribe, a Dominican tower company with a portfolio of 1,049 wireless communication tower sites for US$170mn.
The transaction expands PTI’s footprint in the country, where the company will now own over 1,600 sites as well as reinforces PTI’s position as the leading tower company across the Caribbean. The transaction is expected to close during Q3 2018 and is subject to the effective de-merger and customary closing conditions.
Monday 2nd July, 2018
Argentina: Cablevision-Telecom Argentina merger gets conditional green light
The Comisión Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia (CNDC) has approved the merger between the two entities but set several conditions including the divestment of 143,464 customers by the merged entity across five provinces (Cordoba, Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, Misiones and Santa Fe). Additionally, the merged company must return an 80MHz block of spectrum to comply with the set spectrum cap as well as offer wholesale broadband connectivity to other operators.
Brazil: NII Holdings starts Nextel’s sale
NII Holdings has initiated the sale of its 70% participation in Nextel Brasil and potential buyers include Telefónica Brasil and Access Industries, who scooped a 30% stake from Ice Group earlier in 2018.
Caribbean: Digicel agrees tower sale
Digicel has signed a sale and leaseback deal for 450 sites across the Caribbean with an undisclosed buyer. The deal is expected to be completed in the second quarter of the year. This is the third deal the company is sealing with a towerco following the divestment of 202 towers in El Salvador and 215 sites in the French Antilles to Phoenix Tower International.
Australia: Telstra to create an infrastructure company
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 incorporates the operator’s fixed network infrastructure including data centers, domestic fiber (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 will provide more flexibility and transparency in the management of Telstra’s underlying infrastructure and will reinforce the discipline with which capital allocation occurs across the group.
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: Shareholders vote for Vodafone and Idea’s combined MNO’s name
With the merger between Vodafone and Idea pending, the companies’ shareholders have approved the name of the new combined entity which will be called Vodafone Idea Limited. The combined MNO will serve approximately 433.91mn subscribers but to date, the merger is delayed due to a new request by the Department of Telecommunications for over US$690mn relating to 2015 restructuring of Vodafone.
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.
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.
Philippines: DICT publishes requirements for third MNO
On June 26, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of the Philippines published its draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the selection of a third MNO.
The draft, which is still subject to a round of public consultations, outlines the relevant criteria for an MNO to qualify for the process, the scoring system and the frequencies that they are going to award among many other details. Specifically, the successful third operator will have to commit an annual capital and operational expenditure of US$747mn over a five-year period. A third operator will also have to offer a 30% population coverage and deliver a minimum 5Mbps average broadband speed.
In addition, the TOR requires a net worth of at least PHP10 billion with a Congressional franchise to operate telecom services, while in the case of a consortium bid, Filipinos should control at least 60% and at least one of the members should be a holder of a Congressional franchise. The draft also states that any prospective bidders should not be a related party to any existing telecom group and have no outstanding liabilities.
South Korea: SK completes 5G spectrum auction
South Korea has concluded the auction for its 5G spectrum, which will allow operators to begin the rollout in December. 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.
The operators will start preparation for the 5G rollout very soon and SK Telecom has already tested data transfer with the 5G Standalone (SA) standard with Nokia.
Thailand: DTAC will bid in next spectrum auction
Total Access Communication (DTAC) has submitted an official letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) confirming its intention to bid for 2×5MHz of spectrum in the 850MHz band.
The NBTC has already approved a new timeline and requirements for the auction, taking place on August 18. Last month, the regulator cancelled the tender for three blocks of 2×15MHz spectrum in the 1800MHz band as none of the country’s three largest MNOs was planning to participate on the bid.
Regional: IHS joins Eaton and Helios in IPO postponement
IHS Towers has become the latest of Africa’s towercos to announce that it has put its plans to list on hold. Upcoming elections and uncertainty about the future of 9mobile in Nigeria (where over two thirds of IHS’ 22,860 towers are located) are thought to have been contributing factors to the postponement. As reported by TowerXchange in November, IHS was understood to be targeting a valuation of around US$10bn.
Niger: Creation of new telecoms regulator approved
Niger’s council of ministers has adopted a law establishing the formation of a new telecoms watchdog, the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Post (Autorite de Regulation des Communications Electroniques et de la Poste, ARCEP). The adoption of the new regulator will bring Niger in line with the directives of ECOWAS.
Nigeria: Teleology holding requests extension to 9mobile payment deadline
Teleology Holdings has reportedly request a 20-day extension to the 30 June deadline by which it was expected to pay the balance of its US$500mn bid to acquire 9mobile (formerly Etisalat Nigeria).
Tanzania: Vodacom and Azam Telecom awarded 700MHz spectrum
Vodacom and Azam Telecom have been confirmed as the winning bidders in Tanzania’s recent spectrum auction. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) awarded each operator 2x10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band.
Finland: 5G services launched
Mobile network operator Elisa claims to have launched a 5G network in Finland, including the sale of 5G subscriptions in both Tampere in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia, with a call between governmental counterparts in the two countries. Although full 5G launch is still dependent on a suitable spectrum auction and licenses, Elisa is ambitious to make Finland a world leader in 5G mobile services. Elisa stated that, having built out a network with 5G capability in Tampere and its surrounding areas, work on similar upgrades is already underway in Turku and Jyvaskyla.
Italy: Iliad sees rapid take-up
Since Iliad launched in Italy at the end of May it has signed up around 300,000 new customers, with an introductory deal of unlimited calls, unlimited SMS and 30GB of data for €5.99 a month for the first million customers. Around 40% of Iliad’s new customers have come from Wind, 25% from Vodafone and 20% from TIM. Their goal is to achieve 10% of market share, or around 80 million customers, on a network which relies heavily on the towercos in the country.
Germany: O2 and E-Plus merger complete
Telefónica Deutschland has completed the merger of the O2 and E-Plus networks and says that the new merged network will be optimal for the implementation of future network technologies such as 5G. Telefónica plans to continue the integration and modernisation of base stations across Germany, as well as adding new locations in both urban and rural locations.
Thursday 21st June, 2018
Chad: Tender for fourth MNO license launched
Chad’s Ministry of Post and New Information Technologies has launched a tender for a fourth MNO license with bids needing to be submitted by 5 July. The operator would join Tigo, Airtel and state owned Groupe Sotel Tchad in the market.
Ethiopia: MTN and Vodacom express interest in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government has announced its intent to split state owned Ethio Telecom into two in a bid to increase competition in the country’s telecoms sector (which operates as a monopoly in the country). Both MTN and Vodacom have expressed an interest in entering the Ethiopian market should the right opportunity become available.
Kenya: Airtel-Telkom Kenya merger talks dropped
Plans to merge Airtel and Telkom Kenya have been dropped. Talks had emerged about a merger between the two entities earlier this year in order to create a sizeable competitor to Safaricom. It is understood that Airtel and Telkom Kenya failed to agree on a number of matters including future investment plans.
Zimbabwe: Econet’s HQ goes green as Distributed Power Africa installs 99.9kW solar system
Econet Group’s newly formed ESCO, Distributed Power Africa has installed a 99.9kW solar system on the operator’s headquarters in Harare. The system will produce enough energy to meet the office’s requirements making the building 100% reliant on renewable energy. Distributed Power Africa (DPA) says it is on course to complete a total of 1MW of solar installations for Econet in 2018, including solar systems at a number of base stations.
Bangladesh: Eight new firms apply for tower company licences
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has recently received eight new applications for tower company licences, including one from state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd. The application process, which finalized on June, received a total of 19 applications including joint ventures with local and foreign firms and some independent local companies. BTRC will be sending its recommendation to the government and will award four licences to run the tower business with a view to separating the network business from telecom services.
Myanmar: TPG to create biggest tower owner in Myanmar
U.S private equity firm TPG Capital is pursuing a deal to create the biggest independent towerco in Myanmar. Apollo Towers Myanmar Ltd., which is backed by TPG, is evaluating a potential merger with competitor Pan Asia Majestic Eagle Ltd., according to Bloomberg sources. TPG would become the main shareholder, owning more than 3,000 towers and an enterprise value of at least $700 million.
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 to tower. “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
Philippines: third licence pushed back again
Philippines’ Government has again delayed the allocation of a third mobile licence and a third MNO won’t be chosen until September. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) included Converge ICT Solutions, EasyCall Communications Philippines, Now, Philippine Telegraph and Telephone among the interested parties. Press reports have named several Asian operators as interested parties, including China Telecom, Japan’s KDDI, South Korea’s LG Uplus, and Vietnam’s Viettel.
Czech Republic: Towerco coming to market
Rumours that Macquarie-owned České Radiokomunikace (CRa) will come to market in 2018 have intensified, with a financial advisor belived to be working on bringing the towerco to market in late summer. With an EBITDA of €63mn, the asset could fetch as much as €800mn for 800 towers in the Czech Republic. Macquarie bought the towerco for €574mn in 2010 and has attempted to sell it unsuccessfully at least twice since then.
France: KKR leading bids for Altice
It’s believed that KKR, who successfully acquired 40% of TEF’s infrastructure arm Telxius in 2016, are the winning bidders on Altice’s French towers, where they will also take a minority stake.
Slovakia: Macquarie brings another asset to market
As well as looking for a buyer for Czech towerco České Radiokomunikace (CRa), Macquarie is believed to be considering the sale of Slovak asset Towercom AS, which owns around 700 towers in Slovakia. The towerco is expected to be valued at around €240mn.
Spain: Edizione considers selling part of Cellnex stake
In April 2018 Edizione acquired 29.9% of Cellnex through the acquisition of Abertis by subsidiary Atlantia. Edizione are now believed to be searching for new investors to inject extra cash into the company and support growth.
On May 31st Cellnex held its general shareholder meeting and reported revenues of €792mn and EBITDA of €355mn (+12% and +22% respectively) for 2017. With potential partnerships or management deals in the pipeline with Deutsche Telekom’s Deutsche Funkturm as it rolls out across Europe, and with Saudi operator STC, as well as an active role in the bidding for Altice’s towers in Portugal and the potential to acquire TIM’s 60% stake in Italian towerco arm INWIT, Cellnex is one of the fastest growing towercos in the world and will be sure to garner interest from infrastructure funds and investors from around the world.
Thursday 6th June, 2018
ICE Group plans sale of Nextel stake
AI Media Holdings presented an offer to Scandinavian operator Ice Group to acquire its 30% stake in Nextel Holdings for US$70mn.
Brazil: Cemig’s telecom assets for sale
The Brazilian utility company Cemig announced its intention to sale its telecom assets with bids open between 16-20 July. The final result of the bids will be announced on 27 July.
Ghana: MTN to list 35% on the local stock exchange
MTN Ghana are to list a 35% stake on the stock exchange, a condition of the company’s 4G license agreement. The IPO is expected to be finalised by the end of July.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Telecom Company receive offers for towerco management contract
Saudi Telecom Company has received several offers for the management contract for their dedicated towerco business unit. Names linked with the contract include IHS Towers, TASC Towers and Digital Bridge.
Senegal: Expresso Telecom tower deal edges ever closer
The sale of Expresso Telecom’s 500 towers to Al Karama Towers is edging closer to completion. The sale of Millicom’s Tigo is understood to have halted proceedings but with the Tigo deal now finalised, discussions appear to be moving ahead with regulatory approval expected by Q3 2018.
South Africa: Cell C signs “roaming” agreement with MTN
Cell C has signed a roaming agreement with MTN, whereby MTN will provide 3G and 4G services outside of the main metropolitan areas (with each maintaining their own networks in major cities). Whilst termed a roaming agreement, observers have commented that the deal is rather a form of active sharing.
India: Idea and American Tower finalise deal
Idea Cellular and American Tower have finalised the transfer of Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services Limited and its 9,900 towers to the towerco at an enterprise value of US$592.7mn. Vodafone has already completed the transfer of its tower unit to American Tower and over a two-year period, 6,300 co-located tenancies will become single ones, without exit penalties.
