African operator group MTN has sold all of its 1,269 mobile network towers in Rwanda and Zambia to independent mobile infrastructure provider IHS Holding for an undisclosed amount. IHS subsidiaries will own and manage 550 towers in Rwanda and 719 towers in Zambia.
Under the terms of the deal, MTN will become a tenant on the towers and collocation services will also be offered to its competitors in the two markets. IHS said it will invest in a programme specifically to support MTN’s future requirements in both countries.
“IHS footprint now reaches across Africa into the East and we are delighted to be bringing our value proposition to new markets,” said group CEO of IHS Issam Darwish. “ We have worked tirelessly to exceed 99.9 per cent network uptime across the continent for MTN and will bring the same commitment to these new portfolios in Rwanda and Zambia.”
In October 2012, MTN sold 931 mobile network towers from its Ivory Coast operations to IHS for $141m, as well as 827 towers from MTN Cameroon for $143m. The move proved popular as in April 2013, rival Orange signed a similar deal to allow IHS to manage more than 2,000 of its mobile network towers across the same two markets.
In January this year, MTN became Zambia’s first carrier to launch LTE, as the company introduced the service in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola and Livingstone. Phase two of the rollout, which is already underway, will expand LTE coverage within these same towns and cover new territories as well.
Despite selling its infrastructure, MTN was part of a group of Middle Eastern and African operators that in March agreed to cooperate on network infrastructure sharing initiatives in an effort to provide mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities in the regions. The operators also intend to drive down the cost of mobile services for consumers across the regions.
Meanwhile IHS said it intends to use the $620m funding it has raised over the past two months to finance future acquisitions in Africa.