VNL Bags BSNL’s North East Infrastructure Project For Rs 1648 Cr


Telecom infrastructure company VNL has bagged a contract worth Rs 1648 crore from BSNL to set up its telecom towers and other infrastructures in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Part of the North East connectivity project,  this contract will see VNL help BSNL sets up its infrastructure in 4000 remote villages in the two north eastern states.

VNL has emerged as the lowest bidder in the first phase of the tender opened yesterday by BSNL. As per the contract VNL will get whole of Arunachal Pradesh which will be around 70% share of the project.

The remaining 30% of the project was bagged by HFCL that came ass the second lowest bidder at Rs 1970 crore. However, HFCL has to execute the project at the lowest bidding cost i,e at the same value as VNL.

This project is part of the Rs 5,336.18 crore worth Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North-Eastern Region (NER) comprising 8 states which was approved by the Union Cabinet in September 2014. The project envisages providing mobile coverage in 8,621 unconnected villages and seamless coverage along National Highways in the North-East region through 6,673 towers, and will be funded from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Under the Phase-I of the project, which is to be executed by state owned operator BSNL, 2817 sites are to be installed to cover 4118 remotely located villages and tough terrains in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam. Projects are to be executed solely through indigenous technology. As per the project condition, the lowest bidder, Vihaan Networks (VNL) in this case, will get to roll out around 1,893 mobile towers in Arunachal Pradesh.

As part of the project Eco-friendly green mobile towers will be erected by VNL using its own technology and will be fuelled by solar power.

VNL had also completed successfully a BSNL project last year for creating infrastructure in LWE areas after it bagged the contract as the lowest bidder in December last year for providing voice and data connectivity in the most challenging terrain.

The Union cabinet then chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had accorded an approval to install and maintain 2,199 mobile towers in naxal affected states. Funding came through the USOF (universal service obligation fund) supported scheme.

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TAIPA Cries Foul Over Sealing Of Telecom Towers In Pune


Indian telecom towers association TAIPA, terming the sealing of telecom towers by Pune Municipal Corporation as ‘coercive action’ and ‘unfortunate’, today has sought intervention of higher authorities in this matter.

“It is a non-supportive action by municipal corporation of Pune to initiate sealing/demolition drive against mobile towers. We seek intervention on the issue from higher authorities to direct the concerned authorities to refrain from taking any coercive action against the mobile towers,” sid T R Dua, directr general of TAIPA (Tower and infrastructure providers association).

Early this week the PMC or Pune Municipal Corporation sealed the offices of three telecom towers in the city in regards to non payment of property taxes. According to the PMC there is a tax due of around Rs 160 crore on these three twoers that belong to Reliance Communications, VIOM Networks and ATC.

TAIPA said the demands made are highly arbitrary and without any breakup.

These companies have not been paying taxes, according to PMC, for last five years on the argument that telecom towers do not fall under ‘properties’ category and hence not liable to pay property taxes.

However, on December 16, the Supreme Court said that concerned authorities can impose tax on such telecom towers as the tax was not on the use of any machinery but on the land where the towers are set up and for the related building.

TAIPA, on the other hand, has claimed that because of the sealing of the telecom towers people are being inconvenienced and has linked this inconvenience to ongoing drive of demonetization and cashless payments.

“While the country is going through a great transformation vide demonetization policy and making a paradigm shift to build a less cash economy…at this stage of transformation, any coercive steps toward sealing of mobile towers on behalf of the local authorities, will ultimately result into failing of the mobile network,” said the association.

PMC, however, said only the offices are sealed and the towers are operational.

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Airtel Divests 950 DRC Tower Assets To Helios Towers Africa

Christian de Faria, CEO, Airtel Africa

Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands), a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel has announced an agreement for the divestment of approximately 950 telecoms towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Helios Towers Africa (HTA).

The divestment also includes towers currently under construction in the DRC. The deal will help in expanding HTA’s tower coverage in Africa to over 6,500 owned towers on the other hand, the deal will help Airtel in reducing debt as well as ongoing capital expenditure. Airtel will have full access to the towers from HTA under a long term lease contract.

