Where will the growth come from in African towers?

TowerXchange analyses the African tower market, identifying opportunities for new build and for suppliers to develop new business

Read this article to learn:

  • New build projections for Africa’s largest countries
  • Energy investment hotspots and demand profiles
  • The latest major rural build-out programmes, covering over 5,000 sites in 2020
  • New market information, including Angola and Ethiopia
  • Updates on what to expect next in Eaton Towers’ old markets
  • Region by region breakdowns of opportunities relevant for you

Ahead of the TowerXchange Meetup Africa – taking place on the 8-9th October in Johannesburg – I collected and collated the most up-to-date insights on the markets we track – and added some insights into some new markets too. We present for you 5,000 words laying out the growth opportunities in African towers. For the latest ESCO RFPs, renewables and energy storage hotspots, site typology changes, new market opportunities and new build projections from across the continent, look no further. Broken down by region and country, we allow you to survey the opportunities for your firm and for our industry in a single afternoon. 

Registration for the 2019 Meetup Africa is open. We attract the 300+ leaders of the African tower industry to Johannesburg each October and we’d love for you to join them. To enquire about getting involved, please contact Annabelle Mayhew on amayhew@towerxchange.com.

Register now

Download TowerXchange Meetup Africa 2019 prospectus

West Africa

Home to Nigeria, Africa’s erstwhile powerhouse, West Africa has been a region of significant scale and profitability for the tower industry, as well as receiving significant investment in energy innovation and operational improvements. TowerXchange breaks down where to find the growth in the region.

Until now, the 2016 devaluation of the Naira had slowed new tower construction in Nigeria, but that is all changing. Both IHS Towers and American Tower report significant increases in tower build in 2019. After a 2018 in which American Tower added net 3 towers, investment surged in the first half of 2019 with American tower adding 117 net new sites, bringing its portfolio from 4,760 to 4,877.

Our figures for IHS Towers suggest both an increase in net new towers as well as serious investment in improvement capex. A net increase of 761 towers from 15,629 in Q4 2017 to 16,390 in Q1 2019. IHS Netherlands Holdco – a subsidiary of IHS Towers which issues regular breakdowns of its activities for its bondholders, and on whose balance sheet sit nearly 7,000 of IHS’s Nigeria towers – revealed plans for capex between US$80mn and US$100mn in 2019. Having only built 97 towers thus far in 2019, IHS Netherlands Holdco is involved in IHS Towers’ significant and long-publicised multi-million dollar investment in improvement capex covering maintenance of existing solar, hybrid solutions and batteries on its towers sites.. In addition to investments in cell-site energy, IHS Towers is investigating minigrids, running events on the ground exploring options for further investment.

The growth is broad-based too, expanding beyond the big independent towercos. Pan African Tower, a middle-market towerco operating in local currency with a portfolio of 1,300 sites, is adding around 60 sites per quarter for a Nigerian operator. LASIMRA, the Lagos State Regulator reckons 250 new towers are being built a year in Lagos State alone.

The fundamentals pushing Nigerian telecoms growth are improving. Real GDP growth is accelerating again and was 1.9% in 2018, reflecting a recovery in mining, quarrying, and manufacturing. Real GDP is projected to grow by 2.3% in 2019 and 2.4% in 2020, according to the African Development Bank, providing the base for further investment in telecoms. Just 4% of Nigerians had access to 4G in 2018, but this is predicted by the GSMA to increase to 25% by 2025, or nearly 60mn subscribers. Airtel Nigeria is adding LTE services to more states since its launch in February 2018. MTN is also rolling out LTE+ after a delay in acquiring spectrum from Visafone delayed their rollout. 9mobile are also adding 4G in cities, despite questions on future ownership remaining and Globacom’s 4G network is now live in all 36 states. However, Nigeria lags peers like South Africa, Kenya and Angola in 4G adoption, so there is an upside risk if it can close the gap. All this 4G overlay activity contributes “amendment revenue” to Nigeria’s towercos, increasing tenancy ratios and free cash flow, funding a virtuous cycle of growth and investment.

