American Tower rumoured to be eying Cellnex takeover


News

According to Spanish media, American Tower and Brookfield Asset Management are reportedly considering acquiring Cellnex, Europe’s largest mobile tower operator

Mobile towers have always been an attractive prospect for investors, with their low operational costs and steady long-term returns denoting them as relatively low risk. In recent years, however, investor appetite for infrastructure has reached unprecedented heights, prompting enormous consolidation worldwide, particularly in Europe and Africa.

In many ways, this activity has been driven by the broader state of the telecoms industry as a whole. Network operators are currently in the process of rolling out expensive 5G and fibre networks, while at the same time seeing . As a result, offloading their passive infrastructure becomes an appealing proposition, with major telecoms groups like Orange and Vodafone spinning off their tower units into independent companies.

Throughout this global consolidation, Spanish infrastructure giant Cellnex has emerged as one of the voracious of all towercos, buying up a huge amount of European assets, including a €10 billion deal to purchase all the European towers belonging to CK Hutchison. It is currently the largest independent tower company in Europe, with over 130,000 thousand sites in 12 markets.

In the last year, however, the global economy has taken a turn for the worse. With interest rates on soaring, the debt used to finance Cellnex’s enormous acquisitions will need to be refinanced at a higher rate, cutting painfully into the company’s bottom line.

In November last year, Cellnex announced that its insatiable M&A spree was officially over, with CEO Tobias Martínez saying that the company now needed to “face and beat inflation”.

The company has net debt of €17.1 billion and is seeking to reduce its leverage from roughly eight-times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to below seven-times.

The company’s share price has fallen almost 40% over the last year, presumably a major factor in the resignation of Martínez as CEO two weeks ago.

Now, rumours suggest that this lowered share price is attracting attention from potential rivals, with Spanish media suggesting that American Tower and Brookfield Asset Management are considering a joint takeover bid.

While no financial details were mentioned, analysts suggest that such a deal would be worth around €50 billion.

Cellnex, American Tower, and Brookfield have all refused to comment, while other media sources have cited other unnamed sources refuting the rumour.

It should go without saying that if such a takeover were to materialise, it would have enormous implications for the European mobile market, making the combined entity a dominant force in markets like the UK, France, and Spain.

As a result, various regulatory bodies would closely investigate such a tie up, with American Tower surely forced to offload a significant amount of its own towers that overlap with Cellnex’s portfolio, at the very least.

This would be nothing overly surprising ­– Cellnex itself has already shown a willingness to pursue this sort of compromise, offloading some of its overlapping towers in the UK in order to gain clearance for its acquisition of CK Hutchison’s towers in the market.

But perhaps the largest obstacle to such an acquisition is not some regulatory complexity, but simply cash. While American Tower and Brookfield could, at a stretch, likely afford such a giant investment, they would surely need a hugely favourable valuation of Cellnex to truly consider such a purchase.

With Cellnex already taking steps to consolidate their position, reduce debt, and encourage organic growth, the company will surely argue that the company is undervalued, making reaching an amiable takeover agreement unlikely.

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Vodacom welcomes 2Africa cable to the Eastern Cape

The 2Africa subsea cable, described as the largest subsea cable system in the world, has landed at the South African operator Vodacom’s network facility in Gqeberha. This is the first submarine cable landing in the Eastern Cape region.

The 2Africa consortium is made up of eight international partners, including Vodafone/Vodacom. Launched in May 2022, the subsea cable project aims to significantly increase the capacity, quality, and availability of internet connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world.

The Gqeberha landing is the 2Africa project’s third on the coast of South Africa, following two recent landings in the Western Cape by MTN GlobalConnect. Vodacom is the designated landing partner, providing facilities for the cable’s installation at an existing site in the Summerstrand area.

Through the 2Africa landing at Gqeberha, service providers will be able to obtain capacity on a fair and equitable basis. Direct international connectivity can then be provided to data centres, enterprise, and wholesale customers.

Once the fibre cable system has been deployed, businesses and consumers will benefit from improved quality, reliability, and lower latency for internet services. The cable system’s landing in the Eastern Cape will also offer the potential for regional job creation in sectors that rely on direct international connectivity, such as data centres, call centres and software development.