The agreement will allow Airtel to focus on its core business and customers, while enabling it to deleverage through debt reduction. The deal will significantly reduce Airtel’s ongoing capital expenditure on passive infrastructure and also mitigate the proliferation of towers through enhanced sharing.

HTA is solely focused on providing telecoms infrastructure solutions which help its customers to achieve their goals. These goals typically include: reducing operating cost, improving network uptime, preserving capital, focusing on their core business, and mitigating the proliferation of towers through infrastructure sharing, as they expand network coverage and capacity to meet the growing demand and improve quality of telecom service.

The agreement is subject to statutory and regulatory approvals in the respective countries.

Commenting on the agreement, Kash Pandya, chief executive officer, Helios Towers Africa said, “HTA is proud to be chosen by Airtel as its partner for the ownership and management of its existing infrastructure. This is a ground-breaking move for HTA, and Airtel’s decision is a significant endorsement of HTA’s reputation, management team and operating track record.”

Christian De Faria, executive chairman, Bharti Airtel International Netherlands BV (BAIN) said, “We are pleased to strengthen our partnership with HTA in Africa. The agreement is in line with our stated philosophy of divesting passive infrastructure and promoting sharing of towers to enhance operational efficiencies that will further the growth of telecom services. Airtel remains committed to DRC and will continue to invest in its operations and serve customers with world-class services.”

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ZTE Bags 21,000 BTS Order From BSNL

ZTE – Telenor

ZTE-Bags-21,000-BTS-Order-From-BSNLChinese company ZTE has bagged Mobile Phase 7+ project from BSNL to install 21,000 BTS in FY 2016-17.

BSNL is planning to add another 21,000 BTS in Mobile Phase 7+ Project of which 13,000 would be 3G BTS in FY 2016-17 and ZTE has bagged additional order from BSNL.

In Phase 7, BSNL had plans to install 25,000 BTS of which 23,000 BTS is already in place and even this order was executed by ZTE. BSNL has given expansion order of another 21,000 BTS to ZTE.

“The Mobile Phase 7+ Project is directed towards increasing 3G penetration and replacing Mobile Phase 4 Project equipment as it is not offering good data speed and is also consuming lot of power. The deployment of new technologies will help in consuming less power and also providing higher bandwidth,” said Anupam Shrivastava, CMD, BSNL.

“ZTE will execute Mobile Phase 7+ Project for northern, southern and eastern zone whereas for western zone BSNL will float a separate tender called Mobile Phase 8 Project,” added Shrivastava.

BSNL is focusing on upgrading the core with latest release of 3GPP so that it can be utilized by new technologies like 4G and 5G. So all the regions are focusing on 3G expansion.

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Indus Towers Building Green Tamil Nadu With 5,920 Green & 5,505 Non-AC Sites


Indus-Towers-Building-Green-Tamil-Nadu-With-5,920-Green-&-5,505-Non-AC-SitesIndus Towers, India’s largest telecom tower company is building green Tamil Nadu by providing 5,920 green sites and 5,505 non-AC sites.

While maintaining highest standards of health and safety, Indus Towers maintains over 5,920 green sites in Tamil Nadu with 5,505 sites being non-AC sites. These green sites use innovative solutions like free cooling units and fast charging battery banks to reduce energy consumption and have advanced energy solutions like Li-Ion battery bank to reduce the carbon footprint. As part of its efforts, Indus Towers has been able to successfully reduced 68 percent of diesel consumption since inception.

Furthermore, through its ‘Shut AC’ initiative, Indus Towers has converted over 5,505 sites from indoor-to-outdoor (Non AC) by shutting down ACs across the Tamil Nadu circle, resulting in a significant reduction in carbon emission and pollution.

With 13,100+ towers and over 28,700+ tenancies in Tamil Nadu comprising of 2,800+ towers and 6,500+ tenancies in Chennai, Indus now offers its users continuous and uninterrupted connectivity across the state.

