What’s up with… Vantage Towers, 6G in Japan, Telenor

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Mar 18, 2022

  • Vantage Towers is back in the M&A spotlight
  • Japan is looking to grasp the 6G initiative
  • Telenor heading out of Myanmar

The latest Euro towers M&A scuttlebutt, a dash for the 6G upper hand and a nearing conclusion for Telenor’s time in Myanmar lead the pack in today’s news marathon.  

Vodafone’s neutral host infrastructure spin-out Vantage Towers is back in the spotlight today following a Reuters report that it has been receiving multiple unsolicited takeover offers from private equity firms, including Brookfield and Global Infrastructure Partners, at prices above its current €15 billion valuation. But Vodafone, which still owns a majority stake in Vantage Towers, is more keen on an “industrial merger” with either Deutsche Telekom’s towers unit (which is actively seeking a bedfellow) or Orange’s Totem. But the permutations of who might hook up with who are legion, with Cellnex, American Tower and multiple infrastructure investors looking to build a position of scale in the European wholesale towers sector right now – how this market morphs via M&A deals is going to be very interesting to watch.    

Japan is lining up a consortium of technology and industrial big hitters including NEC, Panasonic and Toyota, alongside the government, to put forward a comprehensive set of tech specifications and guidelines for 6G and stake a claim to be the primary market for the next generation of communications networking capabilities, reports the Nikkei. The tech proposals, including benchmarks for specific industrial applications and use cases such as autonomous vehicles, are set to be put forward by the Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium -- the organization formed last year and which also includes NTT DOCOMO, KDDI, Rakuten Mobile and SoftBank amongst its members – at an ITU meeting in June. Japan is keen to grasp the initiative on 6G and not cede leadership to China: The Japanese government, as well as individual companies there, have been investing in R&D for some time, as well as brokering relationships with friendly nations, such as the US and Finland, that are also ploughing resources into 6G R&D. Last August, SoftBank highlighted 12 Challenges for 6G, insights gained from four early years of research into the prospects for 6G. 

Telenor Group announced it has received long-awaited regulatory approval to sell its Myanmar operation to Lebanese investment company M1 Group. The Myanmar Investment Commission has granted the permission under the condition that the buyer sets up a structure which involves a local majority owner following the transaction’s completion. Telenor has assured the authority that the sale does not prevent M1 from entering a local partnership. Prior to today’s announcement, the investment company’s local partner Shwe Byain Phyu has acquired 49% of Investcom, a Singapore-based company established by M1 for the purchase of Telenor Myanmar. After the deal with Telenor closes, M1 will sell additional 31% of Investcom shares to Shwe Byain Phyu. Telenor also said that external consultants have assured that Shwe Byain Phyu and its owners are not subject to any current international sanctions. The company also pledged to work on a smooth transition for customers, partners and employees following the transaction which will close as soon as possible. The business will keep operating under the brand name Telenor Myanmar for four months, and there will be a transition service agreement with Telenor for half a year. Telenor decided to exit the Myanmar market in July 2021 due to an ongoing conflict in the country, agreeing to sell its division there for $105 million. (See Telenor bows out of Myanmar.) “Telenor has to leave Myanmar to be able to adhere to our own values on human rights and responsible business, and because local laws in Myanmar conflict with European laws. The security situation is extreme and deteriorating, and we must ensure that our exit does not increase the safety risk for employees,” explained Telenor Group’s President and CEO Sigve Brekke. In his words, the sale of the unit is deemed as “the most realistic alternative to keep our employees safe.”

After an unsuccessful approach to obtain 100% of Vodafone Italy jointly with Apax Partners, Iliad is now reportedly nearing a deal with competitor Wind Tre to share the cost of deploying 5G in remote areas of the country. Citing its own sources, Reuters said the deal would see Wind Tre set up a new company for around 7,000 existing mobile sites that serve nearly a third of the population living in remote areas of the country and then sell a 50% stake to Iliad. The total valuation of the new unit is tipped to be somewhere between €600 million and €900 million, but a final agreement on the plan has yet to be agreed, according to Reuters. See more here.

