MENA News

A roundup of tower news across MENA

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

Saudi Arabia: Zain Group 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 1st January 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.

Saudi Arabia: TAWAL established as STC-owned towerco in Saudi Arabia 

On the 1st April 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 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. Both Du and Etisalat have launched with the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G handset, 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.

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