Going forward too Indus Towers aims to expand its existing efforts in the region by installing more tower sites strategically followed by aggressive rollout plans for various telecom operators; thereby bolstering its seamless communication network in the region.

Talking about Indus Towers’ initiatives, A Siva Prakash Rao, circle CEO – Tamil Nadu, Indus Towers said, “Tamil Nadu is the second largest telecom circle in terms of mobile subscribers for Indus and we are committed towards developing the infrastructure and contributing towards the growth of the state’s economy. We have been continuously working towards expanding our footprint, keeping our environmental duties in mind and at the same time employing and training workforce in the circle.”

“Indus Towers has always stood by its responsibility towards the people across the nation, as well as in the region, by ensuring hassle-free connectivity to mitigate the damage experienced during any unfortunate calamity,” added Rao.

Indus Towers played a critical role in restoring the network by providing continuous uninterrupted mobile telecommunications services in Puducherry, Cuddalore and other parts of Tamil Nadu, even when accessibility and maintenance of sites was a challenge owing to the recent heavy downpour. The field operations team of Indus Towers worked with the locals to help the distressed in every possible way, by ensuring round-the-clock connectivity for them to reach out to the authorities as-well-as their near-and-dear ones.

A total of 550 people from Indus and operator companies in Chennai, Coimbatore and each affected zone worked together on the ground and constantly monitored the situation. Apart from ensuring minimum downtime and restoring network availability, the company also worked closely with state and local authorities towards restoring normalcy to everyday life in the region.

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Bharti Airtel Launches Project Leap Website

Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal (C) with Abhay Sabhargaonkar (L) and Shyam Mardikar

Bharti Airtel has launched a special wesbite that allows customers to know everything they want to know on how Project Leap, the Rs 60,000 crore network transformation program, is progressing in their respective localities.

Customers will be able to get a transparent view of coverage of voice and high speed broadband services. They will also be able to see sites planned in their localities, seek help on hosting sites and share the site up gradation plan for every site. Customers will also be able to see sites that have been forcibly shut down in their locality.

Commenting on the occasion, Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO, Bharti Airtel (India and South Asia) said, “We are happy that the project is making quick strides in enhancing our network quality and are focused on implementing a Project Leap strategy down to each and every location. Our new website is targeted at a first of its kind effort in sharing with total transparency the progress we are making in every street and locality in the country. Our customers will be able to see the progress of their network in their respective localities.”

Airtel customers can now visit for the latest updates on its network modernization drive and get comprehensive information on the program’s progress at the local level. The microsite allows customers to see the network coverage for voice, basic data services (2G) and high speed data services (3G/ 4G) in their regions.

Key highlights relating to Airtel’s network transformation exercise at national and state level are also included. In the locality map, information on the status of modernization of all the Airtel sites in that locality can be seen.

The website also gives Airtel’s 240 million plus customers the opportunity to participate in the network transformation program. As part of this, customers can volunteer to host a site in a planned or a forcibly shut site location and contribute actively to this network enhancement drive. Specific sections with information on radio waves, network FAQs and what customers can expect from network transformation program are also featured.

On 30th November 2015, Bharti Airtel had announced a Rs 60,000 crore investment towards its comprehensive network transformation program – “Project Leap”. Under its ambitious “Project Leap”, Airtel plans to add around 160,000 sites in the next three years. In the next three months, Airtel will be adding nearly 23,000 high speed data sites enhancing the overall network experience for customers.

The ambitious network transformation project is aimed at meeting the growing demand of voice and high speed data services in India – and helping Airtel deliver the best network experience for its customers now, and for years to come.

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RCOM To Sell Tower And Fiber To Tillman and TPG


RCOM-To-Sell-Tower-And-Fiber-To-Tillman-And-TPGRCOM (Reliance Communications) has announced the signing of a non-binding term sheet with Tillman Global Holdings and TPG for the proposed acquisition of RCOM’s nationwide tower assets and related infrastructure.

