Robi to sell off its remaining network towers
The country’s second-largest mobile operator, Robi, is set to sell off all of its remaining towers to one of the four existing tower management companies.
According to the industry insiders, the sales discussion is already at an advanced stage with a potential deal in the offing anytime soon.
Robi currently owns 2,470 towers.
In 2015, the operator had sold off 5,258 towers to e.co Ltd. for $250 million.
The mobile operator wants to sell off all its towers to concentrate more on their core business.
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 optimise 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,” he said.
Alam said that 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.”
Industry insiders said other mobile operators are also in discussion to sell their towers.
It is believed that once the sales go ahead as planned, it will significantly boost tower sharing in the industry while reducing the cost of maintaining the towers and creating a one-off revenue opportunity.
With an objective to increase tower infrastructure sharing among the 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 optimised 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 licence to four companies to manage and operate all the mobile towers.
The objective of separating mobile tower licences 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 of 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 BL 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 in 1997.
The leading tower management company, e.co, currently owns 11,946 towers while AB Hi Tech owns 250, Summit owns 100 towers, and the fourth tower co, 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.