Edotco to buy Robi towers for $145m
Edotco Bangladesh Co Ltd (e.co), a new tower operating company, is buying the passive networking infrastructure of Robi at a price tag of $145 million, said Andy Rolt, managing director of e.co.
The company will invest an additional $50 million in the next one year to upgrade and expand its network to operate these assets. It will provide tower services to all telecom, Wi-Fi, WiMax and other similar organisations with communication needs.
The company is part of the e.co Group, which is a newly formed operation within the Malaysia based Axiata Group, owner of the Robi network.
Michael Kuehner, the outgoing chief executive of Robi, said engaging the new tower company is an Axiata group decision to manage towers and batteries as these are not the main elements of the telecom business.
“Our revenues are from customer calls and internet, but their (e.co) focus is purely on towers.”
The company was not formed to help Robi, but as a new revenue stream for the group, Kuehner said.
Currently, e.co will focus on renting out space on its BTS (base transceiver) sites for customer antennae and radio equipment, along with power to operate the equipment.
“Our BTS sites include ground-based sites, rooftop locations and specialised in-building solutions. We support power and cooling systems too,” Rolt said.
The company began as a subsidiary of Robi but now it is independent and will do business separately, he said.
On business prospects in Bangladesh, he said, “There are 27,000 towers and we hope that a maximum number of sites will be shared in a commercial manner.”
Currently, the company has more than 6,000 towers in operation, according to the company's website.
The telecom regulator had enacted an infrastructure sharing guideline to let telecom operators share their towers, but the initiative was not successful.
As a result, operators are setting up multiple towers at the same sites.
The electricity supply is challenging but manageable in the country, Rolt said.
“Our business focuses on being environmentally aware. Shared sites reduce the need for imported equipment and overall power consumption.”
In this regard, e.co is investing $6 million to improve the quality of its battery backup, said the MD.
In terms of backhaul support, both fibre and microwave links are being used for connectivity between towers, he said.
“But we will also look for an FTTN (fibre to the network) licence so that we can build our network as well. We are exploring options for backhaul,” Rolt said.