India: RCOM settles with Ericsson and gets closer to asset sale
Reliance Communications (RCOM) has agreed the payment of US$81.3mn to Ericsson as part of its settlements with creditors. RCOM has until 30 September to make the payment and is now allowed to sell its towers, fibre and spectrum rights to Reliance Jio and its real estate in New Delhi and Chennai to Brookfield.
Indonesia: Sarana Menara Nusantara finalises acquisition of KIN
Sarana Menara Nusantara (SMN) has finalised the acquisition of Komet Infra Nusantara (KIN). KIN will remain a distinct operating unit under Protelindo. SMN acquired KIN for IDR1.4tr in an all-cash deal. To date, KIN has over 1,400 towers and 2,000 tenancies. The newly combined entity will run a total portfolio of over 16,400 towers (27,000 tenancies) and 5,300km of fibre.
Indonesia: Net1 commits to rural plans
Indonesian 4G operator Net1 has agreed to back the government’s plans to improve rural coverage and broadband access. Net1 CEO, Larry Ridwan, was recently quoted stating that only 73% of Indonesian villages have 3G internet access and only 55% have 4G and that “Net1 4G LTE Network at 450MHz is able to reach 50-60km, even up to 100km, from a base transceiver station, so it is suitable for [an] archipelago country like Indonesia which has 16,056 islands. In terms of infrastructure investment … it is certainly more efficient.”
Philippines: Rules for new entrant MNO face delays
The entry of a third MNO in the Philippines is being delayed by bureaucratic processes. In fact, while the rules on the assignment of mobile frequencies to a new entrant were supposed to be approved by the 28th of May, that failed to happen.
Sri Lanka: Government approves 4G investments
The government’s Board of Investment of Sri Lanka has approved a total of US$1.3bn of investments, of which US$200mn will be devoted to network expansion and upgrade work of 4G services.
Netherlands: Deutsche Telekom looking to expand reach of DFMG
During the DT Q1 earnings call on May 12, Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutche Telekom, stated that they are looking to expand tower arm DFMG into the Netherlands, and possibly to work with Cellnex on the expansion, referring to Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners’ partnership with Cellnex in Switzerland, saying: “We are working already with the Sunrise people in Switzerland on this equation in the Netherlands”. It’s rumoured that DT may also look to divest the 8,000 towers they own in the UK, which are currently tied up in MBNL in partnership with Three.
Portugal: Binding offers for Altice in Portugal
Binding offers for Altice’s Portuguese portfolio, believed to be worth around €500mn, were expected on 3rd June. Morgan Stanley, Cellnex, Antin Infrastructure Partners and Digital Bridge have all been linked to the portfolio of around 3,000 towers.
Turkey: banks lined up to take control of Turk Telekom
The three largest creditors of Turk telekom’s parent company Ojer Telekomunikasyon (OTAS), Garanti Bank, Isbank and Akbank, have agreed on initial proposals to take over Ojer Telekomunicasyon’s 55% stake in Turk Telekom as part of a debt restructuring deal. OTAS has defaulted on three repayments since September 2016, resulting in creditors seeking a takeover plan with the government, which trains a 25% stake in Turk Telekom. The plan, which if approved should be implemented in June, would see ownership divided between 29 creditor banks via a specially created holding company.
Thursday 24th May, 2018
Peru: Bitel announces investment plans
The Vietnamese-backed operator has released plans to invest US$110mn until 2020. The investment will be utilised to deploy the 2600MHz spectrum on the company´s network across 183 provinces.
Chile: Ministry calls for more investments in telecom sector
The Chilean Ministry is pushing for further investments across Chile to bridge the digital divide. Gloria Hutt, Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, has been quoted saying that “All actors in the sector must do our best to reduce the digital divide that exists in the country, and persists for the 44% of people without access to fixed internet. Today in Chile we have 200 communes with residential fixed internet penetration of less than 20%, 110 communes that have less than 5% and 55 communes that have less than 1%. Today, all of them are very far from being part of the digital revolution.”
Cameroon: MTN to match Orange’s coverage obligations; CamTel to provide satellite connectivity
MTN has agreed to amendments to extend coverage as part of its concession renewal with the Cameroonian government. The coverage obligations will match that of Orange and require the MNO to rollout 4G networks to all major cities and locations with 10,000 or more residents. Meanwhile, CamTel has teamed up with satellite company, SatADSL to provide connectivity to rural areas
DRC: Government adopts new telecommunications act; MNOs secure 4G licenses
The DRC’s National Assembly has adopted a new Telecommunications Act, overhauling the country’s legislative framework to bring it in line with regional peers. Key changes include the withdrawal of the state from the commercial sector and new rules surrounding infrastructure sharing in the country. The developments have coincided with the awarding of 4G licenses to the country’s MNOs. Vodacom has become the first operator to officially launch 4G services in the country. The operator is the leading MNO in the DRC with 38.9% market share. As well as its 4G network, the MNO continues to invest aggressively in its 2G and 3G networks.
Ghana: AirtelTigo to upgrade network
Newly merged entity AirtelTigo has announced that it has partnered up with Ericsson to consolidate and upgrade its network. The move will unify existing assets whilst expanding network coverage across the country.
Tanzania: Vodacom eyes up consolidation opportunities?
Market leaders, Vodacom are reportedly examining potential consolidation opportunities in the Tanzanian market with both Airtel and Millicom being mooted as potential targets. Millicom has recently exited several African markets as it continues to hone its focus on Latin American markets. Airtel has sold tower assets across much of its African portfolio, with its Tanzanian operations being one notable exception.
UAE: Etisalat and du announce plans to launch 5G mobile networks in 2018
Both Etisalat and du have announced plans to rollout 5G infrastructure and launch 5G mobile networks in 2018. 5G ready devices are not expected until 2019 however both MNOs are readying their networks in preparation.
Italy: Iliad expected to launch by 21 June
New market entrant, Iliad has announced that it plans to launch services in Italy by 21 June. The MNO becomes Italy’s fourth operator alongside TIM, Vodafone and WIND
France & Portugal: Further speculation around rumoured bidders
Interest around the potential bidders for Altice’s towers continues to grow, with both American Tower and KKR being named by Bloomberg. Other interested parties include Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, Cellnex, Antin Infrastructure Partners and Digital Bridge, all aiming for the 25 May deadline.
Bangladesh: Telecom regulator receives multiple bids for tower license
Following the deadline of 13 May, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has received 15 applications for the right to become a towerco in the country. The guidelines permit up to four licenses to be awarded. According to local news, officials cite multiple applications from the same companies in a move to assure higher chances of winning. As expected, American Tower and edotco have both filed applications. The deadline has also been extended to 11 June at the request of some companies.
China: World’s largest towerco China Tower Corporation files IPO in Hong Kong
In mid-May, China Tower Corporation filed its IPO with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, five months later than its initial target of 2017 year end. CICC and Goldman Sachs are the joint sponsors. According to the filing, CTC had revenue of CNY 67.085bn for its tower business, where 0.38% were from micro sites as opposed to macro towers, and of which started only in 2017. IBS revenue for the same year were CNY 1.284bn, while cross-industry site application and information services were CNY 169bn and other business contributed CNY 127bn. Total revenue for 2017 was CNY 68.665bn with net profit of CNY 1.943bn.
Malaysia: Naza Communications eyes expansion on heels of 5G
Previously known as Premium Radius, Naza Communications is looking to build a portfolio of 1,000 towers across Malaysia by 2023 to capitalise on the demand for mobility and IoT. The towers are expected to be “future-proof” as 5G rollouts take place. As of August 2017, the towerco owned approximately 350 structures in different parts of the country which were a mix of passive and active assets for a large number of telco and non-telco clients. Out of that, it had close to 300 cell sites, which is a combination of towers and micro cell sites.
Myanmar: Reports of potential merger between Apollo Towers and PAMEL
Bloomberg is reporting talks of a merger between private equity-backed Apollo Towers and PAMEL (also known as Pan Asia Majestic Eagle). According to TowerXchange data, Apollo Towers has ~1,800 towers while PAMEL has ~1,250. The two combined would make it the largest towerco in the country by tower count, surpassing current number one IGT (2,500).
Vietnam: In-building solutions provider PLA installs new technology to enhance coverage
To boost 4G indoor mobile coverage in Vietnam, PLA has deployed the first multi-operator indoor digital system in the country at Vincom Center, one of the famous shopping centers in Hanoi. The new system is said to provide an enhanced MBB experience better than legacy distributed antenna systems (DAS), playing a role in boosting 4G indoor mobile coverage.
Thursday 10th May, 2018
Colombia: Three operators launch LTE-A technology
Tigo, Claro and Movistar have all launched LTE-A services across Colombia. Tigo Une was the first to launch the LTE-A network in April across Bogotá, followed by Movistar who has already activated the services across 129 municipalities and Claro, whose LTE-A network reaches 199 municipalities
Kenya: American Tower acquires Telkom Kenya towers
In April, American Tower reached an agreement to acquire 723 towers from Telkom Kenya. The transaction adds a fifth market to American Tower’s African portfolio with the company also present in Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. American Tower’s Kenyan subsidiary will compete with Eaton Towers in the country as well as Safaricom’s in house towerco. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2018.
Senegal: Millicom completes sale of Tigo Senegal
Millicom has completed the sale of its Senegalese business to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofima and Teyliom Group. Millicom had previously reached a deal to sell the unit to Wari Group before pulling out of the transaction, a move that Wari Group had launched a legal challenge against.
Tunisia: Abraaj’s takeover of Tunisie Telecoms take falls through
Abraaj Group’s takeover of a 35% stake in Tunisie Telecom has fallen through. The private equity firm had previously reached an agreement to acquire Etisalat International Telecommunication’s stake in the operator. Observers widely expected the takeover to lead to a tower sale from Tunisie Telecom.
Bangladesh: Tower license application deadline looms
Just days remain before the May 13th deadline to bid for one of the four licenses available in the country. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) finalised and released the tower sharing license issuance guidelines in April 2018, allowing the holder “to develop, build, own, acquire, rent, lease, operate and maintain tower for providing telecommunication services to the Licensed Telecommunication Operators and to other entities authorized by the Commission.” One of the main criteria outlined by the BTRC is the applicant (or its partner) must have at least three years’ experience in tower services, managing 5,000 towers by the application date.
Bangladesh: MNO tower portfolios on the market
On the heels of the country’s finalised tower sharing regime, MNOs in the country, notably Telenor’s Grameenphone (GP) and VEON’s Banglalink, have kick started their tower divestment initiatives again. Read TowerXchange’s exclusive interview with GP in March 2017 here and with Banglalink in February 2017 here.
India: American Tower anticipates impact to revenue in coming months
As part of its first quarter earnings reporting, ATC noted it was reducing the midpoint of its full year 2018 outlook for property revenue, net income and adjusted EBITDA, partly due to the accelerated carrier consolidation-drive churn as a result of the bankruptcy of Aircel.
The Philippines: Globe Telecom expresses interest to partner with rival PLDT for towerco
According to Globe’s president and CEO Ernest Cu, the company is open to forming a towerco in partnership with PLDT for future tower builds. Earlier in the year, Globe announced it was exploring a full or partial tower asset sale, retaining UBS as its financial advisor. President Rodrigo Duterte has been trying to introduce a new third telco player into the country, with potential supporting tower policy also.
Pakistan: Government approves DH Corp’s investment in edotco Pakistan
DH Corp’s investment of 45% equity stake in edotco Pakistan has been approved by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). This clears one of the first regulatory hurdles for the two partners to acquire ~13,000 towers from Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited’s tower subsidiary (Deobar Private Limited). DH Corp is listed on the Pakistan Stock Exchange and is one of the country’s largest conglomerates with a varied business portfolio which includes fertilizers, foods, chemical storage and handling, trading, and energy (including independent power production, renewables and petrochemicals).
France: buyers teaming up for Altice assets
It is believed that buyers are forming consortia in order to better position themselves for the Altice assets in France, which are believed to be worth in the region of €4bn for around 10,000 assets, of which around 6,000 are macro towers. KKR and Antin Infrastructure Partners are believed to have entered into an agreement to bid together; with insurance firms Allianz and AXA working with Ardian and Digital Bridge to bid against them. American Tower are still believed to be in the running, as well as Canadian OMERS, as the bidding moves into the next round.
