Launch of Axiata’s towerco inaugurates a collaborative era of Asian telecoms

edotco’s vision extends beyond towers to power, fibre and Wi-Fi

Following its launch earlier in 2014, edotco has become the largest independent towerco in Southeast Asia. Parent company Axiata becomes the first telecommunications company in Asia to set up it’s own independent towerco.

The edotco vision

Speaking at the launch of edotco, Dato Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, President and CEO of Axiata said “edotco is an independent tower company that will manage passive infrastructure, share physical sites and related civil infrastructure, and perhaps in the future provide field services support and maybe even active infrastructure. Quite importantly, we will promote green energy management.” Axiata’s President and CEO shared his hope that edotco would become one of the top five towercos in the world.

The inauguration of edotco represented the culmination of a two year project from initial conception to launch. edotco Group CEO James Maclaurin steps up from the role of Group CFO at parent company Axiata, a post he held for three years, prior to which he had served as CFO at Helios Towers Africa, Vodafone Central Europe & Africa, and Celtel International. Judging from YouTube videos from the launch, Maclaurin also plays a decent jazz-saxophone! Maclaurin is joined on the edotco management team by CFO Thivanka Rangala, COO Nashad Emir, and CTO Sairam Prasad.

“The telecoms industry has to collaborate to find ways of working together and reducing parallel capacity; the number of sites on hills,” said Maclaurin. “Ultimately this is about improving quality of service to the user. This is an important start for the Axiata Group and for the industry to shift forward with a more collaborative mindset,” Maclaurin continued. “Using edotco’s seed assets, 13,000 towers and 12,000km of fibre in Pakistan, we have aspirations to expand within South and Southeast Asia.” edotco has launched in Bangladesh and Malaysia, with launches in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan imminent.

Looking beyond the tower

“We’ll grow both in terms of the volume that we’re driving through our infrastructure by taking on more tenants, but also by looking for innovative energy solutions. In some of our markets, over the next two to three years grid energy will become more expensive than renewable solutions,” added edotco’s CEO. Serving Axiata’s 220mn customers requires the equivalent of a 41MW power station – the launch of edotco is seen as an opportunity to reduce energy opex and the group’s carbon footprint.

“We are as much a fibre business, especially in the last mile, as a passive tower player moving forward,” suggested Maclaurin. “Fiberisation of sites is required – we feel that in urban and semi-urban locations we’ll have to fiberise within a certain period of time, especially with LTE being rolled out in Malaysia.” edotco also hinted at an appetite to support partnerships in Wi-Fi: “it may make sense to take a collaborative approach to the deployment of Wi-Fi. We believe individual operators providing infill solutions – Wi-Fi hotspots – is not necessarily working commercially,” concluded edotco CEO James Maclaurin.

edotco’s appetite for acquisitions?

TowerXchange and other commentators feel that edotco will be used as an investment vehicle to make new acquisitions. TMT Finance suggests “While the expectation is that all existing subsidiaries will offload towers into edotco, the decision will lie with each subsidiary, with the case for offloading towers ‘required to make economic sense’, with Axiata putting forward the business case for each individual market. (Our) sources said this would be more difficult in markets such as India, where Axiata is a minority shareholder, for example.”

Certainly the formation of a Pan-Asian tower company will galvanise the tower industry in the region.

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