The 2Africa project underpins further growth of 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access by providing improved connectivity to underserved and rural areas and network resilience from the Eastern Cape to the rest of South Africa. As a gateway to international connectivity, the cable’s landing at Gqeberha will help to develop telecommunications networks in the Eastern Cape and surrounding provinces.

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Maxis holds off signing up for Malaysia 5G plan

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Airbus calls for investors as Zephyr business prepares for lift-off


News

The solar-powered Zephyr drone will serve as a flying base station, delivering mobile connectivity to customers in hard-to-reach areas

Today, aviation giant Airbus has revealed that is seeking external investment as it prepares to scale up, spin-off, and commercially launch its Zephyr drone connectivity business.

Flying around 21km above the surface of the Earth, high above weather and commercial aircraft, Airbus’s Zephyr drone will act as a High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), beaming down connectivity to customers too difficult or expensive to reach with terrestrially technology.

The solar-powered drone can remain airborne for months at a time and be piloted directly to in-need locations, whether remote areas lacking in traditional connectivity or areas with high temporary demand, such as those struck by natural disasters.

In addition to Zephyr’s connectivity capabilities, the device’s payload is also modular, allowing it to carry cameras and other sensors for observational purposes.

Airbus has been working alongside Japanese operator NTT and other partners to develop this technology for some years now, with the device having already racked up over 3,000 flight hours by the end of 2021.

By last summer, Zephyr had made significant technical advances, recording a single continuous flight for 26 days, breaking the record for the longest flight by an unmanned aircraft.

When complete, Airbus said it hopes each Zephyr drone will be able to fly continuously for up to six months using the latest solar and battery technologies.

Airbus officially launched its own HAPS Services Business unit last year, aiming to further develop Zephyr technology and target the 3.7 billion people current severely underserved by existing connectivity infrastructure.

Now, however, it seems that Airbus feels the unit will function better as an independent business, with the aviation giant having hired Morgan Stanley to help find and onboard new investors to help rapidly grow the fledging business.

This new unit will be called Aalto.

“Airbus is not a company that offers telecom services,” Samer Halawi, the CEO of Airbus’s HAPS business, told the Financial Times. “The idea of the carve-out is to bring like-minded partners to the equation and to be able to scale this business.”

According to reports, Airbus intends to retain majority control of the business, with talks with various customers and commercial partners already underway.

Halawi says that Zephyr is now “at the final design stage”, with commercial services expected to launch before the end of the year.

As part of the commercialisation process, Aalto expects to set up five or six ‘Aalto ports’ in locations including the US and the Middle East, each of which will serve as a base of operation for Zephyr drones.

How is the rise of non-terrestrial connectivity solutions impacting the traditional telecoms sector? Join the operators in discussion at this year’s Connected America conference

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Infrastructure sharing and free Wi-Fi provision planned by Peru’s comms ministry

Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) has announced a six-month-long infrastructure sharing pilot. It will take place in and around Lima, using three base stations, and in Lambayeque, on the coast of northern Peru, using one. The project, supported by operators Telefónica del Perú and Entel, aims to reduce investment, operation and maintenance costs and save energy.

The proposed mobile access network active infrastructure sharing scheme is to be known as Multi Operator Core Networks (MOCN). The idea is that telecommunication towers, antennas, equipment and radio controllers will be shared by those who join the scheme, though it’s not yet clear when it will start or how it will be ramped up if it proves popular.

That said, a system that promises cost savings could be attractive to operators. In fact, according to the TeleSemana news service, it’s already happened in Latin America. Last June, Telefónica in Mexico decided to migrate all its traffic to the AT&T network and got rid of the spectrum that it owned.

The MTC view, according to its announcement, is that « by increasing the bandwidth of mobile service transmission carriers in the same geographic location, it will be possible for two different operators to be able to provide their commercial services with higher speeds and capacities”.

The ministry has also announced plans to install 417 new wireless internet or Wi-Fi points in public spaces in rural towns. The aim is to reduce the digital divide and bringing internet services closer to places where people gather.

This scheme is not new; the ministry says that, during 2022, nearly three million internet connections were registered, free of charge, through what are known as Public Digital Access Spaces (EPADs) – 223 of them.