Under the term sheet, the specified assets are intended to be transferred from Reliance Infratel (RITL) on a going concern basis into a separate SPV, to be owned 100 percent by Tillman and TPG. RCOM will continue as an anchor tenant on the tower assets, under a long term MSA, for its integrated telecommunications business. RCOM intends to utilize the proceeds of the proposed transaction only to reduce its debt.

Tillman and TPG will also evaluate purchase of RCOM’s extensive nationwide inter-city and intra-city optic fibre assets, in a separate and independent transaction.

The parties have entered into an exclusivity agreement valid till January 15, 2016. The proposed transaction is subject to final due diligence, definitive documentation, applicable regulatory and other approvals and certain other terms and conditions. Accordingly, there can be no certainty that a transaction will result. Further announcements will be made at an appropriate stage.

Reliance Communications owns and operates the world’s largest next generation IP enabled connectivity infrastructure, comprising over 280,000 kilometers of fibre optic cable systems in India, USA, Europe, Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

With 190,000 route kilometres of fibre optic cable in India, RCOM national inter-city long distance network is one of the largest next generation network in India. RCOM network is designed and deployed for maximum reliability in ring and mesh architecture. The company has a total of 86,792 network sites of which 11,659 are 3G sites.

Tillman Global is a US-based holding company which invests in and creates telecom and energy infrastructure businesses focused on developed and emerging markets. Led by telecom veteran, Sanjiv Ahuja, Tillman Global and its associated companies have one of the most extensive global telecom infrastructure ownership footprints, with assets in over 15 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America

TPG is a leading global private investment firm with $74.3 billion of capital under management, and investments in a range of industries including financial services, travel and entertainment, technology, industrial, retail, consumer products, media and communications, and healthcare.

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Bharti Airtel Burkina Faso Sell Tower Assets To Eaton Towers

airtel office

Bharti-Airtel-Burkina-Faso-Sell-Tower-Assets-To-Eaton-TowersBharti Airtel through its subsidiary company Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) and Eaton Towers today announced the conclusion of the sale and purchase of tower assets of Bharti Airtel Burkina Faso.

Airtel has now concluded sale of about 9,000 telecom towers in eight African countries of this Eaton Towers has acquired 2,500 towers in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Burkina Faso. In each of these four countries, Airtel has committed to a 10-year tenancy contract to Eaton Towers.

Negotiations between Eaton and Airtel continue as Airtel remains committed to divesting its tower portfolio in other countries as the strategy is to drive cost efficiencies through use of shared passive infrastructure.

The tower sale agreements allow Airtel to focus on its core business and customers, to deleverage through debt reduction, and will significantly reduce its on-going capital expenditure on passive infrastructure whereas for Eaton Towers, the acquisition gives the scale necessary to provide shared telecoms infrastructure solutions, with its customers benefiting from lower operating costs, expanded network coverage and capacity and improved quality of service.

Commenting on the development, Christian De Faria, CEO – Africa, Bharti Airtel said, “We are pleased to close this fourth transaction with Eaton Towers and we continue to explore other opportunities to work together. Airtel continues to sharpen its focus on its core business and delivering best in class experience to its customers in Africa.”

Terry Rhodes, CEO, Eaton Towers said, “We value the partnership with Airtel and have improved the operating performance in each of the portfolios we have acquired.”

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American Tower Acquires Viom Networks

American Tower

American-Tower-Acquires-Viom-NetworksATC India, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Tower has acquired Viom Networks, India’s largest independent telecom tower company in India.

ATC India is planning to acquire complete stake of SREI Group and part stake of Tata Teleservices and others. SREI Group, a private sector infrastructure equipment finance, infrastructure project finance and renewable energy product financing company is completely exiting from Viom Networks whereas Tata Teleservices is also diluting its stake.