It’s Global Recycling Day and Uswitch, the big and popular UK-based home services price comparison and switching website, has issued a timely and pertinent report showing that there are some 22.24 million unused and obsolescent Wi-Fi devices (mainly old routers) gathering dust in British homes. This is mainly because UK consumers often get sent a new router when they sign a fresh contract with their existing broadband supplier. What’s more, many other consumers regularly change broadband suppliers for better deals and lower prices and their old routers, that ISPs rarely if ever pick up for resale or recycling, just lie about in the backs of cupboards or on shelves forever and a day thereafter. Uswitch research reveals that 76 per cent of UK consumers want the industry to introduce a ‘universal’ router that will work regardless of who the broadband supplier is. There’s not much chance of that given the number of companies manufacturing the devices and making good money from incompatibility. The report also shows that 59 per cent of Brits don’t know how to recycle a redundant router while 15 per cent have received a new router from their service provider without having asked for it because the old one still works just fine. More than 60 per cent of consumers want ISPs to do more to recycle old technology and Uswitch provides a free guide showing users how to do so. Sky was voted the worst company for helping users to recycle their old devices. The e-waste research outfit, Material Focus. says more than 1 million tonnes of electrical waste are generated by UK households and businesses every year. According to the report the UK now harbours sufficient discarded routers to fill 10 Olympic-size swimming pools, but how it calculates that is not explained. Surely it depends on how they are filled - randomly and chaotically from tipper trucks or neatly stacked by minimum-wage earners on work experience programmes.

Zuckerberg is at it again. This time the ageing wunderkid has come up with a wheeze to make Meta (Facebook still to the majority of us) yet more money. He is proposing that Instagram users be pushed ‘opportunities’ to both buy and to ‘mint’ Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), the Tulip Fever-type lunacy that convulsed of 17th Century Holland manifested once again for our maddeningly troubled times. Instagram users will be bombarded with ads for a service whose purpose will be to force them to use crypto-currencies for entities that, literally, do not exist except as a few lines of ethereal code. Hey, but it’ll be a new and exciting shopping experience on a very popular social media platform that was designed for photos and, under Meta logic, NFTs could be regarded as being exactly that. Mark Zuckerberg says the new ‘feature’ is under development but added, "I'm not ready to kind of announce exactly what that's going to be today, but over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, [and] hopefully over time be able to mint things within that environment.” ‘Environment’ indeed, minting an NFT consumes a lot of electricity, enough, apparently to power a big and ludicrously expensive Silicon Valley ranch (hot tub included) for nine days per Token. However, if you really do want to mint an NFT, here’s how you do it: Get a crypto wallet and connect it to an NFT marketplace. Then create your first NFT (making sure your wallet is fully funded, natch). Now, list your NFT for sale, manage your burgeoning virtual business, sit back and watch the virtual money roll in even as the lights flicker and die. Simples.

Planning permission has been granted for the construction of the Saxavord spaceport on the Lamba Ness peninsula on Unst in the Shetland Isles. The island, the northernmost inhabited place in the UK, is mainly grass-covered, has impressive sea cliffs and a population of about 800. The Shetland Islands Council says work on building three rocket launching pads can now begin, with the first planned lofting of a spacecraft (carrying a meteorological satellite) due before the end of this year. It is expected that the spaceport will be of considerable economic benefit to Shetland. Some £43 million has been set aside for building work over the coming nine months and further £60 million or so will follow over the next five years. Jobs will be created too, with the US aerospace company Lockheed Martin having committed to launching satellites from the new facility (having been paid a sizeable sweetener by the UK government to do so). It all sounds very positive but there’s a potential hitch. The Scottish Government in Edinburgh has 28 days to examine and review the proposal. Given that the admittedly beautiful new-ish Scottish Parliament building which opened in 2004 was more than three years late and at least ten times over budget, anything could happen. The building, originally estimated to cost between £10 and £40 million (one would have thought that to be a wide enough margin for error but it wasn’t), actually came in at £414 million, the equivalent of well over half a billion pounds at today’s prices, and was paid “using conventional public funding arrangements.” In other words, taxpayers stumped-up for it. In comparison to that hubristic excess, Saxavord is an absolute bargain.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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