How is responsibility for power forecast across Sub-Saharan Africa’s 157,542 cell sites forecast to evolve?

Whether you’re building or servicing towers, or providing solutions to the country’s notoriously challenging operating environment, Nigeria is a fertile market for the tower industry in 2019.

Ghana is one of SSA’s most developed telecoms markets with four mobile operators, three LTE-only operators, three-going-on-two international independent towercos and two middle-market towercos. American Tower’s recent announcement of intent to acquire Eaton Towers rests of the back of plans for further profitable growth in the country. MTN leads the MNO market, followed by AirtelTigo and third placed Vodafone. Helios Tower won the process to become AirtelTigo’s preferred towerco following their merger, but after the consolidation of Eaton Towers, American Tower will be in an even stronger position to secure BTS contracts from market leader MTN and Vodafone. Helios towers added 71 sites in the year to Q1 2019, American Tower added 159 sites and Eaton Towers added 220. As is increasingly typical across SSA, the majority of tower new build sits on towerco rather than MNO balance sheets. The consolidation of Eaton Towers by American Tower is unlikely to slow this pace of new build. From today up to 2022, Ghana is estimated to require 1,000 new sites, or nearly 300 a year. Because a number of these sites will be infill, 20%-25% will be smaller builds, of 15m-20m, in urban areas.

Eaton Towers has recently achieved a run of 100% uptime for its Ghanaian sites. While grid coverage and availability is good by African standards, electricity prices have recently skyrocketed meaning that the business case for solar and hybrid is strengthened and the use of deep cycle batteries is growing. 65% of Helios Towers’ cost of sales comes from power in Ghana, compared to 43% in Congo Brazzaville, 53% in Tanzania, and 71% in the DRC. With annual energy-related opex of US$9,306 per site (as reported in their quarterly disclosures), Helios Towers continue to seek energy innovations which can reduce their cost base.

Projected tower build in Ghana 

American Tower’s two other West African acquisitions will be the Eaton Towers portfolios in Burkina Faso and Niger. Only Airtel has been awarded a 4G licence in Niger, and with Orange’s commitment to the country in question following a tax dispute with the government, Niger is the less attractive of the two. Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, is forecast to become one of Africa’s largest cities by 2030 and with 4G licences being issued, demand for build-to-suit will pick up shortly after American Tower closes its transaction. To accommodate new 4G sites, and a swelling population and economy, Burkina Faso will need to add around 2,000 new sites in the coming ten years to meet the growth in both 3G and 4G. Prior to its acquisition, Eaton Towers renewed the energy equipment on its portfolio, as with only three MNOs the glass ceiling on tenancy ratios is relatively low, so operational efficiency is essential to improving margins. American Tower will be insistent on replicating and enhancing the efficiency of its sites before committing capital to one of its smaller markets. Camusat’s Aktivco has a 300 site ESCO agreement with Orange in Burkina Faso and a similar 500 site agreement in Niger, both of which require significant investment in cell-site energy optimisation.

In Cote D’Ivoire, after a period of decommissioning led by IHS Towers, growth has picked up, with net 80 new towers up compared to 18 months ago. In the preceding year, 2017, IHS added around 218 towers in the country. TowerXchange estimates that 2,000 towers will need to be added over the next three years by MTN, Orange and Moov. IHS manage 2,689 towers in the country, with over 70% of its sites now equipped with solar hybrid solutions.

Further west, in Senegal new build over the coming years will depend on Orange’s approach to their towers. Expresso has added around 200 new sites in the last year, with growth across the country of around 20% in the last year, pushing coverage along highways and into the suburbs. Orange’s coverage is now at 80%, while Tigo is at 70% and Expresso is 62%. Al Karama Towers are set to take over Expresso’s towers and estimate that from 2020 onwards Senegal will continue to add up to 300 sites a year to reach the 4,000+ sites required to reach full coverage.  Currently, the energy situation in Senegal is like much of Africa, but off shore gas development is predicted to enable an improvement in grid quality, reduced energy costs and faster roll-out and grid-conversions.