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T-Mobile reveals yet another data breach affecting millions of customers              


News

According to the operator, the data of 37 million customers has been compromised

Today, US mobile giant T-Mobile has announced it has been hit by another cyberattack, resulting in the data of 37 million customers being accessed by a malicious actor.

The breach was reportedly identified on January 5, with the operator saying they had removed the attacker’s access to the data within 24 hours.

“Our investigation is still ongoing, but the malicious activity appears to be fully contained at this time, and there is currently no evidence that the bad actor was able to breach or compromise our systems or our network,” said the company in a statement.

T-Mobile was quick to play down the severity of the attack, noting that no sensitive data, such as financial information, was compromised. Instead, the operator said that the information stolen was “basic” and “the type widely available in marketing databases or directories”.

Basic or not, this data does include details such as names, dates of birth, and account numbers.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has initiated an investigation into the breach.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time in recent memory that T-Mobile has been hit with a major cybersecurity scandal.

In 2021, the operator reported a breach that had compromised data relating to 76.6 million customers. One year later, the FCC fined operator $350 million and stipulated they must spend a further $150 million on additional cyberdefense measures.

In somewhat related news, the FCC is currently in the process of updating its data breach reporting rules, aiming to have telcos notify customers earlier when their data has been compromised.

Want to keep up with all of the latest news from the US telecoms sector? Join the experts in discussion at this year’s Connected America conference

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Samsung and KDDI’s latest 5G trial highlights RIC and network slicing


Press Release

The companies combine technology expertise to deliver the first demonstration of network slicing using RIC on a live 5G SA network

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. and KDDI announced the successful demonstration of Service Level Agreements (SLA) assurance network slicing in a field trial conducted in Tokyo, Japan. For the first time in the industry, the companies proved their capabilities to generate multiple network slices using a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) on a live commercial 5G Standalone (SA) network. The RIC, provided by Samsung in this field trial, is a software-based component of the Open RAN architecture that optimizes the radio resources of the RAN to improve the overall network quality.

Network slicing enables multiple virtual networks to be created within a single physical network infrastructure, where each slice is dedicated for a specific application or service—serving different purposes. For instance, operators can create a low latency slice for automated vehicles, an IoT slice for smart factories and a high bandwidth slice for live video streaming—all within the same network. This means that a single network can support a broad mix of use cases simultaneously, accelerating the delivery of new services and meeting the tailored demands of various enterprises and consumers.

“Network slicing will help us activate a wide range of services that require high performance and low latency, benefitting both consumers and businesses,” said Toshikazu Yokai, Managing Executive Officer, General Manager of Mobile Network Technical Development Division at KDDI. “Working with Samsung, we continue to deliver the most innovative technologies to enhance customer experiences.”

Through this field trial conducted in Q4 of 2022, KDDI and Samsung proved their capabilities of SLA assurance to generate multiple network slices that meet SLA requirements, guaranteeing specific performance parameters—such as low latency and high throughput—for each application. Samsung also proved the technical feasibility of multiple user equipment (UE)-based network slices with quality assurance using the RIC, which performs advanced control of RAN as defined by the O-RAN Alliance.

“Network slicing will open up countless opportunities, by allowing KDDI to offer tailor-made, high-performance connectivity, along with new capabilities and services, to its customers,” Junehee Lee, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “This demonstration is another meaningful step forward in our efforts to advance technological innovation and enrich network services. We’re excited to have accomplished this together with KDDI, and look forward to continued collaboration.”

For more than a decade, the two companies have been working together, hitting major 5G networks milestones that include: KDDI’s selection of Samsung as a 5G network solutions provider, end-to-end 5G network slicing demonstration in the lab, 5G network rollout on 700MHz and the deployment of 5G vRAN on KDDI’s commercial network.

Samsung has pioneered the successful delivery of 5G end-to-end solutions including chipsets, radios, and core. Through ongoing research and development, Samsung drives the industry to advance 5G networks with its market-leading product portfolio from virtualized RAN and Core to private network solutions and AI-powered automation tools. The company is currently providing network solutions to mobile operators that deliver connectivity to hundreds of millions of users around the world.

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