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Robi to sell all of its towers

Robi to sell all of its towers

Country’s second largest operator Robi is set to sell off all its remaining towers to one of the four existing tower management companies.

According to the industry insiders, the sales discussion is at an advanced stage with a potential deal in the offing. Robi currently owns 2,470 towers. In 2015, the operator had sold off 5,258 towers to e.co Ltd. for $250 million.

Banglalink is also having discussions with the relevant parties to sell off their towers. The third largest operator currently has 8,000 towers, industry insiders also said.

The mobile operator wants to sell off all its towers to concentrate more on their core business. It is believed that once the sales go ahead as planned, it will significantly boost tower sharing in the industry. It will also reduce the cost of maintaining the towers and create one-off revenue opportunity.

Declining to comment directly on the sales discussion, Robi’s Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam said, “Given the state of maturity of the telecom sector, tower sharing among the operators is the best solution to optimize an operator’s investment portfolio. With greater efficiency in tower management, we can easily bring down the number of towers in the country as envisaged in the tower sharing policy. Robi has long been taking a lead in this regard in the industry. We are very much ready and willing to scale up tower sharing to power our digital vision.”

With an objective to increase tower infrastructure sharing among the mobile network operators (MNOs), the telecom regulator, BTRC, introduced a policy on ‘Tower Sharing’ in 2007. The purpose of that policy was to reduce the number of additional towers, ensure optimized use of scarce land resources and reduce pressure on electricity demand.

Looking at the reluctance of the MNOs to share towers among themselves, BTRC went on to issue license to four companies to manage and operate all the mobile towers. The objective of separating mobile tower licenses from MNOs was to stop the MNOs from building mobile towers in the same areas to ensure that the objectives of the tower sharing policy formulated in 2007 are duly met.

Despite the push from the tower sharing policy, only 4,148 or 16 per cent of tower mobile operators are being shared with other operators at the moment. Robi Axiata Ltd is leading the way in the industry by sharing 30 per cent of its existing towers with other MNOs; whereas, GP and Banglalink share only 17 to 19 per cent of their own towers with other MNOs. Out of a total of 36,866 towers in Bangladesh at the moment, MNOs own 66 per cent of the towers (24,425). MNOs had been managing towers from the beginning of their journey 1997.

The leading tower management company, e.co, currently owns 11,946 towers, AB Hi Tech owns 250, Summit owns 100 towers, and the fourth towerco, Kirtonkhola, doesn’t own a tower yet. Hence, it is very clear that once Robi’s towers are sold off, it will provide a lifeline to the struggling tower management companies.

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