Italy: Shake up at Telecom Italia
Activist US fund Elliott has shaken up the Telecom Italia board, winning a shareholder vote to appoint ten independent directors to the board, and reappointing CEO Amos Genish, who both Elliott and Vivendi hope will work well with all shareholders. Genish’s long term plan to focus on digital transformation and get back an investment grade credit rating has been given a seal of approval by shareholders.
Italy: TowerTel not for sale, says EI Towers
Following rumours in the press that EI Towers may be about to sell telecoms arm TowerTel to Cellnex, EI Towers’ CEO Guido Barbieri has stated that they are in the course of developing the TowerTel asset, telling Reuters that it is ‘not for sale’. Barbieri stated that they would continue with their strategy of acquiring small ‘mom and pop’ towercos in Italy, and speculated that the Altice towers could even be of interest, given the similarity in scale between the Portuguese portfolio and EI’s own assets.
Portugal: bidding moves on despite regulatory hang ups
Altice’s Portuguese portfolio is thought to be worth around €500mn, with buyers including Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, ATC, Cellnex, Antin Infrastructure Partners and Digital Bridge all lining up to make binding offers by the 25th May cutoff. There are still some question marks around the regulatory landscape in Portugal however, with a proposed revenue threshold worrying some bidders.
Thursday 26th April, 2018
Brazil: QMC Telecom announces credit facility with ING Bank
QMC Telecom has sealed a credit facility and loan with ING Bank to finance tower development and acquisitions throughout Brazil. Interested parties in the deal shared their comments on a recently published press release.
“The closing of this groundbreaking facility in Brazil is a testament to the strong platform our management team has built over the years,” stated Jose Stella QMC’s Co-CEO and founder. “ING has a strong global presence in the tower industry and we are thrilled to be partnering with them as we continue to serve our clients in Brazil and expand our installed tower base,” adds Rafael Somoza, also a QMC co-CEO and founder.
“Latin America is the midst of building a wireless infrastructure designed to meet the needs of the next generation of communications and technology. QMC is on the forefront of this development through its installation of new towers across Brazil and Latin America,” said Valtin Gallani, Director, ING. “QMC’s management team has built a unique growth platform with an impressive investor base, and we are proud to be partnered with them to extend these efforts.”
Brazil: Brazil Tower Company seals debt financing
Brazil Tower Company (BTC) has closed US$79mn of a US$104mn long-term debt financing with a group of lenders led by Cordiant Capital of Montreal. The company plans to double its tower portfolio from 600 to 1,200 sites over the next couple of years.
“We are very excited about the growth we are realizing in Brazil through new tower development and new collocations and amendments. Our backlog of new towers and pipeline for growth is the strongest we have seen since 2015,” said Tom Staz, BTC’s Chief Financial Officer and a partner at 1848 Capital Partners in Miami, BTC’s primary equity sponsor. “With the support of our new debt facility and a large inventory of customer orders, we will continue to strategically rollout new tower sites over the next 18 – 24 months to double the size of our tower portfolio and triple the cash flows of the business.”
“BTC is very disciplined in its approach to new site selection. We focus on highly trafficked and defensible tower locations that will benefit from strong double-digit organic growth,” added Chahram Zolfaghari, Chief Executive Officer of BTC. “We have achieved consistent year-over-year growth in asset count and cash flow and look forward to accelerating that growth with our new round of financing.”
Mexico: Maxcom agrees to sell towers to MXT
Mexican operator Maxcom has sealed a sale and leaseback deal with MXT, the group behind MXT Towers, for 72 towers for an approximate value of US$10.3mn. Maxcom is an integrated telecoms services operator offering voice and data to residential customers and SMEs across four metropolitan areas in Mexico.
Peru: Movistar Peru announces infrastructure investment
The operator plans to invest US$432mn in 2018 to improve both its mobile and fixed infrastructure.
Regional: AT&T withdraws DirecTV IPO
AT&T has announced it will cancel the planned IPO of its shares in the holding company behind DirecTV and Sky Brasil. The decision, according to an investor statement, is “based on current market conditions.”
Kenya: Airtel and Telkom Kenya to merge?
Rumours have circulated that Telkom Kenya may acquire Airtel’s Kenyan opco in a bid to create a stronger challenger to Safaricom which dominates the market with 75% market share. The reports suggest that Airtel and Telkom may look to share infrastructure. Airtel has previously sold its assets to Eaton Towers in the country with Telkom’s portfolio of 1000 sites currently up for sale. Eaton is widely expected to be the likely acquirer of such assets, but American Tower’s name has also been linked with the process.
Niger: Airtel awarded 4G license
Airtel has become Niger’s first MNO to obtain an 4G license. Airtel is the country’s largest MNO with 47% market share.
Nigeria: 9mobile sale on hold?
Reports have emerged that the sale of 9mobile to Teleology Holdings may not go ahead after objections from the some of the entity’s current shareholders. Teleology Holdings have paid a US$50mn non-refundable deposit for the business and has until June to pay the balance of US$450mn.
Regional: Eaton to drop IPO plans?
After Helios Towers pulled their plans to list on the LSE and JSE last month, rumours have emerged that Eaton Towers plans to shelve their IPO plans. Reports suggest that weaker than expected investor appetite was behind the cancellation of the process, with the limited scale of the listing as well as associated country risk thought to have been a deterrent. A potential merger or acquisition could represent an alternative strategy.
Saudi Arabia: Regulatory talks progress whilst STC continues search for towerco partner
The CITC has been engaging in dialogue with key tower industry stakeholders regarding the proposed additional levies being proposed
Senegal: Sale of Tigo to NJJ, Sofima and Teyliom Group approved
The sale of Millicom’s Tigo to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofima and Teyliom Group has been approved by Senegal’s President, Macky Sall. Millicom had previously agreed to sell the opco to Wari Group before cancelling the deal in favour of the consortium. Wari Group had raised a legal challenge surrounding the cancelled deal; the President’s approval puts the dispute to bed.
Tunisia: Tunisie Telecom stake sale cancelled
Etisalat International Telecommunication’s sale of its stake in Tunisie Telecom to Abraaj Group has been cancelled, amid controversy that senior members of Abraaj had mishandled funds.
China: State Grid Corporation of China opens up tower assets to China Tower Corporation
Described as a major milestone between the telecoms and electric utilities industry, CTC and the State Grid have established a strategic partnership to share infrastructure resources. The State Grid has a nation-wide footprint, with over 940,000km of overhead transmission lines and 2.91mn base towers, while CTC has 1.9mn towers as of Q4-2017. Both are state-owned entities and the world’s largest in their respective industries.
India: Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers merger creates world’s second largest towerco
On 25 April, it was announced the two towercos will merge to create a pan-India entity, with over 163,000 towers operating across all 22 telecom service areas in India. The merger ratio (1,565 shares of Bharti Infratel for every 1 Indus Towers share, the “Merger Ratio”) is within the range recommended by the independent valuer. The transaction values Indus Towers at an enterprise value of INR715bn (US$10.8bn) or 9.3x EV/LTM EBITDA. The new entity will be named Indus Towers Limited and continue to be listed on the Indian Stock Exchanges.
South Korea: Government mandates infrastructure sharing for 5G rollout
KT, LG U+ and SK Broadband will be expected to jointly undertake facility construction in the future as the number of base stations required for 5G is estimated to be 4.3-18x greater than 4G LTE. The Ministry of Science and ICT has also estimated annual savings of US$37mn (KRW40bn) for the set up of 5G facilities and equipment under a sharing model. Further investment savings over a 10-year span would be in the range of US$370mn to US$926mn (KRW400bn to KRW1trn).
Malaysia: Celcom and edotco Create an industry champion for network service excellence
Celcom Axiata Berhad and edotco Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. has launched On Site Services Sdn. Bhd., a new organisation focused on achieving operational and maintenance service delivery excellence. In a first for the industry, employees of On Site Services will also co-own up to 30 percent and be pioneer stakeholders of the company.
On Site Services will be the largest independent First Line Maintenance (FLM) entity in the country with a group of experts with over 25 years of experience in field and operations and will be managing over 10,000 network sites throughout Malaysia. Up to 400 Celcom FLM Division employees specialising in Corrective and Preventive Maintenance (for both active and passive elements) as well as Support Activities will form On Site Services.
Myanmar: Universal Service Fund to be collected from operators beginning in June
The government will be collecting two percent of the income from telecom operators to boost network coverage in rural areas. Currently nearly 90% of the population is covered with 94% as the target by the first quarter of 2019. The four operators in the country are state-owned MPT, Telenor, Ooredoo and Mytel.
Austria: Telekom Austria assessing options in southeastern Europe
Telekom Austria is believed to be interested in investing in southeast Europe, according to quotes from CEO Alejandro Plater in Der Standard. The MNO, controlled by America Movil and including the Austrian state among its shareholders, could well be looking to invest in the Balkan region. With so much MNO M&A lined up for the CEE region over the course of 2018, TowerXchange will watch with interest to see how tower assets are managed by new owners looking to maximise their investments.
Finland: Digital Colony Acquires Digita
Marc Ganzi’s investment firm Digital Colony has announced that a Digital Colony affiliate has entered into a binding agreement to acquire Finnish broadcast towerco Digita Oy from First State Investments.
Founded in 1999 as a spin-off from national broadcaster Yle, Digita is Finland’s leading TV and radio broadcasting network and the only platform with the ability to reach nearly 100 percent of the Finnish population. The company is also Finland’s largest independent tower network owner, providing infrastructure solutions to the country’s largest mobile network operators. Digita will continue to be led by CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström and the existing management team.
“Digita is well-positioned to extend its business model into adjacent markets as the deployment of 5G will increase demand for new macro towers, rooftop sites, small cell deployments, and data centers,” said Ben Jenkins, Managing Partner at Digital Colony. “We look forward to partnering with Digita’s highly experienced team to ensure that the company’s processes and systems remain best in class to provide customers state-of-the-art solutions across the entire value chain.”
France & Portugal: Altice sale gathers momentum
Altice is believed to be running a streamlined process for the acquisition of their towers in France and Portugal, with binding offers expected by the end of May.
Bidders for the ~10,000 French towers are believed to include French fund Antin Infrastructure Partners, whose early investments in European towers included the formation of FPS Towers, a French towerco sold to American Tower in late 2016; private equity firm KKR, who own 40% of Telefonica’s infrastructure arm Telxius; American Tower, who acquired ~2,400 French towers in 2016 through their acquisition of FPS Towers; and insurance companies AXA and Allianz, both of whom have been linked with European tower investments in the last couple of years, most notably with the sale of a 40% stake in Telxius. The French portfolio is believed to be around 6,000 macro towers and a further 4,000 rooftops and could fetch up to €4bn.
Bidders for the ~3,000 towers in Portugal are said to include Europe’s biggest towerco, Cellnex; Digital Bridge, who recently acquired broadcast towerco Digita in Finland, Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and American Tower. The infrastructure is believed to be almost entirely macro towers and is valued at close to €500mn.
Italy: Edizione to acquire stake in Cellnex
Atlantia has agreed to sell a 29.9% stake in Cellnex to Edizione, the controlling shareholder in Atlantia and Benetton family holding company. The deal is conditional on the Atlantia’s acquisition of Abertis going through successfully, and is expected to be worth a total of €1.489bn.
Thursday 12th April, 2018
Kenya: Airtel and Telkom Kenya to merge?
Rumours have circulated that Telkom Kenya may acquire Airtel’s Kenyan opco in a bid to create a stronger challenger to Safaricom which dominates the market with 75% market share. The reports suggest that Airtel and Telkom may look to share infrastructure. Airtel has previously sold its assets to Eaton Towers in the country with Telkom’s portfolio of 1000 sites currently up for sale. Eaton is widely expected to be the likely acquirer of such assets, but American Tower’s name has also been linked with the process.
