In the Africa and Middle East region, passive infrastructure sharing is finally beginning to gain momentum, primarily through the offloading of towers to independent tower management companies. Driving the trend in Africa is the need to cost-effectively reach low-density, rural areas and to lower the cost of operating network towers, which due to the exceedingly high energy costs on the continent can be exorbitant. In the Middle East, meanwhile, the need to quickly roll out state-of-the-art 4G networks will push operators into both passive and active sharing agreements. Many of the region’s largest operators, including Airtel, MTN and Orange have embraced infrastructure sharing as a way to reduce capex and opex. Others, such as Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe and Safaricom in Kenya, have butted heads with regulators over the issue of mandated infrastructure sharing.
Mobile infrastructure sharing can help MNOs reduce opex by up to XX% and capex by as much as XX%, depending on factors such as the physical landscape and the stage of mobile network deployment.
Regulatory authorities in many countries scrutinize infrastructure sharing deals to keep in check any anticompetitive behavior by the MNOs. In Africa and the Middle East, regulators have also been supporting infrastructure sharing in order to lower barriers to entry for new telecom players as well as help reduce the environmental impact of networks.
Tower offloading by mobile operators is becoming the norm in Africa and the Middle East, as it saves mobile operators significant amounts and eases the entry for new operators. By year-end 2015, roughly XX% of the region’s towers will be managed by independent tower companies, with the “Big Four” accounting for more than XX% of externally managed towers.
Given the growing demand for mobile and data services, the need for towers will increase in the future. The huge investments required in order to meet that need make tower sharing a logical alternative for operators. Operators can also expand their networks quickly by renting existing towers from independent tower companies.
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