Contrasting debt demands for Indian operators Bharti and Vi

In an interesting illustration of contrasting fortunes in the Indian telecoms market, operator Bharti Airtel has prepaid a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) debt while rival Vodafone Idea (Vi) is gearing up for admittedly smaller payments, but payments that are part of a much larger overall debt burden.

Airtel’s payment of about 80 billion rupees (US$975.5 million) to the DoT, reportedly almost clears much of the company’s dues related to airwaves bought in the 2015 auction.

The company is quoted in India’s Economic Times as saying: “Airtel continues to enjoy access to a well-diversified sources of capital / financing, allowing it to have enhanced financial flexibility in its capital structure including optimised cost of financing using all opportunities for significant interest savings, like this prepayment.”

Vi has to find slightly less money – 43 billion rupees (US$522.7 million) – towards debt and 5G airwave instalments in the current September quarter. However, this is just part of its vast overall debt, which includes payments to Indus Towers. 

Vi owes Indus about 95 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion). That said, recent payment obligations to Indus have been met. However, licence fee and spectrum usage charge (SUC) payments to the government have recently seen delays.

Add 5G rollout, 4G network upgrade, and quite a lot of other debts, to banks and suppliers among others, and a large dose of funding would be welcome. Vi’s net debt at the end of the 2023 financial year was US$24.4 billion. Lenders and would-be investors want assurance that funding is on the way.

By contrast, Airtel’s prepayment will help it save on interest costs annually and boost cash flows as it rapidly rolls out 5G networks with national service availability targeted by December.


Telefónica proposes fibre partnership with Vodafone


The deal could help offset Vodafone’s struggling performance in the highly competitive Spanish market 

According to reports from Bloomberg, Telefónica has approached Vodafone on several occasions in recent months to discuss potential deals related to the companies’ Spanish broadband networks. 

The potential deal could take the form of a wholesale agreement, a partnership, or the transfer of Vodafone’s clients onto Telefónica’s fibre network. 

Vodafone have yet to comment on the proposal, with Telefónica’s Chief Operating Officer Angel Vila noting that “the ball is now in their court”. 

It is possible that the proposal has come as a result of Vodafone’s new CEO Margharita Della Valle launching a review of Spanish operations back in May, saying that “structural change”, including a full or partial sale of the unit, was a possibility. Following this announcement, Telefónica revealed its interest in discussing a potential deal between the two companies’ Spanish fibre networks. 

In recent years, Vodafone’s operations in Spain have been strongly impacted by the highly competitive nature of the country’s telecoms market. Ruthless competition with MasMovil, Orange, and Movistar has seen all of the operators locked in a seemingly perpetual price war, keeping profits painfully low. 

During the 2023 fiscal year, Vodafone had the highest decline in mobile service revenue at 5.4%, noting that competition in the mobile value segment “remained intense”. 

Want to keep up to date with all the latest news from the international telecoms sector? Click here to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter direct to your inbox 

Also in the news:
Orange-MásMóvil merger may reduce competition in Spain, says European Commission
Suitors lining up to buy Vodafone Spain
Vodafone sales increase as merger looms

Total Telecom’s Friday Financial Roundup


A summary of all the essential financial news in the telecoms world 

Virgin Media O2 releases Q2 results

Virgin Media O2’s (VMO2) quarterly results, published on Tuesday, revealed a 6.2% increase in adjusted revenue, totalling £2.7 billion. This drove transaction-adjusted EBITDA up 4.6% from the same time last year, to £1 billion.

The revenue increase was due in part to VMO2’s April price rises.

At the same time, however, the results revealed VMO2 had lost roughly 24,700 fixed line customers and 1,500 mobile subscribers.

“Amidst higher costs, rising usage and continued investment, we executed necessary price increases in line with our expectations, with this starting to flow through to our Q2 revenue and EBITDA growth,” said CEO Lutz Schüler.

Cellnex revenue rockets 18% on last year

Europe’s largest mobile tower company announced second quarter revenues of €1.02 billion, an increase of 17.8% on the same period last year, when the number stood at €862 million. The company attributes the increase to the continued posititive momentum of its core business.

Despite a 19.2% rise in operating expenses, adjusted EBITDA was up 17.4 % in Q2.

