Asia News (Jan 2015)

A roundup of tower news across Asia

India: 3G auction postponed

The 3G spectrum auction has been postponed until 4 March by the Department of Telecommunications in order to give time to the cabinet to agree on the reserve price. The deadline for applications has been modified to February 16.

India: Tata to buy back NTT DOCOMO shares

Tata Group received the green light from the Indian’s central bank to buy back a 26.5% stake in NTT DOCOMO at the price of INR58 per share, more than double PwC’s valuation of INR23.34.

India: All Indian villages to be connected by 2016

The Economic Times of India reported that the Department of Telecommunications plans to cover the remaining unconnected 10% of rural villages of the country by the end of December 2016. There are approximately 55,000 unconnected villages across India to date, most of which are located in the Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur regions.

India: Reliance launching 4G in 2015

Reliance Jio Infocomm is planning to launch 4G services in eight-hundred cities across India by June 2015. A report by the Business Standard quoted the company saying: “We are currently in the process of conducting our service field trials across multiple towns and cities, as well as in-house. During this period, we are introducing our services to small groups of people who will offer us feedback, so that we can develop a robust service platform and then scale up our services.”

India: 16% YoY EBITDA growth at Bharti Infratel; Indus Towers tenancy ratios surge beyond 2.0

Via its subsidiary Bharti Infratel, Bharti Airtel generated R 13,744mn revenue, and an EBITDA of R 6,305mn from Tower Infrastructure Services in Q3 2014, representing 9% and 16% YoY growth respectively.

Bharti Infratel owned 36,381 towers at the end of Q3 2014, having added just over a thousand towers YoY. Bharti Infratel’s tenancy ratio was announced as 1.97, up from 1.84 at the same time last year. Bharti Infratel owns a 42% equity stake in Indus towers, which owns a further 114,101 towers with a tenancy ratio of 2.11, up from 2.0 YoY.

India: American Tower and Viom Networks close to deal?

The Economic Times reported back in December that American Tower and Viom Networks could be close to inking a deal worth US$900mn-1bn for the acquisition of a 51% stake in Viom. American Tower could could acquire stakes by Srei, Tata Group as well as minor stakeholders. The merged portfolio would include approximately 54,000 sites.

Pakistan: Mobilink extends its 3G footprint

Mobilink is expanding its 3G coverage into four new cities taking the total number of covered cities to twenty-four. The newly covered cities of Muzaffargarh, Muridke, Okara and Kharian will have free access to 3G services for two weeks.

Bangladesh: Robi delaying IPO until 2016

The Daily Star reported that Robi Axiata might delay its mandatory IPO until July 2016 due to the company’s uncertainty related to the spectrum acquisition via the 2015 auction as well as tax-related issues and the current national corporate tax regime making a listing unattractive to shareholders.

Bangladesh: New spectrum auction to take place in March

Available spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands will be auctioned in March to existing operators. The decision follows a meeting between the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and mobile network operators.

China: China Tower expands into new provinces

The newly formed tower management firm China Communications Facilities Services Corporation (China Tower) has launched in twenty-eight of the country’s thirty-one provinces, according to Mobile World Live. From this year on, all new sites will be deployed by China Tower which is planning to launch one million new sites by 2017. The company will also incorporate the existing tower portfolio valued US$16.29bn from China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom over the course of 2015.

Myanmar: 1,500 kilometres of fibre deployed between China and Myanmar

Zee News reports that China Unicom recently completed the deployment of 1,500 kilometres of fibre-optic cable from the southwest of China to the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar. The project started back in 2011 and is now running through Ruili, Muse, Mandalay and Yangon.

Myanmar: MPT staying out of price war

In a recent interview with the Myanmar Times, representatives of MPT and KDDI Summit Global Myanmar stated that MPT decided not to get involved in a price war with Telenor and Ooredoo. According to the company, a price war might jeopardise MPT’s capital availability to invest in network expansion and other necessary services.

Myanmar: Telenor: more towers needed to cover Yangon

In a recent interview, Peter Furberg, CEO of Telenor, has stated that at least eight-hundred towers are needed in Yangon to achieve good 3G coverage. As of November 2014, the company had installed 305 sites in the city and although 2G is widely available across Yangon, cell site densification is needed for 3G coverage.

Vietnam: Axiata potentially investing in MobiFone

As MobiFone unfolds plans to possibly go public, Malaysian Axiata Group could take part it the company’s privatisation. Axiata’s officials recently stated that the company is committed to long-term cooperation with MobiFone.

Vietnam: VNPT’s restructuring plan approved by Prime Minister

VNPT presented its plan to split assets into three units which was recently approved by the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. According to the proposed plan, VNPT’s entities would be split as VNPT-Net, operating in the network infrastructure area, VNPT-Vinaphone, offering mobile services and VNPT-Media in charge of multimedia offering.

Thailand: True Corp transfers assets to TRUEGIF and enters into tower sale talks with TOT and CAT Telecom

True Corp is planning to transfer further infrastructure assets worth US$430mn to TRUEGIF including 8,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables and 350 towers. In the meantime, the operator is reportedly discussing with TOT and CAT Telecom the sale of their tower portfolios to TRUEGIF.

Thailand: TRUEGIF and DTAC signed deal and announced expansion projects

This past October, TRUGIF has inked a network sharing deal with DTAC to lease approximately one hundred towers and DTAC is reportedly considering leasing space on an additional five hundred towers over the course of 2015. To date, True Corp and CAT Telecom signed an agreement to lease 4,360 towers from TRUEGIF.

The towerco has plans to invest as much as US$123mn in 4G towers to achieve 7,000 assets in its portfolio. In the meantime, DTAC is planning to further enhance its 3G and 4G asset base to a total of 6,500 sites by the end of Q1 2015.

Thailand: CAT Telecom and DTAC in joint venture talks

According to the Nation, DTAC and state-owned CAT Telecom are discussing joint venture which could include sharing of towers, fibre-optics as well as base stations. The joint venture could not only use but eventually lease these assets.

Malaysia: Axiata enters into strategic agreement with key suppliers

Axiata has recently signed global framework arrangements with Ericsson, Huawei, NEC and SIAE among others, in order to obtain one streamlined procurement platform for all its subsidiaries. Thanks to the agreements, the company is expecting to save us much as US$100mn over the next three years.

Malaysia: DiGi launches 4G in Sabah

DiGi Telecommunications has launched its 4G LTE network in Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah region. The new service will bring to 1Mbps the minimum speed of internet services in the area.

Indonesia: STP and TBIG look further into fibre-optic

STP and Tower Bersama are reportedly planning to expand their fibre-optic footprint. To date, STP owns and operates more than 2,400 kilometres of fibre and this business accounts for 9-10% of its revenue, according to the Jakarta Post. STP plans to expand its fibre business to reach 50% of its revenue within four years.

Indonesia: XL Axiata paying off debt via recent tower sale and considers divesting 4,500 more

XL Axiata raised US$444.1mn through the recent sale of 3,500 telecom towers to STP and could use as much as half of it to cover its debt.

In the meantime, the operator is considering selling more telecom towers over the course of 2015. CEO Hasnul Suhaimi recently told The Jakarta Post that any sale “will totally depend on whether we need the money or not.” Apparently, as many as 4,500 towers might be up for sale.

Indonesia: Tower Bersama adding sites to its portfolio this year

TBIG is looking at investing as much as US$161mn to enhance its tower portfolio and add as many as 1,500-2,000 new towers over the course of this year.

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