Nigeria: MTN and Huawei complete deployment of rural solutions
MTN and Huawei have completed the deployment of Huawei’s RuralStar 2.0 solution in remote and rural areas across Nigeria. The solution allows antenna to be deployed on 12m poles instead of the usual high towers and is said to reduce infrastructure construction costs by 70%
Zambia: Unitel acquires 4th MNO license
MNO Unitel (which has operations in Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde and Portugal) has been awarded Angola’s fourth mobile license. The operator joins Airtel, MTN and Afrimax (which trades under the Vodafone brand in the country).
Qatar: Vodafone completes sale of Qatari opco
Vodafone Group has completed the sale of Vodafone Qatar to Qatar Foundation. Qatar Foundation acquired the 51% stake for US$367mn.
India: RCom allowed to proceed with full asset monetisation programme
The courts have vacated the stay previously imposed on Reliance Communications’ asset sales. The MNO is now able to proceed with the sale of its spectrum, towers, fibre, media convergence nodes and real estate to Reliance Jio for Rs25,000 crore (US$3.85bn). The tower and fibre assets of RCom sit within its infrastructure arm, Reliance Infratel. Per the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the proceeds from the sale must be deposited in an escrow account until 18 April, pending final ruling on a separate case filed by minority shareholders of Reliance Infratel.
Japan: MNO license granted to electronics e-commerce firm Rakuten
A new player will look to compete against NTT Docomo, SoftBank and KDDI in the country, as Rakuten has received approval from the government to expand its business scope as an online retailer. The new entrant has signed an infra-sharing agreement with Kansai Electric Power to access its transmission towers, utility poles, telecommunication towers and other infrastructure, with potentially more utilities partnerships to come. Rakuten is looking to start its mobile offerings in Q3-2018.
Myanmar: Solar and mini-grids to power towers and communities in rural areas
Yoma Micro Power has raised $28mn from International Finance Corporation (IFC), Norfund and Yoma Strategic Holdings for its micro power plants and mini grids projects. The company is looking to generate electricity through solar-based micro power plants mainly for telecom towers, while the mini-grids serve surrounding communities. The projects are focused on rural areas of Ayeyarwaddy and Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay regions.
The Philippines: OCK signs MoU with Filipino firm for entry into tower market
Malaysia-based OCK Group Berhad has partnered up with ISOC Infrastructures in a bid to become one of the first towercos in the country, tapping into the proposed common tower policy and entry of a third telco player, as well as the potential divestment of towers by Globe Telecom. As of Q4-2017, OCK had a portfolio of 2,923 towers across Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The Philippines: Local conglomerate eyes expansion into telecommunications
The Villar Group, founded by business tycoon and former politician Manny Villar, is looking to become the country’s third telco player, alongside incumbents Globe Telecom and PLDT-Smart. The group is looking into opportunities in telecoms, infrastructure and gaming beyond its roots in real estate development.
Argentina: Telefónica plans listing
The MNO has filed to list its Argentine subsidiary, valued at US$5.8bn, on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.
Dominican Republic: Altice sale progressing
Altice, which is currently looking at divesting various assets across France, Portugal and the Dominican Republic, has invited bidders for its Dominican tower portfolio. Bidders shortlisted to the second round include Phoenix Tower International, Digital Bridge, Liberty Global and Millicom (in partnership with Apollo Global Management). The valuation for Altice’s global assets is €3bn.
Thursday 29th March, 2018
Belgium: Court revokes approval for European Aviation Network
Despite Inmarsat’s claims to have completed their European Aviation Network earlier this year, a new challenge to the network may see holes punched in their coverage. Debate about whether their use of ‘complementary ground components’ for the satellite network means the EAN is actually a terrestrial network, and therefore doesn’t fulfil the conditions of a mobile satellite system as defined by European regulations.
The EAN is being challenged in courts across Europe by competitors Viasat and Eutelsat, with mixed results
Italy: Changing of the guard at INWIT
Reports in the Italian press indicate that a re-shuffle of the board at TIM-owned towerco INWIT will result in significant change in the organisation. La Repubblica names Giovanni Ferigo, current CTO at TIM, as the new CEO of INWIT. This kind of change throws into question recent rumours that INWIT was about to be brought to market, and opens up the Italian market once again.
Spain: Cellnex sale going ahead
As part of Atlantia’s agreement to buy Cellnex parent company Abertis, the Italian company has decided to exercise a call option to buy some 29.9% or 34% of Abertis’ stake in Cellnex for between €21.20 and €21.50. Atlantia also said that its main shareholder, Edizione Srl, has granted Atlantia an option to sell a 29.9% stake in Cellnex, valued at €1.49bn which may be exercised by 16th April.
Kenya: Two consortia apply for 4G licenses
Two consortia, each comprising five companies have applied for 4G licenses in the country. If their applications are successful, they will be given access to spectrum for a trial period of one year before paying US$25mn for the spectrum. The two consortia hope to use the spectrum freed up by Kenya’s migration from analogue to digital TV.
Nigeria: Teleology pays US$50mn deposit for 9mobile
It has been reported that Teleology has paid a US$50mn deposit for 9mobile. Conflicting reports had emerged from Nigeria on who was the winning party in the bidding process, with both Smile Communications and Teleology Holdings being mooted. A statement from Teleology’s CEO, Adrian Wood (the former CEO of MTN Nigeria) announcing that the company expected to have paid off half of the loan due by 9mobile by the time that it was taken over, appears to have put speculation to rest.
South Africa: South Africa to award spectrum by March 2019
The Ministry of Telecommunications has announced that it plans to award spectrum to the country’s MNOs before March 2019. The award of the spectrum has been subject to delays, with MNOs keen to secure additional frequencies to continue the rollout of broadband in the country
Zambia: Unitel secures fourth mobile network license
Angola based Unitel has secured Zambia’s fourth mobile network license, joining market leaders MTN, Airtel and Zamtel in the country. Unitel has pledged to invest over US$350mn in the market.
India: Reliance Jio emerges as largest network by base stations
Market disruptor MNO Reliance Jio has expanded to ~448,000 base stations across the country, growing significantly since it entered the market in mid-2016 with 150,000 stations. By comparison, for the same period in March, Bharti Airtel has ~431,000 base stations, while Vodafone follows with ~295,000 and Idea Cellular at ~279,000. Once the merger between Vodafone and Idea goes through, it will result in the largest network, though roughly 60,000 overlapping sites will be shut down.
India: GTL Infrastructure seeks dues and compensation from Aircel
The towerco who had Aircel as its largest customer is seeking to intervene in the MNO’s bankruptcy proceedings, in an attempt to recover Rs400 crore (~US$61.68mn) in rentals owed and compensation for premature contract termination of Rs12,000 crore (~US$1.85bn). Tower rental contracts were to be valid through 2030.
Indonesia: Protelindo adds 1400 towers through KIN acquisition
The country’s largest independent towerco has entered into agreement to acquire PT Komet Infra Nusantara (KIN), marking global private equity firm Providence’s exit. KIN currently owns approximately 1,400 towers and more than 2,000 tenancies. Protelindo owns and operates 14,739 towers as of Q3-2017. Purchase price for the shares is approximately IDR1.4trn (US$101.78mn), subject to adjustments at final close. Protelindo has indicated KIN’s tower portfolio as highly complementary to its existing portfolio. Singapore-based Redpeak Advisers is the financial advisor for the transaction.
Japan: Infra-sharing agreement between Rakuten and Kansai Electric Power
While no towercos exist in the Japanese market, electronic e-commerce firm Rakuten is seeking to leverage the infrastructure of electric utilities across the country as it seeks to enter the MNO space. It has applied for 4G spectrum from the government and pending approval, will look to use Kansai Electric Power’s transmission towers, utility poles, telecommunication towers and other infrastructure to start.
Brazil: Anatel to re-auction unused 700MHz spectrum
The Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacões (Anatel) is working on 58 projects to be approved in 2018, with 20 of them focused on spectrum and 5G technology. Anatel is planning to re-auction the unused 700MHz spectrum which was originally auctioned in 2014.
Brazil: Telefónica plans US$7.4bn network investments
Telefónica Brasil is planning network investments for the upcoming three years up to US$7.4bn. At an analyst briefing, the company’s CEO Eduardo Navarro said that “Fibre is something we are doing very aggressively in Spain and here in Brazil. The demand for ultra-broadband is huge […] We have great advantages when you take our experience from Spain. Spain has the highest fibre penetration in the West, and we want to replicate that in Brazil.”
Argentina: Operators gear up for 4G-suitable spectrum auction
Claro, Personal and Movistar have shown interest in the spectrum auction that Argentina is currently planning. The auction will award spectrum in the 700MHz, 850MHz, 1900MHz and 1700MHz bands which was originally awarded to ARSAT and Arlink. ARSAT’s allocation was then cancelled due to lack of operator interest while the government cancelled Arlink’s allocation due to unpaid license fees. The auction should generate approximately US$800mn.
Thursday 15th March 2018
Finland: Digita sale in question
The future of Finnish broadcast towerco’s sale process is in doubt after indicative bids fell short of owners First State’s own valuation. The sellers were reportedly looking for a valuation of around €550m (based on an EBITDA of €40m) but received only first round bids of €350-400m. Broadcast tower valuations in Europe have been hard to align recently, with Arqiva in the UK abandoning the sales process in Q417 and French Towercast making little reported progress with the sale of their assets. Rumours of an IPO for Digita remain on the table, but this looks less likely given the size of the company.
France: Altice towers attract interest
Both American Tower and KKR are rumoured to be among bidders for Altice’s mobile assets in France. TowerXchange believes that French towerco TDF and Spanish towerco Cellnex will also be interested in bidding for the French assets. Cellnex has also expressed an interest in Altice’s ~ 3,000 towers in Portugal
Italy: 5G auctions announced
Agcom, Italy’s telecommunications services regulator, has announced a public consultation for the first Italian 5G spectrum tender. Agcom has proposed making spectrum in the 700 MHz, 3.6-3.8 GHz and 26.5-27.5 GHz bands available by auction in 2018. These proposed concessions will last until 2037 and are expected to raise at least €2.5bn in total proceeds.
Italy: TIM spinoff going ahead
Telecom Italia has appointed two banks (Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs) to work on their plans to spin off its network. TIM plans to retan control of the grid, worth in the region of €1.5bn, but reduce debt through the sale of a minority stake, as with towerco INWIT.
UK: 4G and 5G spectrum auction be begin March 20th
The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has approved six companies to take part in a spectrum auction later this month, allocating the 2.3 GHz band to improving existing mobile services and the 3.4 GHz band to future 5G mobile services. The six companies approved to bid in the auction are EE (BT), O2 (Telefonica), Vodafone, Three (Hutchison 3G UK), Connexin Limited and Airspan Spectrum Holdings.
Brazil: Oi approved debt-for-equity swap
Oi’s Board of Directors have approved a debt-for-equity swap proposed by the company’s creditors. The operation requires the issuance of up to 1,756,054,163 new shares (a maximum of US$3.8bn). Under this terms, Oi’s unsecured bondholders can swap portions of their debt for shares in the company.
Costa Rica: Claro and Movistar complete spectrum acquisition
Claro and Movistar have finalised the acquisition of additional spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands. The announcement follows last year’s frequency auction, during which Claro paid US$19mn and Movistar US$24mn for available spectrum in the two bands.
Argentina: Telecom Argentina granted US$1bn loan
The Argentinian mobile network operator has obtained a US$1bn loan from a consortium of banks including Citibank, HSBC Mexico, ICBC, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Banco Santander.
Regional: IPOs and M&A in the African tower industry
On 2 March, Helios Towers which owns a portfolio of over 6,500 sites across Tanzania, DRC, Ghana and Congo Brazzaville announced plans to list on the London Stock Exchange and Johannesburg Stock Exchange. On 15 March, announced that in spite of high interest from institutional investors they had decided to not proceed with the listing at this time. Speculation has arisen as to whether the company may merge with Eaton Towers who is also targeting an IPO. Further rumours have emerged as to whether American Tower may make an offer to acquire either party.
Regional: MTN eyes up monetisation of stake in IHS Towers
MTN CFO Ralph Mupita told reporters that its 29% stake in IHS Towers has been earmarked as an asset for sale, adding that it was not strategic to lock up so much capital. IHS Towers is expected to be gearing up for an IPO in the latter part of 2018 and should the share sale go ahead at an appropriate valuation, MTN may look to monetise its stake.
Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen: MTN to exit ‘conflict markets’?
MTN CEO, Rob Shuter hinted in the MNO’s 2017 results presentation that MTN may look to exit markets which are not “self-funding”. The most likely markets to come under review are Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Nigeria: Smile telecoms outlines rollout plans should it acquire 9mobile
Smile Communications’ Executive Director, Ahmad Farrouk, told reporters that should they acquire 9mobile, Smile plans to rollout an additional 600 base stations within 90 days. The rollout, combined with 9mobile’s existing portfolio of 500 BTS and Smile’s 400 BTS would take 9mobile’s BTS count up to 1500.
South Africa: Atlas Tower passes 500 tower mark in South Africa
The tower count of Atlas Tower, South Africa’s fastest growing towerco has surpassed the 500 site tower mark. Atlas has more than 550 additional tower sites in development in three African Countries and expects to reach 1000 towers in Africa by mid 2020
Australia: Government to auction 3.6 GHz band for future 5G rollouts
On 8 March, the Australian government announced that 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band will be sold at competitive auction, in anticipation of 5G service provisioning. Currently the band is used in the country for fixed satellite service earth stations, point-to-point links and site-based wireless broadband services. The auction is expected to take place in October.
The Philippines: Telco PLDT returns spectrum and waives associated reimbursements
According to the officer-in-chief of the Department of Information and Communications, “PLDT has fully complied with its divestment of 10 Mhz of the 3G radio frequency that was previously assigned with CURE. This frequency is now available to a new major telco player.” PLDT is also waiving its right to be compensated for the return of the spectrum.
The Duterte administration has been keen to introduce a third telecoms provider in the country to increase competition and improve services; PLDT and Globe Telecom are the incumbents.
India: Reliance Infratel asset sale on hold; petitions filed by HSBC Daisy Investments and Ericsson
Debt-laden Reliance Communications’ (RCom) efforts to raise money by selling its wireless assets to Reliance Jio Infomm has been halted by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). HSBC Daily Investments (Mauritius) Ltd., who own ~5% stake in RCom’s infrastructure arm Reliance Infratel, filed a petition which resulted in a stay by NCLT.
Back in December, it was announced Jio was the highest bidder for RCom assets of ~43,000 towers, ~178,000km of optic fiber cable network across India, 4G spectrum in the 800, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz bands, and 248 media convergence nodes. The stay pertains to just tower and fibre assets.
RCom was also previously ordered by court separately to restrain its asset sales due to money owed to Ericsson; the two companies now have one week to work out a settlement for the ~US$177mn insolvency case.
Thursday 1st March 2018
Norway: PPF set to acquire Telenor CEE assets
The sale of Telenor’s CEE assets to international investment group PPF is well underway, with several banks believed to be preparing a €3bn debt package for the sale. If it goes ahead, the deal will include Telenor assets in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. It’s also thought that PPF will be well positioned to acquire Liberty Global’s assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Given PPF’s success in driving value through the division of the O2 telecoms business in the Czech Republic from its network infrastructure, we may well see a new business model and wireless infrastructure model developing in the CEE region, should the deal go ahead.
Finland: Digita deal draws closer to conclusion
Bidding is underway for Finnish broadcast towerco Digita, with EQT, InfraVia and AMP Capital all linked to the process. It’s rumoured that owners First State Capital haven’t ruled out an IPO for this ambitious towerco, which has been working hard to grow by moving into adjacent verticals such as data centres.
Spain: Cellnex annual report: revenues up 12%
Cellnex Telecom’s 2017 report showed an increase in EBITDA of 22%, and a growth of points of presence of 22%. Rollout of DAS nodes was up 26% yoy and 92% of the 2,200 planned sites by 2021 are committed. Cellnex are claiming to liquidity of €2bn, which would allow them to buy up the Altice assets in Portugal, but means they may need to find partners or new lines of credit if they would like to aim for Altice’s assets in both Portugal and France, or if an INWIT sale is imminent.
Regional: Telefónica looking at divesting LatAm stake
Cinco Días, a Spanish newspaper, reported news of the possible sale of a portion of Telefónica’s LatAm operations in an attempt to reduce its US$50bn debts. According to the news outlet, the carrier could either look for a private equity investor or consider an IPO. Earlier this year, the carrier had reorganised its business units and divided its regional business operations into two segment: Telefónica Hispam Sur covering Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay and Telefónica Hispam Norte which includes Colombia, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Brazil: AT&T eyeing Brazilian 700MHz spectrum
AT&T could bid in the upcoming Brazilian 700MHz spectrum auction. The carrier has been previously reported as a possible buyer of Oi and is a major shareholder in Sky Brasil. The spectrum auction is going to take place in the second half of 2018.
Sub-Saharan Africa news
Angola: Offers starting for fourth mobile license
Offers for Angola’s telecoms license are expected in the coming weeks, with the license covering broadband, fixed line and pay-TV as well as mobile operations. The country currently has two MNOs; Unitel and Movitel with fixed line incumbent, Angola Telecom having been awarded a third license at the end of 2017. The government has been keen to increase competition in the market, with infrastructure sharing being pushed in order to reduce the required investment.
Ghana: Expresso and Glo given 30 day ultimatum to improve operational performance
MNOs Expresso and Glo have been given a 30 day ultimatum by Ghana’s Minister of Communications to improve their poor operational performance or have their licenses revoked. Ghana’s crowded MNO landscape has begun some consolidation in the past year, with Airtel and Tigo merging. Should Glo and Expresso’s licenses be revoked, their spectrum will become available for existing MNOs or a new market entrant
Niger: Orange inks ESCO contract with Camusat’s Aktivco
Orange has signed its second ESCO contract in sub-Saharan Africa, reaching an agreement with Camusat’s Aktivco in Niger. Orange had previously signed a deal with Greenwish Partners in the DRC and has four further live tenders which it expects to award in the first half of 2018. The contract will mark Aktivco’s second ESCO contract, having signed a deal with Millicom in Chad in 2017..
Iraq: Major investment in telecommunications to begin
On 14 February, international investors and donors gathering for a summit in Kuwait pledged $30bn towards rebuilding Iraq’s economy and infrastructure with telecommunications a key component of the work ahead. An estimated 25% of Iraq’s towers sustained damage as a result of three years of conflict and major investment is required to rebuild and expand the country’s networks.
Kuwait: Zain tower sale expected to complete in April 2018
Zain’s sale of its 1,600 Kuwaiti towers to IHS Towers is expected to complete in April of this year. When completed, the deal will mark the Middle East’s first tower transaction of scale. Zain Group has also reached an agreement to sell their Saudi Arabian towers to IHS Towers, although the transaction is still awaiting clearance from the regulator.
Qatar: Vodafone Group sells 51% stake in Vodafone Qatar to Qatar Foundation
Vodafone Group has agreed the sale of its 51% stake in Vodafone Qatar to their partner in the entity, Qatar Foundation. The Qatar Foundation acquired the 51% stake for a total cash consideration of QAR1.35bn. The business will continue to operate under the Vodafone brand with Vodafone Group entering into a five-year Partner Market agreement.
India: Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers sing different tune on their tower strategies
While in late 2017 there were talks of Bharti Infratel buying out the Vodafone stakes (42%) in their joint-venture towerco Indus Towers, as well as those of other shareholders (Idea Cellular at 11.15% and Providence at 4.85%), then selling to investors, there appears to be a change in plan. The latest news out of India speaks of a merger between Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers, with an eye to capturing value further down the line, once MNO consolidations shake out and remaining players re-invest in infrastructure to meet data demand.
India: Vodafone and Idea Cellular tower sales to finalise before government approves merger
The merger between MNOs Vodafone and Idea in India is close to getting the final nod from the government, pending the sale of their standalone tower assets to American Tower Corporation (ATC). In addition, Idea has also applied to raise the FDI limit in the company to 100%, which is also pending approval. The standalone towers of Vodafone and Idea to ATC are expected to change hands for a total of Rs 7,850 crore.
Myanmar: New towerco MNTI signs ESCO contract with Voltalia
MNTI, which has been awarded BTS orders with fourth operator MyTel has selected Voltalia, an international player in renewable energies as an energy partner. The agreement covers an initial batch of 171 telecom towers, of which 80% are not connected the national electricity grid. The contract is for 10 years, with Voltalia responsible for power supply to the sites at 2kW each, located in the Bao and Ayeyarwaddy regions of Myanmar.
Wednesday 14th February 2018
El Salvador: SBA Communications to buy Tigo’s towers
Tigo El Salvador has agreed to a sale and leaseback deal for around 800 sites with SBA Communications. The deal is valued approximately US$145mn (value per tower US$181K).
Brazil: Telefónica signs lease contract with Telxius
Telefónica Brasil announced the sealing of a contract with Telxius for a total value of approximately US$8.7mn for the lease of 92 properties. The contract has a 10-year duration.
French Guyane: Phoenix Tower International acquires sites from Digicel
Phoenix Tower International has announced that it has closed its transaction with Digicel Antilles Francaises Guyane (Digicel) to acquire the ownership or management rights relating to 215 wireless communication tower sites from Digicel.
“PTI is enthused to continue to work closely with Digicel and was uniquely positioned to execute this transaction given our existing presence in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The French West Indies exhibit the hallmarks of a healthy wireless infrastructure market with multiple wireless operators that have significant network capex needs and a stable regulatory environment.” stated Dagan Kasavana, Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix Tower International.
Commenting on the transaction, Digicel Group CEO, Colm Delves, said; “We’re very pleased to be partnering with PTI on this transaction in the French West Indies, having previously done so in El Salvador. We look forward to continue building on the strong partnership already established between Digicel and PTI.”
Namibia: MTC announces plans to rollout 500+ rural towers
Namibia’s leading MNO, MTC has announced that it has plans to rollout 524 new towers in rural areas in a bid to improve coverage as part of the compay’s ‘081 Every1’ project. 40 contractors have been appointed for the project with 17 different companies selected for the supply, delivery and installation of the base stations.
Nigeria: NCC delays sale of 9mobile
The Nigerian Communication Commission has delayed the sale of 9mobile. In spite of conflicting news reports that a winner bidder had been decided upon by 9mobile’s interim board, NCC’s Executive Commissioner for Stakeholder Management told press that the NCC had not yet been notified of a winner. Uncertainty in the process has caused 9mobile’s shareholders to drop from 21mn to 17mn.
Rwanda: Airtel’s acquisition of Tigo Rwanda approved by the regulator
The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority has approved the acquisition of Tigo Rwanda by Airtel. The acquisition will reduce the number of MNOs in the market from three to two, with Airtel Rwanda leapfrogging MTN to become the country’s largest player.
Egypt: Vodafone to provide Telecom Egypt with transmission and infrastructure services
As Egypt’s newest MNO, Telecom Egypt has reached a wholesale agreement with Vodafone to utilise its transmission and infrastructure services for a three year period.
Iran: MCI expands 3G and 4G coverage to all cities
Iran’s leading operator, MCI has expanded both its 3G and 4G networks to bring coverage to all towns and cities in the country. As previously reported by TowerXchange, the operator has formed a towerco with Rightel and Fanasia which will manage the rollout of any new passive infrastructure.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia: Zain tower deals close to completion
Insiders suggest that IHS Towers’ acquisition of Zain’s towers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is close to completion. When completed, the tower transactions will mark the first major tower deal in the Middle East and add a further two markets and 9,376 towers to IHS’ portfolio of 23,382 towers. Read TowerXchange’s interview with IHS’ CEO, Sam Darwish.
Tunisia: Speculation on potential tower sale as Abraaj Investment Fund acquires stake in Tunisie Telecom
Abraaj Group’s acquisition of a 35% stake in Tunisie Telecom from Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT), for a reported US$300mn, is expected to close in mid-February. Once the transaction is completed Tunisie Telecom are reportedly considering the sale of their portfolio of c. 2000 towers in a bid to raise capital.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission holds spectrum auction
The February auction in Dhaka is paving way for 4G rollouts in Bangladesh. Market leader Telenor spent US$155mn on the 1800MHz band, while Banglalink picked up both 2100MHz and 1800MHz bands for a total of US$308.6mn. The other two MNOs Robi Axiata and Teletalk did not take part, and will instead rely on their existing spectrum for provision of 4G services. 4G licenses are available to the MNOs at a fee of US$1.2mn. Mobile users are expected to enjoy 4G services in the coming weeks.