“We continue to see momentum in the business with strong growth across all of our industrial and financial metrics in the first half of the year,” said CEO Marco Patuano. “We are making good progress towards the objectives we set last November in the “new chapter” for the Group, with a focus on organic growth, positive free cash flow generation by 2024 and achieving investment grade by 2024 as well.”

The firm’s current net financial debt stands at €17.9 billion.

Telefónica’s 44.5% revenue increase

Telefónica’s Q2 results, released yesterday, showed that between April and June the company’s net income rose 44.5% to €462 million, compared to the same period last year.

Total revenue reached €10.1 million, with a growth rate of 0.9% year-on-year.

Net financial debt amounted to €27.5 million at the end of last month, 3.9% lower than last year.

The performance has allowed the firm to review their 2023 financial targets, including doubling their revenue target as they anticipate organic growth of 4%.

“Focused on the customer and the creation of shareholder value, and with technology as a decisive factor to better understand and connect with the world, Telefónica is preparing its 2023-2026 plan with a model of operational excellence based on three pillars: Growth, Profitability and Sustainability,” said Telefónica’s Chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete.

Vodafone’s share price rise after successful Q1

The release of Vodafone’s Q1 results this week demonstrated a successful quarter, causing the share price to rise 4% to 75.5% earlier this week.

Vodafone reported a 3.7% rise in organic revenue growth to €10.7 billion in the first quarter of this year, although reported growth fell by 4.8%. 

The firm’s solid performance in the UK, boosted by April price rises, largely helped to offset poorer performances in other key markets like Germany, where revenue dropped by 1.3%.

“We have achieved a better service revenue performance across almost all of our markets. We have delivered particularly strong trading in our Business segment and returned to service revenue growth in Europe” said CEO Margherita Della Valle.

“Vodafone delivered mixed results today, though with revenue ahead of expectations and the company taking advantage of price rises in April they are more on the positive side,” commented Matthew Dorset, analyst at Quilter Cheviot.

T – Mobile set Q2 record

In the release of its Q2 report on Thursday, T-Mobile announed a gain of 760,000 postpaid mobile customers, its highest increase in the quarter for eight years, and the most in the US mobile industry.

The total customer base grew by 1.7 million to a record 116.6 million at the end of June.

Service revenues of $15.4 billion grew 4% year-over-year, while core EBITDA increased 11% year-over-year to $6.7 billion.

“On the heels of our highest ever postpaid account net additions and industry-leading postpaid and broadband customer growth, we are raising guidance for the third time this year. Our Un-carrier playbook continues to win in this ever-changing competitive and macro-economic climate and our momentum is only getting stronger,” said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile.

Want to keep up with all of the latest telecoms news from around the world? Sign up to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter 

Also in the news: 

Cellnex names Anne Bouverot as Non-Executive Chairperson
Ericsson may be caught in the middle as Swedish–Iraqi relations sour
Nokia and Tele2 team up for private 5G in Sweden 

Cellnex considers selling minority stake in Nordic operations


According to reports, the sale process could begin later this year 

Spanish tower infrastructure giant Cellnex is considering the sale of the minority stake in its Nordic operations (Sweden and Denmark), anonymous sources told Reuters earlier this week. 

According to the report, the firm is working with Spanish financial advisors AZ Capital to gauge potential interest in the operations, with the unit valued potentially valued at almost €1 billion. 

At the end of the first quarter of this year, Cellnex operated 1,576 sites in Denmark and 2,906 in Sweden. The exact value of these sites, however, is difficult to calculate; in its financial reporting, Cellnex does not separate the financial details of its Swedish and Danish businesses, which are instead simply part if its ‘rest of Europe’ unit, including Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Poland. 

This ‘rest of Europe’ unit recorded EBITDA of €264 million in the first quarter of this financial year. 

The rumours of a stake sale for the Nordic unit should not come as a great surprise, with Cellnex CEO Marco Patuano saying back in March that the company was “open to consider (selling) minority stakes, maybe even (to) local investors… which might be interested in order to invest in certain areas of Europe”.  

After the announcement today , shares were up 4.7% this morning at €38.49.

After years of growth fuelled by various mergers and acquisitions — such as the takeover of CK Hutchinson’s European towers — Cellnex’s strategy has now shifted to focus on cutting debt, which stood at €17billion at the end of this year’s first quarter. 