Outside the markets TowerXchange has historically tracked in West Africa, we have reports that Orange have launched an ESCO RFP in both Mali and Liberia.

Helios Towers’ evolving cost of power in four markets

East Africa

Ethiopia is the latest market to receive TowerXchange’s attention. The telecoms sector enjoyed considerably growth from 2013 onwards, but has reached the limit of what a monopoly can realistically achieve. The government announced plans to liberalise the sector and has been moving forward rapidly to bring the plan to fruition. A telecom regulator was created earlier this year, two new greenfield licences are to be issued soon after September 2019, and by the end of the year there is intent to sell a 49% stake in Ethio Telecom. MTN, Vodacom/Safaricom, Orange and Etisalat are all believed to be interested in entering Ethiopia. Ethio Telecom is to be split into a serviceco and an infraco created to manage its tower assets.

Independent towercos are already active in Ethiopia lobbying the government and both MTN and Vodacom have made it clear that they have no intention to own their towers were they to win licences, suggesting substantial new build programmes would be funded by towercos.

A precise tower count for Ethiopia is not available, but 8,000-8,500 sites were completed prior to the slowdown in network rollout. ZTE and Ericsson have a few regions each, but the majority of the network has been constructed by Huawei. Because financial constraints began to bite during the network construction, a number of sites are not shareable and have insufficient power back- up to meet the uptime targets of a standard SLA, particularly if the load on sites were increased by co-location. TowerXchange predicts anywhere between 500 and 1,000 new sites will be added by each operator in 2020 following the award of licences. That means a total of 1,500-3,000 new sites will be added per year. This figure excludes the tower strengthening work and equipment upgrading required to make Ethio Telecom’s existing sites strong enough to share, and to bring up service levels to those expected by international mobile operators. Prior to the privatisation Ethio Telecom has issued an RFP from ESCOs for the energy management of thousands of sites. TowerXchange would conservatively estimate the opportunity for passive telecom infrastructure investment in Ethiopia in 2020 at a quarter of a billion dollars. With ongoing investment at a similar level for a number of years.

Ethiopia – TowerXchange central projections for cell site and power, year end

Following the closure of the Airtel-Telkom merger, Kenya will have just two major mobile network operators, and following the closure of American Tower’s acquisition of Eaton Towers it will have just one towerco. Safaricom currently has 5,256 sites and plan to add around 400-500 in 2020, and a similar number in future years. Kenya needs to double its tower count from 7,571 today to over 15,000 to keep pace with demand growth and service quality, Safaricom will provide a significant chunk of those new sites over the next decade (Safaricom remains disinclined to sell their towers), and American Tower will make up the balance. Hundreds of Eaton and American Tower sites are within 500m of one another so, while some will be used to deliver increased capacity, many will be decommissioned over the coming year or two, presenting an opportunity for firms who can help American Tower do this efficiently. Following the announcement of the merger, Telkom cancelled its planned new towers for 2019, but Airtel is continuing with its pre-merger planned expansion of around 250 new sites in 2019. From 2020 onwards, Airtel-Telkom will be sending build volumes similar to Safaricom in the way of American Tower.