China: China Mobile secures new commercial terms with China Tower Corporation
After negotiations and discussions “at arm’s length,” China Mobile’s pricing agreement with CTC has been adjusted in favour of the MNO. Part of the revisions include the cost markup rate dropping to 10% from 15%, as well as tenant discount from 20% to 30% for towers shared by two lessees, and 30% to 40% for three lessees, with the extra 5% discount entitled by the anchor tenant unchanged. The agreement came into effect on January 1, 2018 for a period of five years. This comes at a time when CTC is seeking to IPO and optimise its valuations, while the three MNOs are under pressure to minimise costs; all three MNOs have shares in CTC.
Philippines: MNO Globe Telecom talks tower asset divestment
Since the government announced its intention to introduce a common tower policy in the country, Globe has indicated interest to sell either a portion or all of its tower assets, totaling over 8,000 sites across the Philippines. The money raised will go towards sustaining Globe’s capital expenditure and maintain its consistent dividend policy according to CEO Ernest Cu. The Philippines is under-served with ~17,000 towers to 100mn people, with an estimated 50,000 more required to put it on par to some of its counterparts in the region. Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs and ICT Ramon P. Jacinto has been quoted saying at least two to three towercos could play a role in the future rollouts.
Italy – INWIT towers rumoured to be coming to market in 2018
Telecom Italia first toyed with the idea of selling its 45% stake in towerco spin off INWIT in 2015, and by early 2016 had three offers from Cellnex, EI Towers and American Tower. They decided against the sale in early 2016, aiming to grow the value in the asset before bringing it back to market. Since then, Cellnex has acquired almost 10,000 towers in Europe, American Tower has acquired FPS in France and EI has continued to grow. With the complication of new accounting rules affecting the way business is done, it seems Telecom Italia has decided to test the waters again and is looking to sell INWIT in 2018.
Pan-Europe – European Aviation Network completed
Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom’s joint venture hybrid satellite and ground based European Aviation Network has set up 300 LTE towers across the 28 European Union member states, as well as Switzerland and Norway, to deliver an in-flight connectivity solution over European airspace. The ground network pairs with an S-band satellite called Inmarsat S EAN, which launched in June 2017.
European Aviation Network services are due to launch in H118 on flights operated by International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling.
United Kingdom – Vodafone trials 4G ‘mini mobile’ mast
In the first trial of its kind, Vodafone has brought an 8ft mast into service in a rural part of Cornwall, south-west England. Developed in partnership with Commscope, the mast is half the height of the shortest standard mast and has very low requirements in terms of cabinetry and was installed in about 35% of the time it takes for a standard mast.
Thursday 17 January 2018
UK: 3i Infrastructure plc announces investment of £186m in Wireless Infrastructure Group
Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) has long aimed to look beyond towers and position its offering for future network needs. With this latest round of investment, 3i Infrastructure will increase its stake to 91%, becoming the company’s sole institutional shareholder alongside its management team, in order to back WIG’s 5G investment plans.
The investment comes as WIG continues to scale up its deployment of high capacity, 5G-ready wireless infrastructure including new communication towers serving rural communities together with small cells and fibre in busy urban centres.
Scott Coates, CEO of Wireless Infrastructure Group said ‘WIG is busy investing in new infrastructure right across the UK, from new towers in the Highlands of Scotland to 5G-ready small cell networks that will connect self-driving cars in the West Midlands. With 3i Infrastructure’s backing we can continue to scale-up the company and deliver new tower, fibre and small cell infrastructure to support our customers as 5G approaches”.
WIG and 3i also bid for French towerco, FPS Towers in summer 2016, indicating that the partnership’s ambitions are not limited to organic growth. With several new processes kicking off in Europe in early 2018, there may be opportunities for inorganic growth in the short term.
Spain: Cellnex announces initial price for bond issue
Cellnex has announced that its €600mn convertible bonds issue has been priced at €38.0829, a premium of 70% over the volume weighted average price of a share on the Spanish Stock Exchange at today’s rates. This issuance is the first since the company floated in May 2015, and should allow Cellnex to increase debt maturity up to 6.4 years and bring the average cost of borrowing to 2.2%. With its liquidity position standing at €2bn following the issuance, Cellnex will be in a strong position to bid for upcoming tower sales in Europe.
Spain: Cellnex acquires 551 mobiles sites from MasMovil for €36mn
Yoigo and Cellnex have a solid history in Spain, after Cellnex acquired 4,277 Telefonica/Yoigo towers in 2014, when Yoigo was a subsidiary of Telefonica. MasMovil, who acquired Spanish telco operator Yoigo in 2016, stated that the agreement with Cellnex is part of an ongoing process of efficiency and rationalisation that the company already has in place. MasMovil plan to invest the funds in FTTH developments.
Andean Region: Andean Tower Partners acquires Torres Unidas
ATP announced the acquisition of Torres Unidas from Berkshire Partners. The acquisition adds 1,644 sites to ATP’s portfolio of digital communication infrastructure assets, making it the largest privately-owned tower company in the Andean Region. ATP now owns over 2,150 sites, and manages more than 32,000 master leased sites and 13 small cell network deployments. Financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed.
For more details, read the exclusive interview with Marc Ganzi and Daniel Seiner here.
Argentina: Telecom Argentina-Cablevision merger receives regulatory approval
The merger between Telecom Argentina and Cablevision has been approved by ENACOM, Argentina’s telecom regulator. The deal still needs the approval of CNDC, the antitrust regulator, and will form the largest telecom group in Argentina.
Brazil: Oi to exit bankruptcy protection following creditors’ vote
Oi’s creditors have approved a plan to remove the operator from bankruptcy protection. The plan includes a proposal to repay the fines that Oi owes to Anatel in five years and after a 20-year grace period. Additional fines owed by Oi under the attorney general’s jurisdiction would be paid over a 20-year timeframe. In spite of Anatel and the attorney general both voting against the plan, the amendments to the proposal were approved.
Colombia: Colombian government selling its stake in Movistar
The government is moving forward with its plan to sell its 32.5% stake in Telefónica’s Movistar. Telefónica Group is not likely to raise its own stake in the Colombian operator and the government is looking for a third-party investor.
The sale process is related to the fine (a combined US$1.6bn) received by Movistar (and Claro) for breaching the terms of their original 1994 licenses. According to their licenses, the operators should have returned all wireless infrastructure to the Colombian state after ten years, a period which was extended for an additional ten years. However, both Claro and Movistar failed to return them.
Mexico: Digital Bridge completes securitization of Mexican Tower Partners
Digital Bridge Holdings announced that on October 18, 2017, its portfolio company, Mexico Tower Partners successfully issued a MX$2.124bn peso tower securitisation in Mexico’s capital markets. The notes were issued at a five year fixed rate of 9.01%.
MTP is the largest private independent operator of wireless communications infrastructure in Mexico with a portfolio of 1,763 managed sites across all 32 states. The issued notes are backed by MTP’s portfolio of wireless tower leases.
The notes, which were rated as an investment grade AAA by Moody’s and Fitch, have an anticipated repayment date of October 20, 2022 with a maturity date of October 18, 2047. Additionally, the notes have no amortization through anticipated repayment date versus the 55% amortization under the existing debt. Proceeds of the securitisation will be used to refinance the existing bank facility. The financing generates approximately MX$350mm pesos of additional capital at closing and will provide substantial cost and amortization savings over the next 5 years.
“We are very excited and proud to have completed the first successful securitization of a portfolio of tower assets in Mexico,” said Marc Ganzi, Founder and CEO of Digital Bridge. “Having completed this financing, we can continue to grow in the region and help meet the high demand for communications infrastructure driven by increased mobile data consumption.”
Mexico: Red Compartida to exceed its Q1 2018 target
ALTÁN Redes’ Red Compartida is likely to exceed its March 2018 target to cover 30% of the population with 4G services. The network should be covering 33-35% of the population by end of Q1 and could surpass 50% by the end of 2018. The undersecretary of communications Edgar Olvera has revealed to El Economista that ALTÁN Redes has already rolled out 2,500 mobile sites.
Paraguay: Conatel finalises 700MHz auction
The 700MHz spectrum auction held in January received bids for a total US$84.5mn. Tigo Paraguay acquired the largest spectrum allocation followed by Claro and Personal.
Angola: Tender specifications published for new telecoms operator license
The Angolan Institute of Communications (INACOM) has published tender specifications for applications for the new telecoms operator license covering fixed, mobile and TV. The process opened for applications on 8 January with a 27 February deadline for submissions. The new licensee is set to challenge Unitel and Movitel in the market as well as fixed-line Angola Telecom which expects to become the country’s third MNO in 2018. ANTOSC is the country’s first towerco who will be ideally positioned to play a role in the network rollout, with TowerXchange being made aware of at least one other towerco in the process of applying for a license.
Bahrain: Regulator outlines new framework to promote tower sharing
Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has outlined a new regulatory framework to encourage passive infrastructure sharing in the Kingdom. The government was previously reported to be looking to rationalise the country’s 1500 sites down to a core network of 400, addressing environmental and aesthetic concerns raised by the towers. The TRA is now developing an automated system through which to process applications for new towers.
Nigeria: Deadline reached for 9mobile takeover bids
After having been postponed, the 16 January deadline for bids to acquire 9mobile has now passed. Various names have been linked with the acquisition with the latest reports suggesting the process was down to five bidders; Airtel, Globacom, Smile, Helios Investment Partners and Teology Holdings. 9mobile is the former Etisalat Nigeria which was taken over by its lenders after defaulting on a US$1.2bn loan. Barclays had been appointed to oversee the sale of the business.
Nigeria: Hotspot Network seeks new financing
Nigerian towerco, Hotspot Network is looking to raise US$15mn in new financing in order to build 400 new towers in the country. In 2017, the towerco sold 85 of its portfolio of 160 sites to IHS Towers for an undisclosed sum. Hotspot has recently signed an agreement with MTN to provide in-building solutions and cells on wheels.
Nigeria: MTN assigns US$231mn shareholder loan to IHS and improves commercial terms for network expansion
MTN, which has a 29% share in IHS Towers, has recently assigned a US$231mn shareholder loan to the towerco in order to facilitate more cost effective network investment in Nigeria. The operator has renegotiated terms with IHS for network expansion projects with volume based commercial terms agreed.
Rwanda: Airtel to acquire Tigo Rwanda
Airtel has reached an agreement to acquire 100% equity interest in Millicom’s Rwandan operations, Tigo Rwanda. The move will position Airtel Rwanda as the country’s number two MNO behind MTN once the transaction has been approved by regulators. The two MNOs had previously agreed to merge their Ghanaian operations, with Millicom also in the process of selling its Senegalese opco to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofima and Teliyom Group and looking for buyers for its operations in Chad and Tanzania (in which Econet have expressed an interest).
Regional: edotco Group financials disclosed; revenue up while net profit down year-on-year
As Asia’s largest pan-regional towerco, edotco experienced positive revenue growth from RM1.03bn to RM1.13bn for the third quarter ending 2017 (just under 10% YoY). Net profit however was down from RM196mn to RM152mn, mostly attributed to changes in forex given its multi-country operations. Tenancy ratio for the group averaged 1.5, while in its home country of Malaysia, the towerco enjoys a ratio of 1.6. In the interview with The Edge Financial Daily, CEO Suresh Sidhu notes the company remains open to opportunities for inorganic growth in Malaysia, however, will stay disciplined in its approach. In Malaysia, edotco currently has less than 20% of market share.
Bangladesh: BTRC schedules 4G spectrum auction for February
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has put forth guidelines for the country’s 4G license, with the latest stipulating network deployment within three years and speed of 20 mbps. The license is valid for 15-years, with an annual fee of Tk 5 crore and initial one-time fee of Tk 10 crore. Operators will be able to bid on the 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz and 900MHz bands. To date, BTRC has received applications from Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi Axiata and state-owned Teletalk, as well as defunct Citycell. The auction is expected to take place on 13 February.
