American Tower Corporation (ATC), the company that acquired Cell C’s nationwide base station infrastructure in November 2010 in a ZAR430 million (USD55.7 million) deal, has begun building its own mobile base stations from scratch in areas where South Africa’s incumbent operators have poor coverage, TechCentral reports. Pieter Nel, CEO of the firm’s South African unit, has confirmed that ATC has completed its first infrastructure build-out in Bisho in the Eastern Cape, and has already signed three tenants keen to utilise the new cell tower.
Nel added that ATC plans to build ‘hundreds’ of new towers across the country, although he admitted that securing the right permits and environmental approvals can take as much as nine months. The chief executive commented: ‘We’ll build as many of them as we can. We are proving the concept with our partners, and it will build momentum over the next two or three years. We are also interested in buying more towers from existing players and building our own. We are just very impatient about the spectrum issues because we are so well positioned for the new broadband players that will get licensed. We have a good proposition and we are hungry for that business. I think it is fair to say that the industry is changing and the bigger players are seriously considering options to extract value. Would Telkom, MTN and Vodacom offload their towers? I’m not sure they’d do it outright, but they are all exploring ways of extracting value’.
ATC now operates all 1,364 of Cell C’s base stations countrywide, with around 1,800 under-construction cell towers also included in the original deal. ATC currently owns and operates approximately 33,000 communications sites in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Mexico and Peru.