Kenya is one of the leading lights of Africa’s renewable energy industry, and its telecoms sector is no different. American Tower planned to roll-out out solar assist on every one of the sites they acquired from Telkom, but it is unclear what they will do with Eaton’s already optimised sites. The delivered cost of energy in Kenya is slightly over double what it costs in Europe, so costs savings from switching to solar are substantial. The majority of Safaricom’s sites use diesel generators plus battery hybrids, with some solar in the mix. A little under 150 sites still run on dual diesel generators 24/7, and a handful run on renewables only or on powercubes. Safaricom has committed to becoming a net zero carbon emitting company by 2030 and are rolling out renewable energy across their network, phasing out diesel generators wherever possible and have started to prioritise the use of solar at smaller capacity sites. Safricom installed about 800 fuel cells in 2018 and are continuing to invest in alternative energy solutions. Safaricom is exploring an ESCO contract for around 1,000 sites at which they struggle with power management. Currently the energy load on Safaricom sites is higher than average because they use a lot of air conditioning, so Kenya remains a good market for those selling cooling solutions (and for those who think they can convince Safaricom to reduce their load!) New rollout is concentrated on towers between 20m and 40m tall, with larger macros now rare. In major cities, 12-15m fiberised poles are being deployed as the market for in-fill sites is growing in the 4G LTE-era.

Projected tower build in Kenya

From the end of 2017 to the announcement of the American Tower acquisition, Eaton Towers had added 160 towers in Uganda. American Tower added a similar number in that period. Once closed American Tower will own 79% of Uganda’s towers and be responsible for the large majority of new tower builds. The last year was an acceleration of previous building with MTN and Airtel both investing significantly as they try to reach more customers in smaller cities and rural areas, and by the end of 2019 population coverage will approach 90%. However, many rural areas remain underserved, and two trends will accelerate build-out in these areas. The first is MTN’s rural connectivity programme, (see infobox) which will see them add 5,000 new sites by the end of 2020 across Africa. The Ugandan regulator is also offering subsidies for 50% of opex for five years on rural sites, helping to bring forward the timeline to these sites becoming profitable investments. Around 27% of Ugandan sites are off-grid, with about half of new build being off-grid. Grid outages are common, even in Kampala, meaning that lots of investment is going into hybrid solutions. Similarly, theft of fuel and batteries has been a major issue in Uganda, particularly in the North, which has pushed up opex, although initiatives to improve law and order and community relations in the country has significantly reduced this cost from its peak, as has greater investment in lithium-ion batteries, which are less popular with thieves.

Tanzania continues to see both site consolidation and new build led by Helios Towers. In Tanzania Helios Towers acquired networks from Vodacom and Millicom, and there was a spike in decommissioning record in Q1 this year with additional sites decommissioned in the second quarter. Net of decommissioning, Helios added 119 towers in Tanzania between the beginning of 2016 and the end of 2018. New build will increase from hereon in, as Vodacom commit to significant new 4G investment. Only 16% of Tanzania’s population has 4G at present (GSMA Q4 2018), and network densification in major cities will require new towers. Airtel continues to seek to divest its 1,400 Tanzanian towers.

In Rwanda, IHS Towers continues to rationalise and manage the small, more developed nation’s network with dozens of sites decommissioned offset by new build elsewhere to expand the networks. IHS added a net 88 towers in Rwanda between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018.

In Madagascar, TowerCo of Madagascar (TOM) continues to lead the tower market on the island, having built over 400 new towers in the last three years. Both Airtel and Orange manage significantly smaller networks, and co-locate on the TOM towers. Orange’s ESCO RFP on the island has gone unfulfilled, perhaps reflecting the challenging energy requirements on the island. 50% of Airtel’s sites are off grid and 60% of TOM’s sites are pure solar sites, making the island a continuing good prospect for renewables solutions.