Sri Lanka: edotco unveils ‘Smart Lamp Pole’ initiative in Sri Lanka
Keeping with its commitment to bolstering the country’s telecom and energy sectors, edotco has introduced Smart City solutions in Colombo, Sri Lanka. To meet aesthetics requirements in urban settings, the solutions are sleek, camouflaged, green and blend well with town-planning for modern cities. The smart urban connectivity systems also have integrated advertising space, environmental information sources, smart street lighting, smart parking and even flood monitoring systems. “The ‘Smart Lamp Pole’ is an energy efficient telecoms infrastructure solution which will benefit cities and communities around the country. As a company with regional experience in infrastructure deployment and management, and a member of the local business community, we believe it’s our responsibility to contribute our resources and expertise to add value to the country,” said CEO Suresh Sidhu.
Myanmar: OCK Group’s operations in Myanmar bearing fruit
To date OCK has delivered ~650 of the initial order of 920 towers from Telenor Myanmar. Tower rental revenue contributed ~RM30.6mn to the group’s revenue for the first nine months of 2017. In addition, it has secured incumbent Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) as a second tenant on ~180 towers, with 15-year agreements denominated in US dollars. Further opportunities for BTS and tenancy growth is also on the horizon as fourth operator Mytel ups the ante on its network rollout to begin service soon. Malaysia-based OCK is Asia’s second multi-country towerco, with presence in Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and a tower management arm in Indonesia.
India: Reliance Jio to acquire wireless assets of Reliance Communications for estimated US$3.75bn
In late December, it was announced that Mukesh Ambani-led Jio will purchase the telecom assets of RCom, owned by his brother Mukesh Ambani. This includes ~43,000 towers, ~178,000km of optic fiber cable network across India, 4G spectrum in the 800, 900, 1800 and 2100MHz bands, and 248 media convergence nodes. RCom had sought to pare down its debt, totaling 45,000 crore, through asset monetization, with American Tower as a leading prospective buyer at one point. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to approvals.
Thursday 14 December 2017
India: American Tower seals Idea-Vodafone tower deal
Vodafone and Idea Cellular agreed to sell their tower portfolios to American Tower for a combined value of around US$1.2bn. Idea’s portfolio include 8,886 sites with a tenancy ratio of 1.7 (or 15,418 tenants) while Vodafone’s comprises 10,926 towers with a tenancy ratio of 1.5 (15,846 tenants). However, following the merger around 6,300 co-located tenancies of the two MNOs will become single tenancies over a two-year timeframe, as noted in a statement published by the two operators. The collapse in tenancies won’t entail any exit penalty. The transaction should be completed within H2 2018.
India: American Tower seals Idea-Vodafone tower deal
Vodafone and Idea Cellular agreed to sell their tower portfolios to American Tower for a combined value of around US$1.2bn. Idea’s portfolio include 8,886 sites with a tenancy ratio of 1.7 (or 15,418 tenants) while Vodafone’s comprises 10,926 towers with a tenancy ratio of 1.5 (15,846 tenants). However, following the merger around 6,300 co-located tenancies of the two MNOs will become single tenancies over a two-year timeframe, as noted in a statement published by the two operators. The reduction in tenancies won’t entail any exit penalty. The transaction should be completed in H2 2018.
India: American Tower keen to acquire more
In an interview in the Economic Times of India, American Tower Chairman and CEO James D. Taicet has confirmed the towerco’s interest in further investment in the Indian market in the wake of their Idea-Vodafone tower deal. While their immediate focus is on integrating the ~20,000 towers acquired in their most recent transaction, American Tower continues to scout for assets which will meet its ROI requirements in India, and that the current phase of rapid consolidation in the market would accelerate as 4G rollout puts pressure on Indian MNOs’ capital spending.
India: Brookfield – Reliance Communications deal stalls
The deal between the investment firm and the telecom giant for the sale of a 51% stake in Reliance Infratel is not going ahead. The fall through of the transaction follows the announcement of the failed merger between Reliance Communication and Aircel and the subsequent cessation in trading of Reliance’s Wireless business.
Nepal: Interest builds in Nepalese infrastructure provider licenses
The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has taken a step forward in promoting infrastructure sharing by opening licences for infrastructure provision in Nepal. Both domestic and foreign companies have been invited to bid, with the NTA planning to award licences to two firms initially. The announcement has been greeted with interest from the international tower community, many of whom are keen to explore the opportunities to enter this small but significant market.
India: Bharti Airtel sells stake in Bharti Infratel
Bharti Airtel sold 83mn shares of Bharti Infratel via Nettle Infrastructure Investments and raised US$510mn. The secondary share sale is being used to reduce the company’s debt. Following the sale, Bharti Airtel and its subsidiaries own 53.51% of Bharti Infratel.
India: Bharti Infratel Chairman calls for independent netcos to manage infrastructure
Akhil Gupta, Chairman of Bharti Infratel, has stated that indian MNOs should be pooling active networks together to create more efficient operations, as well as sharing passive infrastructure to free up investment for 5G rollout.
“I believe that the end game, if we have to provide affordable services all across the country, would be formation of netcos, where the network companies can produce the capacities, give it to operators without discrimination, the only exception being the quantum they consume, and slots they take,” said Gupta, who was speaking at the 5G Congress
Bangladesh: edotco deploying wind and solar at 500 sites in Bangladesh
Through its “Tower to Power” initiative, edotco Bangladesh distributes excess electricity from its tower sites to the community for free. edotco’s use of renewable energy and green technology has helped to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations by 20%.
China: China Tower Corporation IPO delayed to Q1 2018
Originally hoping for a year-end listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, CTC’s IPO process has been delayed until Q118. With previous GM Liu Aili reassigned to China Mobile in late September (he subsequently resigned and is now at China Telecom), CTC has yet to officially announce its new leadership.
Malaysia: edotco Malaysia partners with Telekom Malaysia to expand LTE services
Telekom Malaysia (TM) will provide backhaul services for the connectivity between mobile operator’s cell sites and their core network at edotco’s identified ground-based tower sites in selected areas. TM and edotco Malaysia will also explore opportunities to provide common infrastructure via Smart Centralised Radio Access Network (Smart CRAN) Services.
Indonesia: STP and Centratama refinancing in Indonesia
Indonesia’s fourth largest towerco STP continues to explore refinancing options as investors Southern Capital and Carlyle Group seek to exit. Meanwhile, CTBC Bank and Standard Chartered have reportedly been mandated by Indonesia’s ninth largest towerco Centratama Menara to raise an initial US$195mn syndicated loan to finance M&A.
Finland: Digita for sale
Broadcast towerco Digita operates 556 towers in Finland and was acquired from France’s TDF Group by First State Investments in 2012. Digita is believed to be among several European broadcast assets currently looking for a buyer. Read TowerXchange’s interview with Digita CEO, Juha-Pekka Weckström
France: Towercast sale could prove influential in the French market
French media group NRJ has announced its intention to sell broadcast towerco Towercast, a competitor to TDF, which offers DTT and FM broadcast services via 500 sites across France. Declaring that Towercast isn’t a ‘fit’ with NRJ’s core business, it’s believed NRJ hopes to raise up to €300mn from the sale. Likely to attract a buyer with broadcast experience, both TDF and Cellnex may well be interested in these assets, which would allow them to consolidate in a very competitive market.
Portugal and France: Altice preparing to sell towers
Altice, owner of French MNO SFR and Portugal Telecom, has signalled its intention to pay down debt through the sale of assets, including telecoms towers. With Portugal high on Cellnex’s target list and Cellnex, TDF and ATC Europe all vying for market share in France, there will undoubtedly be significant interest in these assets.
Mexico: American Tower seals deal with Mexican fibre firm
American Tower signed a deal to acquire KIO Networks’ Mexican subsidiary for an approximate US$500mn. KIO Networks owns over 50,000 concrete poles and 3,300km of fibre optic lines across Mexico’s key cities.
Mexico: Canadian Tower One to acquire Mexican infrastructure firm
Tower One Wireless has signed a letter of intent for the acquisition of an undisclosed Mexican tower company. According to Tower One’s press release the deal is for a Mexican-based tower company, which owns, builds and leases cellular towers to the telecom industry in Mexico, and includes a master lease agreement with AT&T.
Argentina: Tower One invests in Argentine towers
Tower One Wireless has put down to a US$315,000 deposit to acquire fifteen towers in Argentina. The sites are expected to cost a total of approximately US$1.05mn.
USA: Tillman agrees unique deal with AT&T and Verizon in US
Tillman Infrastructure has entered into a joint agreement with AT&T and Verizon to build hundreds of towers in the USA, with the potential for significantly more in future. In a build to suit deal with both AT&T and Verizon, the MNOs have committed to leasing and co-anchoring the towers, which are planned to fulfil the need for new locations in under-served areas as well as reducing some parallel infrastructure. Construction is due to begin in Q118.
Brazil: SBA Communications received regulatory approval to acquire Highline do Brasil
Via their Brazilian subsidiary, SBA Communications has reached agreement on the acquisition of 100% of the equity in Patria Investimentos-funded Highline do Brasil, which reportedly owns around 1,200 towers. No further details about the deal have been revealed.
El Salvador: Millicom seeks to monetise towers in El Salvador
Millicom’s balance sheet restructuring continues as they explore options to monetise an estimated 400 towers in El Salvador, where SBA Communications and Phoenix Tower International are likely to be prospective bidders.
Cameroon: Afrimax closes Vodafone-branded group
Saudi Arabia: Regional funds plan to co-invest with IHS in Zain tower purchase
Having reached an agreement earlier in the month to sell their Kuwaiti sites to IHS and Towershare for $165mn, talks are reportedly close to reaching a conclusion between the parties regarding Zain’s 8,000 Saudi Arabian sites. Several regional funds have been linked as potential co-investors, with each readying proposals of US$100mn upwards for the tower purchase. The portfolio is expected to fetch a valuation of around $750mn with MNO expected to sell 100% equity in the towers. Citi is running the process.
Kenya: Market awaits news of Telkom Kenya tower sale
After having launched a process earlier this year to sell their portfolio of ~1,000 sites in the country, Telkom Kenya are in the process of evaluating bids with both Eaton Towers and American Tower thought to still be in the running. Eaton has a portfolio of 1,200 sites in the country after having acquired Airtel’s portfolio. Dominant market player, Safaricom, have the country’s largest tower portfolio.
Kuwait: IHS Towers and Towershare reach an agreement to acquire Zain’s 1,600 towers
On 10 October it was announced that Zain had entered into an agreement to sell and leaseback its 1,600 Kuwaiti towers to IHS Towers, in partnership with Towershare, for US$165mn. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018 and upon completion will mark the Middle East’s first tower transaction of scale. Zain has retained a non-controlling minority stake in the venture.
Nigeria: Barclays pulls out of 9mobile sale process
After having been appointed as financial advisor to run the sale of 9mobile, Barclays has reportedly stood down from its position after questioning from the Central Bank of Nigeria on the transparency of the bidding process. 16 expressions of interest had been received by the bank, with 10 parties reported to have been progressed through the the prequalified bidder phase. Barclays withdrawal would require the sale process to be restarted from scratch.
Tanzania: Vodacom Tanzania sells its stake in Helios Towers Tanzania
Vodacom Tanzania has sold its 24.06% equity stake in Helios Towers Tanzania to HTT’s parent company, Helios Towers Africa. The stake, valued at $85.5mn was acquired during Vodacom’s sale of its tower portfolio to Helios back in 2013. Vodacom had previously sold 100% equity in its 1,149 towers to Helios for $75mn, but as part of the terms of the transaction, acquired a 24.06% stake in the company’s Tanzanian opco. According to Vodacom Tanzania’s Managing Director, Ian Ferrao, the transaction will free up capital to further enhance Vodacom’s Tanzania’s balance sheet and strategic operations. Vodacom’s relationship with Helios will be unaffected by the sale. The acquisition of the stake by Helios Towers Africa further simplifies the towercos ownership structure as they head towards a likely IPO in early 2018.
