Bangladesh’s second-largest telecom operator 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. The operator had sold off 5,258 towers to Edotco Ltd for $250 million back in 2015.
On the issue, 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 bring down the number of towers in the country as envisaged in the tower sharing policy. Robi has long been taking the lead in this regard in the industry.”
He added that Robi is very much ready and willing to scale up tower sharing to power its digital vision.
To increase sharing of tower infrastructure among mobile network operators (MNO), Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), had introduced a Tower Sharing Policy in 2007.
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 the mobile towers.
The objective of separating mobile tower licenses from MNOs was to stop them from building mobile towers in the same areas, to ensure that the 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 data, 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 of 36,866 towers in Bangladesh at the moment, 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.