Etisalat sells Nigerian cell towers

The African telecoms market has long been a pioneer of cell tower sharing and outsourcing and on Friday operator group Etisalat voted in favour of the model with a proposal to sell 2,136 towers in Nigeria to regional tower management specialist IHS Holding.

The deal, which is the first of its kind by a major GSM operator in Nigeria, is expected to close later this year and is part of a plan by Etisalat Nigeria to improve the quality of its network performance and accelerate roll out of 2G and 3G coverage.

The partnership with IHS is designed to promote network sharing, ensure higher quality, sustain reliable mobile services, lower overall costs and also promote a cleaner environment through reduced diesel usage and increased investments in alternative energy solutions, Etisalat said.

Over the past 18 months, IHS has installed a large number of alternative energy sites in Nigeria in addition to the construction of a state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre, claiming uptimes of over 99 per cent on its owned sites.

Under the terms of this latest deal IHS has committed to investing a further $100m in the towers acquired, on advanced generators, efficient batteries and alternative energy solutions to reduce diesel consumption and improve efficiency of grid use.

Following the deal, IHS will own and manage over 6,540 towers in Nigeria and will market services on the towers promoting tower sharing and colocation to help drive network improvements, better service to subscribers and economic growth.

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Matthew Willsher, CEO of Etisalat Nigeria, said: “Continued demand for mobile connectivity along with increased consumption of data requires reliable and effective networks that are also cost efficient for network operators.”

In May, African operator group MTN sold all of its 1,269 mobile network towers in Rwanda and Zambia to IHS for an undisclosed amount. IHS subsidiaries now own and manage 550 towers in Rwanda and 719 towers in Zambia.

The move is part of a wider trend seen across Africa over the past several months. IHS said it intends to use $620m funding it raised over the two months at the start of the year to finance future acquisitions in Africa, such as that of Etisalat’s assets.

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