Regional: Millicom’s plans to exit Africa advance as Ghana merger completes and sale discussions with Econet Wireless progress
In Ghana, Millicom has completed the merger of its local business with Airtel, whilst the company has entered into advanced discussions with Econet Wireless regarding the sale of its remaining opcos in Tanzania, Rwanda and Chad, with the sale expected to raise close to $1bn. Millicom had previously sold its DRC operations to Orange and has reached an agreement to sell its Senegalese opco to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofiman and Teyliom Group. Millicom has had a challenging time in the African market and with the region’s revenue representing less than 10% of total group revenues, the exit from Africa will enable the operator to focus on its more successful Latin American markets.
Regional: African towerco IPO speculation steps up
It has been reported that Africa’s three largest privately held towercos, Eaton Towers, Helios Towers Africa and IHS Towers have appointed banks to run their respective IPO processes. Whilst the towercos have shied away from confirming such developments, a H1 2018 listing is widely expected, with Eaton Towers being tipped as the first expected to IPO, followed by Helios. Eaton and Helios are thought to favour the LSE, targeting valuations around US$2bn, while IHS is thought to prefer the NYSE, and may seek a valuation above US$10bn. Whilst IPOs look like the likely route, a strategic acquisition could represent an alternative exit for the towercos’ investors, with American Tower the most likely acquirer.
Angola: Vodafone to bid for fourth mobile license?
Local sources suggest that Vodafone is positioning itself to bid for a fourth mobile license in Angola. A fourth licensee would join both Unitel and Movical as well as Angola Telecom who was awarded the country’s third MNO license earlier this year and expects to launch mobile services in early 2018/
Regional: Orange signs another ESCO agreement
Having entered into an agreement with GreenWish Partners to put their DRC sites under an ESCO arrangement, Orange has reportedly reached an agreement in at least one further African market as the operator continues on its path to outsourcing the energy element on sites.
Thursday 2 November 2017
Bangladesh: edotco deploying wind and solar at 500 sites in Bangladesh
Through its “Tower to Power” initiative, edotco Bangladesh distributes excess electricity from its tower sites to the community for free. edotco’s use of renewable energy and green technology has helped to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations by 20%.
China: China Tower Corporation IPO likely delayed to Q1 2018
Originally hoping for a year-end listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, CTC’s IPO process has stalled. With previous GM Liu Aili reassigned to China Mobile in late September (he subsequently resigned and is now at China Telecom), CTC has yet to officially announce its new leadership.
India: Brookfield – Reliance Communications deal stalls
The deal between the investment firm and the telecom giant for the sale of a 51% stake in Reliance Infratel is not going ahead, according to various Indian news outlets. The fall through of the transaction follows the announcement of the failed merger between Reliance Communication and Aircel.
India: American Tower snatches Vodafone-Idea’s towers
American Tower has emerged as the preferred candidate ahead of Brookfield Asset Management and IDFC Project Equity for the acquisition of the Vodafone-Idea 19,812 sites for an estimated US$1bn. Idea’s 8,886 towers have a tenancy ratio of 1.7 with 15,418 tenants and Vodafone’s 10,926 towers a tenancy ratio of 1.5 with 15,846 tenants.
India: Bharti Airtel to take over Tata’s wireless operations
Tata Teleservices announced its intention to exit the wireless market after years of falling subscribers and market share. Bharti Airtel has agreed to a cash-free and debt-free deal, exception made for some of Tata’s unpaid spectrum liabilities. The transaction is still subject to regulatory approval and will entail the takeover of operations in nineteen circles.
India: Idea’s shareholders approve merger
On October 12, Idea Cellular’s shareholders have given the green light to the merger scheme with Vodafone. The two MNOs need to receive the approval of the Department of Telecom which is the final step towards the creation of the largest MNO in India, with over 35% market share and a valuation around US$23bn.
India: BSNL and MTNL to study possible merger
While still in the news for their intentions to monetise their respective tower portfolios, BSNL and MNTL have been quoted by Indian news outlets as considering a possible merger. BSNL has received the green light to carve out its 65,000 sites into a separate entity while MTNL is assessing the divestment of its 10,000 towers.
India: KKR-led consortium eyes Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel
A consortium led by KKR and formed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and GIC Singapore is considering a US$11bn transaction to acquire Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers. The proposed combined entity would run over 162,000 towers in India and become the second largest towerco in the world behind China Tower Corporation.
India: Reliance Communications to shut down 2G operations
The debt-ridden MNO is planning to shut down its 2G operations before the end of November and will continue to run its 3G and 4G services until they remain profitable, as reported by several Indian news outlets. The move comes after the collapse of the merger with Aircel, a merger planned to save both companies from piling debts and falling market share.
Malaysia: edotco Malaysia partners with Telekom Malaysia to expand LTE services
Telekom Malaysia (TM) will provide backhaul services for the connectivity between mobile operator’s cell sites and their core network at edotco’s identified ground-based tower sites in selected areas. TM and edotco Malaysia will also explore opportunities to provide common infrastructure via Smart Centralised Radio Access Network (Smart CRAN) Services.
CIS: VEON pulls tower sales in CIS
Following the cancellation of their Russian process in May, TowerXchange understands that VEON has also abandoned the sale of their passive assets in Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It is as yet unknown whether the operator has other plans for the infrastructure in these countries.
Broadcast towerco, Digita, operates 556 towers in Finland and was acquired from France’s TDF Group by First State Investments in 2012. Digita is believed to be among several European broadcast asset owners looking for a buyer in 2017. Read TowerXchange’s interview with Digita CEO, Juha-Pekka Weckström
Netherlands: Cellnex has acquired Dutch broadcast towerco Alticom for €133mn
With just 30 high-rise sites across the country, the valuation for this portfolio has raised eyebrows, but Cellnex claim the long range assets (with good fibre connectivity) will prove critical in delivering low latency 5G networks, as well as consolidating their position in the Dutch market. Alticom’s customers include all the telecommunication and broadcast operators in the Netherlands, with whom it has contracts ranging from 5 to 10 years. The deal increases Cellnex’s tower count in The Netherlands to 788 and globally to 24,664.
UK: Sale off the table as Arqiva announces IPO
UK infrastructure giant Arqiva, owned by a consortium including the Australian investment bank Macquarie and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, is looking for a valuation of £6bn when they float on the London Stock Exchange in November. Complications surrounding Arqiva’s £3bn debt pile were thought to have made a sale look more appealing, but it’s believed that talks with the last remaining bidder, a consortium led by investor Brookfield, ended last week. Read more
Germany, Spain & CALA: Telefónica finalises first tranche of KKR deal
Telefónica has finalised the transfer of a 24.8% stake in Telxius to U.S. fund KKR for a total value of €790,5mn. The deal follows the announcement made by Telefónica in February regarding the agreement with KKR for the transfer of a stake up to 40% in Telxius (valued at €1.27bn). The remaining 15.2% should be transferred before the end of 2017.
Argentina: Tower One invests in Argentine towers
Tower One Wireless has put down to a US$315,000 deposit to acquire fifteen towers in Argentina. The sites are expected to cost a total of approximately US$1.05mn.
Canada: Canadian 3C Information Solutions acquires Advantage Tower
3C Information Solutions Inc., a Canadian system integrator, announced the acquisition of Advantage Tower Ltd, a leading tower construction company based out of Calgary. 3C Information Solutions is a provider of IT solutions for rural and remote locations.
Mexico: Canadian Tower One to acquire Mexican towerco
Tower One Wireless has signed a letter of intent for the acquisition of an undisclosed Mexican tower company. According to Tower One’s press release the deal is for a Mexican-based tower company, which owns, builds and leases cellular towers to the telecom industry in Mexico, includes a master lease agreement with AT&T.
Mexico: American Tower negotiates with Mexican fibre firm
American Tower is eyeing the acquisition of Mexican infrastructure firm KIO Networks for an approximate US$500mn. If finalised, the deal will grant American Tower over 4,300km of fibre-optic cable.
Regional: Millicom’s plans to exit Africa advance as Ghana merger completes and sale discussions with Econet Wireless progress
In Ghana, Millicom has completed the merger of its local business with Airtel, whilst the company has entered into advanced discussions with Econet Wireless regarding the sale of its remaining opcos in Tanzania, Rwanda and Chad, with the sale expected to raise close to $1bn. Millicom had previously sold its DRC operations to Orange and has reached an agreement to sell its Senegalese opco to a consortium involving NJJ, Sofiman and Teyliom Group. Millicom has had a challenging time in the African market and with the region’s revenue representing less than 10% of total group revenues, the exit from Africa will enable the operator to focus on its more successful Latin American markets.
Regional: African towerco IPO speculation steps up
It has been reported that Africa’s three largest privately held towercos, Eaton Towers, Helios Towers Africa and IHS Towers have appointed banks to run their respective IPO processes. Whilst the towercos have shied away from confirming such developments, a H1 2018 listing is widely expected, with Eaton Towers being tipped as the first expected to IPO, followed by Helios. Whilst IPOs look like the likely route, a strategic acquisition could represent an alternative exit for the towercos’ investors, with American Tower the most likely acquirer.
MENA: Omantel further increases its stake in Zain Group
Omantel has agreed the purchase a further 12.1% stake in Kuwaiti headquartered Zain Group, taking Omantel’s stake in the operator up to 21.9% The share acquisition puts Omantel as Zain Group’s second largest shareholder, behind the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Kuwait Investment Authority, which has a 24.6% stake.
Oman: Third Omani MNO license to go to a local consortium
After having received bids from Etisalat, Saudi Telecom Company and Zain, Oman’s Telecom Regulatory Authority has rejected such bids in favour of awarding the the Sultanate’s third mobile license to an as yet unnamed local consortium. The decision is understood to be part of a move to “enhance the role of local investment funds and enable them to contribute to the growth of the national economy.” The new operator will compete with Omantel and Ooredoo in the country.
Nigeria: 9mobile’s lenders appoint Barclays to find new investors; 16 expressions of interest received
The lenders of 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, have appointed Barclays to find new investors for the embattled MNO. 16 expressions of interest have reportedly been received for the opco which had 18mn subscribers as the end of June 2017. Parties know to have submitted EOIs include operators MTN, Airtel, Ntel, Africell and Viettel. Further EOIs have been received from Blackstone Private Equity; Bua Group; Morning Side Capital Partners; Teo-ology Holdings; Obot Etiebet & Co; De-elim Services Limited; AB-Bro Limited; Hamilton; and George International Limited. Both Vodacom and Virgin Mobile had been linked with a potential interest in 9mobile earlier in the year, but have not appeared on the recent list of interested parties. Read TowerXchange’s September analysis of the Nigerian tower industry
Saudi Arabia: Announcement regarding Zain tower sale expected imminently
Having reached an agreement earlier in the month to sell their Kuwaiti sites to IHS and Towershare for $165mn, talks are reportedly close to reaching a conclusion between the parties regarding Zain’s 8,000 Saudi Arabian sites. The deal will mark the Middle East’s second tower transaction of scale and add a seventh country to IHS’ growing portfolio. Read TowerXchange’s analysis of Zain’s Kuwaiti tower sale
Tanzania: Vodacom Tanzania sells its stake in Helios Towers Tanzania
Vodacom Tanzania has sold its 24.06% equity stake in Helios Towers Tanzania to HTT’s parent company, Helios Towers Africa. The stake, valued at $85.5mn was acquired during Vodacom’s sale of its tower portfolio to Helios back in 2013. Vodacom had previously sold 100% equity in its 1,149 towers to Helios for $75mn, but as part of the terms of the transaction, acquired a 24.06% stake in the company’s Tanzanian opco. According to Vodacom Tanzania’s Managing Director, Ian Ferrao, the transaction will up capital to further enhance Vodacom’s Tanzania’s balance sheet and strategic operations. Vodacom’s relationship with Helios will be unaffected by the sale. The acquisition of the stake by Helios Towers Africa further simplifies the towercos ownership structure as they head towards a likely IPO in early 2018.