Central Africa

Much as in Tanzania, in DRC Helios Towers continues a site rationalisation programme which has seen site count reduced from 1,835 in Q3 2017 to 1,759 in Q1 2019 even as it has rolled out two new backbones and started discussing a third. Nearly all backbone sites were online by the first quarter of this year and became revenue generative, but the exciting prospects for new build lie in the future. The real opportunity is the potential for new towers built alongside and shooting off from the backbones. Connections are growing at 10% per year and mobile broadband is increasing by 30% per year in a country which already has one of the highest number of SIMs per tower in the world. Demand for new sites will be tempered by the high cost of energy in the country, which is conversely good news for anyone in the energy supply chain. Helios Towers and mobile operators in the country are hungry for solutions which reduce their reliance on imported fuel, refuelling trips and maintenance visits. Helios Towers DRC’s annual cost of energy per site is US$23,647, which is nearly three times more than their other markets and 71% of their non-depreciation cost of sales. Vodacom still manage 1,600 sites in DRC with 800 shareable macros and 800 rural, low-cost, unshareable sites in the portfolio. For Vodacom energy is also an issue, with a tower sale discussed as well as exploring an ESCO RFP which will be released imminently for 250-300 sites. Orange has recently signed an ESCO contract with GreenWish Partners to take over energy management of 280 sites, deploying solar-hybrid solutions with their partners Sagemcom. Anyone who can reduce energy headaches for those active in DRC will be assured of a steady demand for work.

The rest of Central Africa consists of markets smaller and of varied levels of development. In Congo Brazzaville, Helios Towers manages a network of 380 sites which has seen some new site build, offset by decommissioning. Demand for new towers will remain muted in the market. Helios had experimented with innovative approaches to camouflage and how they host equipment to satisfy local regulators. They hosted the equipment of an internet provider using dark fibre connectivity to remote radio heads via a Kathrein system, which suggests a market for alternative connectivity solutions in the market.

In Gabon, the maturity of the market limits the need for new towers, although DAS and IBS systems will be sought after over the next five years in the capital. ESCO Energy Vision operates around 300 sites for Airtel Gabon.

In Cameroon IHS Towers has been decommissioning sites and rationalising its network, with little sign of significant new build. The company continues to explore areas where they can reduce their carbon footprint and operation costs for their Cameroon tower sites. IHS Cameroon’s tower count reduced by a net 189 between 2016 and the end of 2018. Orange also has a live ESCO RFP in the country.

Finally, in the Central African Republic Orange is soon to announce a sign ESCO contract to manage several hundred sites, which will involve some investment in new energy systems.

Southern Africa

South Africa’s tower market is in flux. TowerXchange tracks 30,183 towers in the market, but the structure and circumstances of each tower and tower portfolio differs significantly. Following a burst of building by MTN that finished a couple of years ago, growth had slowed, but TowerXchange expects new build activity will pick up. In fact, capital investment into towers has already begun to accelerate in Africa’s richest country. Telkom’s Gyro Group are over halfway through a process of rationalising their towers, correcting lease rates with MNO tenants and landlords and cleaning up their estate: 2020 will see this process completed and either a divesture or a run of investment in site improvement and network expansion. American Tower has added 174 new sites since the start of 2018, bringing their total portfolio to 2,666 sites. Helios Towers acquired SA Towers and their pipeline of 500 sites at the start of this year, with plans to build 300 new sites a year. Most recently, SBA Communications announced plans to exercise their option in Q3 2019 to acquire 94% equity in Atlas Towers, including their 900 existing sites and another healthy new build pipeline. Vodacom are exploring a number of options, including an ESCO deal, to reduce opex.

In terms of power, Eskom, the national power provider, has recently begun load shedding again, with predictions it will continue to struggle to restore South Africa’s grid to previous levels of reliability. Power is shooting up the priority list of South Africa’s MNOs. MTN typically install eight hours of battery backup, sufficient for four to eight hours of downtime of the primary power supply, but are increasingly concerned this may be insufficient. Vodacom is switching to lithium-ion batteries both because they are more reliable, offer a long life and to deter theft. The status quo on energy management will not last, whether towercos follow Helios Towers SA in thinking about providing power as a service or MNOs begin working with ESCOs.

In the next three years TowerXchange sees scope for another 2,000 to 3,000 towers in South Africa, including smaller sites and rooftops. After that we believe you will likely start seeing demand for small cells and densification picking up, and since you need several small cells to cover the same footprint as a macro tower, the total demand for sites will be even larger in the long-run. The reintroduction of the Wholesale Open Access Network for 5G promises to slowdown 5G rollout for Vodacom, MTN and Telkom, but offers an opportunity for significant investment in new towers to host the wholesale network. We also expect significant growth in fibre to the tower in South Africa. By 2024, TowerXchange expect all towers around Johannesburg and Pretoria to be connected to fibre, whereas only 10-20% of them are connected now. Across urban South Africa generally, we expect 50%-75% of towers to be fibreised in the next five years, which would require thousands of connections per year.