The firm operates around of 135,000 sites across Europe. Earlier this year, Cellnex acquired the final 30% of OnTower from Iliad for €510 million, taking Poland’s site total to around 15,000.

In related news, this week saw Cellnex acquire a €315 million loan from the European Investment Bank, funds they say will allow them to deploy additional sites and upgrade existing infrastructure in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Poland. 

How is the tower infrastructure market changing in 2023? Join the experts in discussion at this year’s Total Telecom Congress live in Amsterdam 

Also in the news:
Cellnex names Anne Bouverot as Non-Executive Chairperson
Ericsson may be caught in the middle as Swedish–Iraqi relations sour
Nokia and Tele2 team up for private 5G in Sweden 

Starlink launches in Malawi

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.

Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.

Ethio Telecom shares upbeat forecast ahead of partial privatisation

In a very upbeat projection of its prospects for the near future, state-run operator Ethio Telecom has forecast a 19% rise in revenue over the June 2023-July 2024 financial year. It has also forecast a 29% rise in the number of customers on its network using its mobile money services.

Reuters notes that the company has estimated full-year revenue of 90.5 billion birr (about US$1.65 billion) and has said it aimed to increase its total subscriber numbers by 8% to 78 million; most of them (nearly 75 million) would be mobile phone customers. Users of its mobile financial service, Telebirr, are expected to rise 29% to 44.1 million, it said.

The company, which says it has been providing telecom services in the country for the last 129 years, is aiming for a total mobile service capacity of 92 million by end of the fiscal year.

That’s quite a target given the country’s population of a little over 120 million and strong competition from recent arrival Safaricom Ethiopia. There’s also the question of how a proposed third operator could affect the competitive landscape.

Nevertheless, these projections do appear to be part of an upward trend. As we reported last week, Ethio Telecom revealed a 2022-23 profit more than doubling (to around US$344 million) along with rising subscriber numbers.

These figures, along with the company’s latest projections, should make the prospect of partial privatisation in the form of a 45% stake sale in Ethio Telecom even more attractive to would-be bidders. Indeed, we have reported that a number of big names are said to be considering bids for the 45% stake.


Airtel Uganda set to deploy 5G equipment next week

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.

Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.

ZTE’s Bai Keke: Taking the lead in 5G MBB & FWA

ZTE has long been a pioneering force in the wireless data terminal space, from its 2012 launch of the world’s first CAT3 portable WiFi product to its 2022 release of the FWA MC888 series, which was the first in the world to support 3GPP R16. We spoke to Bai Keke, the vendor’s Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Internet, to discuss its innovations in this space.

What are the key advantages offered by ZTE’s MBB & FWA products?

ZTE’s MBB & FWA products hold a leading position in the industry. ZTE integrates the whole chain from systems to terminals, which is a major overall advantage, but we have also invested long-term in R&D to ensure ZTE offers a continued technical edge over its competitors. Our ability to offer large-scale delivery reduces the cost for clients, and our customized deliver offering has proven attractive, with 108 global core partners using ZTE’s products, giving us the world’s largest market share for 5G MBB & FWA products in 2022, according to a report by international consultancy firm TSR. We predict that this year ZTE’s market share will maintain this rapid growth, with shipments expected to increase 50% year-on-year.

Could you explain more about ZTE’s GIS (Green, Intelligence & Security) strategy?

While we have a strong lead in 5G MBB & FWA, it was important to develop new ideas for the digital future. With the industry trending towards mobile ecosystem development, ZTE proposed the concept of Green, Intelligence & Security (GIS) with the future of 5G devices in mind. By promoting green design, green perception, and green service, ZTE has reduced its energy consumption by a further 10% overall.

We offer more intelligent access, intelligent scenario control according to diversified user requirements, and multiple intelligent modes to regulate the access rate and device response status. Moreover, ZTE will make data transmission more secure and reliable; we have launched two security scenarios focused on households and children. Combined with a comprehensive security system and five globally distributed network security laboratories, ZTE has built the capability to guarantee the security of worldwide networks.

The 5G FWA product MC888 PRO GIS version launched this year. Incorporating ideas from the GIS concept, the model reduced comprehensive energy consumption by 10% comparing with the previous MC888 PRO model with its Green Life Mode and Night Mode. Made from 95% PCR recycled materials, the product is friendlier to the environment, and will be continually deployed worldwide this year.