Viom Networks has over 42,000 towers across India and reports an industry-best ratio of 2.4 tenants per tower. Viom is a JV between Tata Teleservices and SREI Group. In Viom, Tata Teleservices owns 54 percent, SREI Group owns 18 percent and remaining 28 percent is held by private equity investors including IDFC PE, SBI Macquarie, Oman Investment Fund, GIC and others.

In 2014-15, Viom Networks had a total revenue of Rs 5,000 crore and PAT (profit after tax) of Rs 175 crore.

Viom Networks And American Tower Statistics
Viom Networks
Telecom Towers – 42,000
Tenancy – 2.4
No Of Employees – 1,400
Promoters – Tata Teleservices (54%); Quippo (18%); and Others (28%)

American Tower
Telecom Towers (India) – 14,000
Telecom Towers (Globally) – 97,000
Tenancy – 2
No Of Employees – 350
Source: Viom Networks, American Tower, TeleAnalysis

Globally, American Tower is one of the largest global REITs, is a leading independent owner, operator and developer of multi-tenant communications real estate with a portfolio of approximately 97,000 communications sites. American Tower has built its premier position by supplying wireless service providers with high quality, multi-tenant sites that have high uptime and are cost efficient.

American Tower launched its operations in India in 2007 and has more than 14,000 towers nationwide. With Viom Networks acquisition, ATC India towers will increase to 56,000.

ATC India is also planning to provide customized collocation solutions through Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), supporting seamless in-building and outdoor wireless coverage.

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Airtel May Raise $2.8 Bn From Africa Tower Sale

Airtel Christian de Faria, CEO, Airtel Africa

On July 1, 2015, Bharti Airtel had announced plans to divest tower assets in thirteen countries in Airtel Africa to tower companies like American Tower, Helios Towers Africa (HTA), Eaton, IHS Holding (IHS) and others.

Till date, Airtel Africa has completed sale transactions in seven countries – Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Congo B, Ghana and Nigeria and approximately 8,300 towers representing close to 60 percent of the total tower base.

The total value of proceeds from all the concluded transactions in these seven countries is over $1.7 billion and this amount is being utilized for reducing the debt of Bharti Airtel.

Airtel Africa Tower Divestment Program
Transaction Sale Completed – 7 Countries (Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Congo B, Ghana and Nigeria)
Transaction Sale Elapsed – 4 Countries (Malawi, Chad, DRC and Tanzania)
Transaction Sale Process On – 2 Countries (Burkina Faso and Niger)
Total Amount Collected – $1.7 Billion
Tower Divesting Countries – Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Congo B, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Chad, DRC, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Niger
Countries Where Tower Is Not Divested – Gabon (government and local shareholder issues), Madagascar (local government issues), Seychelles (small country) and Sierra Leone (Ebola issues)
Total Network Sites In Africa – 19,146 (As On June 30, 2015)
Source: Bharti Airtel, TeleAnalysis

Countries where tower sale has elapsed due to regulatory approvals include: Malawi, Chad, DRC and Tanzania and in Burkina Faso and Niger the sales process for tower divestment is still on.

On 9th July, 2014, HTA had announced an agreement for the divestment of approximately 3,100 telecom towers from Airtel to HTA in four countries. On 8th September, 2014, Eaton Towers announced an agreement for the acquisition of over 3,500 telecom towers from Airtel in 6 countries across Africa, with Airtel having a 10-year lease contract. On 15th December, 2014, IHS announced an agreement under which IHS will acquire over 1,100 telecoms towers across Zambia and Rwanda from Airtel. In Nigeria, American Tower has closed its previously announced acquisition of approximately 4,700 communications sites from Bharti Airtel, through Bharti Airtel’s subsidiary company, Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands).

If we extrapolate the figures, Airtel Africa will collect around $2.8 billion from divesting 13,833 tower assets in all the 13 countries. In toto, Airtel Africa has 19,146 network sites in 17 countries.

It is expected that the transactions proposed in two countries will be finalized in the coming months whereas for four countries, the transaction has elapsed and Airtel Africa has to ask tower companies for fresh dates and also meet the requisite guidelines of telecom authorities in respective countries.

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