The question mark hanging over the South African market is the financial health of Cell C, which is now in discussions with MTN to allow subscribers to use their network if the company becomes bankrupt. Although the exit of Cell C from the market would be damaging to American Tower, as they would lose their anchor tenant, for the market as a whole the improved competitive position MTN, Vodacom, Telkom and Rain would find themselves in could encourage further investment.

Projected tower build in South Africa

Opportunities in the rest of Southern Africa vary market to market. In Namibia, uniquely, domestic towerco PowerCom are exploring an ESCO contract to outsource the management of power on its 300+ sites. However the small total size of the market limits the attractiveness of the market. Mobile Telecommunications Limited’s (MTC) has ambitious plans to add hundreds of towers to bring universal coverage to Namibia’s populated areas. Many regions of Namibia have very limited wireless broadband, especially in rural areas which is a big problem in a country marketing itself as a wildlife tourist destination. Expect dozens of new builds per year, but not hundreds.

Angola is a country of 30mn people with tremendous potential for the tower industry. Both capex and opex are expensive in the energy-exporting country as almost all inputs have to be imported, creating the right incentives for infrastructure sharing. ANTOSC, the country’s only towerco, was formed following a government regulation preventing the construction of towers in close proximity to existing sites, and plans on a construction pipeline of around 1,200 new towers in the country over the next five years. There is also space for acquiring existing towers and adapting them to share with other operators. However, much will depend on the financial health of the company which acquires Angola’s fourth unified licence, and their commitment to the market. Opex is very high, most of the country’s sites are off grid or on poor grid connections, and the use of diesel generators is very common in Angola but also very expensive. The cost of fuel is still somewhat subsidised by the government, but economic reforms mean those subsidies are close to ending which will further push up the cost of fuel delivered to sites and encourage the adoption of hybrid solutions.

Mozambique is in a similar position where latent demand is significant but network buildout is held up. Vodacom has just under 2,000 sites in the country and currently faces little competition from Tmcel or Movitel which both have lower quality networks in prime locations. Only 5% of towers are shared, so there is significant value to be found through more sharing. But from 2020 onwards growth rapid growth in rural areas is expected by managed service providers on the ground in Mozambique.

IHS Towers has decommissioned several hundred sites since the start of 2017, leaving them with a net reduction of 258 sites in Zambia, but an increased tenancy ratio on remaining sites. Cost cutting initiatives have also extended to solar and battery investment.

Zimbabwe’s cellular operators Econet Wireless and NetOne have signed a long-awaited network sharing agreement which will see them sharing their respective infrastructure. MNOs in Zimbabwe were forced to make drastic cuts in capital expenditures during 2018 due to the country’s financial crisis. A report from Newsday, which cites figures presented to parliament by telecoms regulator POTRAZ, says that the three active MNOs – Econet Wireless, NetOne and Telecel – spent US$59.5 million last year, down from US$100.9 million in 2017. Operating costs increased 23.1% from US$657.4 million in 2017 to US$809.0 million a year later. The trio of MNOs deployed just 75 new base stations between them in 2018.

Registration for the 2019 Meetup Africa is now open. We attract the 300+ leaders of the African tower industry to Johannesburg each October and we’d love for you to join them. To enquire about getting involved, please contact Annabelle Mayhew on amayhew@towerxchange.com.

Register now

Download TowerXchange Meetup Africa 2019 prospectus


MTN Rural build programme 

MTN Group plan to rollout over 5,000 new rural sites by end of 2020, and 5,000 more a year after that. An RFP has been launched looking for up to three different partners to delivery turnkey solutions for rural, ultra-rural and ultra-ultra rural sites.

