Robi is planning to sell off its remaining network towers to one of the four existing tower management companies.
A discussion regarding this sale is currently at an advanced stage, industry insiders told The Business Post, adding that a potential deal is in the offing very soon. Robi currently owns 2,470 towers and had sold off 5,258 towers to Edotco Ltd for $250 million back in 2015.
Robi’s Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam said, “Given the telecom sector’s state of maturity, tower sharing among the operators is the best solution to optimise a company’s investment portfolio. With greater efficiency in tower management, we can easily lower the number of towers in the country as envisioned in the tower sharing policy. Robi has long been taking the lead in this regard in the industry.”
He said Robi is ready and willing to scale up tower sharing to power its digital vision.
Industry insiders said Banglalink is also in talks with relevant parties to sell off its towers. It currently has 8,000 towers, and it wants to sell off all its towers to concentrate more on their core business.
Banglalink’s Chief Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer Taimur Rahman said, “Banglalink is holding one of the largest tower portfolios in Bangladesh. Since the introduction of the new tower sharing guidelines, we have signed expansion agreements with the country’s all four tower licensees and are actively expanding our network through these agreements.
“As part of our asset-utilisation strategy and expansion plan, we may consider – if the operational and financial conditions are satisfactory – to sell off our towers to the tower license holders.”
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) introduced a Tower Sharing Policy in 2007 to increase sharing of tower infrastructure among mobile network operators (MNO).
That policy aimed 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, the regulator went on to issue licenses to four companies to manage and operate all mobile towers.
The objective of separating mobile tower licenses from MNOs was to stop them from building towers in the same areas, and to ensure that objectives of the tower sharing policy are duly met.
Despite a push from the tower sharing policy, only 4,148 or 16 per cent of mobile operators’ towers are being shared with other operators at the moment.
According to BTRC, Robi is leading the industry by sharing 30 per cent of its existing towers with other MNOs, whereas, Grameenphone and Banglalink share only 17 to 19 per cent of their towers with other MNOs.
Of the total 36,866 towers, MNOs own 66 per cent or 24,425 towers. MNOs had been managing towers from the beginning of their journey in 1997. The rest are owned by tower management companies.
Among the four companies, the leading Edotco currently owns 11,946 towers, AB Hi-Tech owns 250, Summit owns 100 towers, and the fourth Kirtonkhola Tower Bangladesh Ltd does not own any tower as yet.