How are ZTE’s products innovating in the post-5G era?

5G spectrum was a key item on the agenda at the recent MWC Shanghai 2023. The 700MHz band is set to play an irreplaceable role in popularizing 5G in the future, and ZTE acknowledges this with 5G MBB & FWA products designed specifically for this low-band 5G spectrum. Our 4MIMO lets our products double the network rate under limited bandwidth resources, offering carriers the cost advantage of 700MHz band coverage while affording consumers better internet speeds.

ZTE’s innovative 5G MBB & FWA products will also help to empower economic and social development. We offer three types of mobile data terminal products and solutions for global users: consumer wireless data terminals for individuals and families, customized wireless data terminals for industries, and vehicle-class wireless data terminals for V2X.

For consumers, ZTE provides full-scenario home and personal data terminal products, allowing consumers to experience faster rates, lower latency, and faster deployment of wireless data communication services. As a supplement to wired broadband, it helps popularize 4G / 5G networks.

From the perspective of the global wired access market, only 1/3 of households can access fixed-line broadband, and only 25% of households enjoy a network rate over 100 Mbps. For objective reasons like construction cost or route planning, wireless data terminals are needed for signal coverage – especially in some scarcely populated areas, where large bandwidth and higher rates have given 5G MBB & FWA products a broader space to develop. According to TSR, 5G FWA will grow at an annual rate of about 50% in the next 3 to 5 years.

In addition to helping to popularize network connectivity, wireless data terminals also play an important role in promoting the development of new formats of digital economy. Due to the flexibility and convenience of its deployment, 5G MBB & FWA products can provide more efficient network support for new digital economy practitioners such as outdoor livestreamers, tourism content creators, online car-hailing drivers, and food deliverers.

How will ZTE continue to innovate in the field of 5G MBB & FWA going forward?

Following the trend of Metaverse and extended reality (XR) in the future, ZTE will continue to promote the technological innovation of 5G MBB & FWA products, improving product performance to provide powerful underlying communication network support. At present, in the field of industrial intelligent manufacturing, trials have been carried out through VR equipment, high-speed connection and intelligent methods.

In the V2X field, ZTE is also delivering innovative integrated vehicle-road collaborative roadside computing products. Traditionally, RSUs used for roadside equipment communication enabled communication and data interaction between roads, vehicles, and the cloud, while roadside edge computing responsible for perception computing and fusion was used to provide real-time traffic situations. These are essentially two independent appliances that share an important role in intelligent transportation systems.

With the deepening of vehicle-road collaborative applications, roadside edge computing is no longer limited to providing road perception information to vehicles, but also provides decision-making and control services for driving. Computation is required in communication, and vice versa.

On the basis of the original 5G RSU, ZTE has integrated the RSU and roadside edge computing devices, redefining the connotation of RSU by the combination of communication and computing of C-V2X. The device supports full band Uu and PC5 communication, can access up to 16 channels of video + 8 channels of millimeter-wave radar + 2 channels of laser radar through the strong AI computing power up 100Tops. This product is based on the in-house integrated intelligent network computing operating system architecture, which can empower various intelligent transportation applications in multiple dimensions including computing power, algorithms, data, and scenarios.

In addition to this integrated vehicle-road collaborative roadside computing product, ZTE’s mobile data terminal is also deployed in two aspects, the road end and the vehicle end in V2X. In terms of the road end, ZTE has conducted many tests in China. From the perspective of the vehicle end, ZTE is committed to being a provider of basic capabilities for digital vehicles. With the accumulation of chipset and operating system technologies in the ICT field as its core advantages, ZTE combines software, hardware and supply chain capabilities and basic advantages of digital transformation to provide 4G and 5G data transmission, smart modules, T-Box and other equipment and solutions to help automobiles become smarter.

In terms of industry, ZTE sees enterprises as the main force for the 5G digital economy development. To empower users, ZTE will focus on the five major industry fields of electricity & energy, intelligent transportation, medical care, enterprise affairs, and the Internet. Under the concept of « digital everything », ZTE will build on our years of experience and technical accumulation in communication to contribute to the development of the digital age.