Rural sites are classified as 50-100km from urban areas, typically include several villages close to the planned site but outside the suburban areas MTN typically cover, with a population of around 10,000 people. Ultra rural and ultra-ultra rural areas are even further out from major cities, have lower populations again, with addressable markets of fewer than 1,000 and fewer than 500 people respectively.

Innovative solutions are sought, encompassing different low cost structures, power systems and economic models. For example MTN will be exploring alternative power systems, like solar-only sites for ultra-ultra rural sites, satellite-only backhaul and different commercial models like revenue sharing and tower leasing options. Nigeria will be the biggest market for MTN’s programme due to its preponderance in Africa, but none of MTN’s markets will be ignored.

At rural sites normal, shareable macro towers of up to 36m height will be used, at ultra rural sites shorter towers of between 10m and 20m will be used. And at ultra-ultra rural sites the structure is to be defined by vendors depending on what they think can make work. Low capex, rapid assembly and solutions requiring minimal site visits will be prioritised.

Up to three turnkey partners are to be announced shortly, and each will be building their own supply chain to satisfy MTN’s programme.

ESCO RFPs


Facebook financing Vodacom rural roll-out

Vodacom are trialling a new OpenRAN standard for rural rollouts designed to enable lower cost network rollouts. They are trialling the new standard with Facebook. As part of Facebook’s connectivity investment plans, they are financing 3,200 new Vodacom sites over five years in all their African markets.


Batteries and super capacitors

Helios Towers and other major towercos in Africa have prioritised investment in lithium-ion batteries across their ten markets. Helios Towers estimate around 20% of their sites could be suitable for lithium-ion, a total addressable market of 1,200-1,400 sites, while only around two hundred currently host the technology. Lead-acid battery manufacturers should take solace from the implication that 80% of the addressable market remains ideally served by their solution, although the rapid replacement cycle of lead-acid batteries means no supplier can afford to be complacent. The deeper depth of discharge and disutility to thieves are making lithium-ion attractive. For the same reason, towercos are investigating supercapacitors as alternatives to chemical batteries.


ESCO RFPs

Closing

– Orange is imminently closing an ESCO agreement in Central African Republic

Live

– Ethio Tel has a large RFP live for 1,000s of sites, however it is significantly different to a normal ESCO contract and is potentially denominated in Birr, not dollars, which is making financing complex.

– Orange continues to demonstrate its commitment to the ESCO model with RFPs believed to be live in Mali, Liberia, Egypt and in Cameroon.

Discussions 

– Safaricom are believed to be putting out a 1,000 site ESCO RFP for their harder to manage sites, although a final model has not been agreed

– Vodacom is exploring a 200-300 site ESCO RFP in DRC, with a view to explore it for other markets, although a final model has not been agreed

– In South Africa, MTN and Vodacom both exploring ESCO RFPs

– PowerCom, a Namibian towerco, is discussing and ESCO RFP, although we do not know to what stage discussions have reached


Renewables 

In 2018 IHS towers added a further 494 solar panels to their towers . IHS also spent US$48 million installing 877 new towers in Nigeria that are powered by their bespoke hybrid power systems including solar panels, generators and battery systems. This programme continues in 2019 with investigations of mini-grid technology in Nigeria and continued investment in solar solutions and renewal across Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire too. Solar is not the only renewable energy being considered and interest in wind continues to increase. Inbuilt, cylindrical wind turbines suitable for developed markets have been discounted due to the higher energy load in Africa, but modular solutions and tower-bolt-ons continue to attract interest.


Data and analytics 

The future operational strategy of the towerco will be driven by the data collected on their cell sites. Data driven asset management, real data analytics, predictive maintenance, and artificial intelligence will drive further improvements in site uptime and margin improvement. Firms which can help towercos collect, transmit, store and analyse data are sought to complement the existing data collection and utilisation technologies already deployed.


 

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