Pan-African mobile operator Vodacom Group, 65% owned by the UK’s Vodafone Group, would be open to sharing its network infrastructure in Africa with rivals Bharti Airtel and Millicom International Cellular (MIC), owner of the Tigo brand, Agence Ecofin reports, citing an unnamed source. Vodacom is understood to see mileage in the plan, which would generate cost savings related to the maintenance of equipment, as well as in future network deployments. With telecoms infrastructure costs forming a significant part of operators’ annual expenditure, Vodacom’s suggestion marks a divergence from current thinking – whereby operators divest towers and then lease back space from the tower operator, in order to save costs.
Vodacom provided GSM services to approximately 61.1 million ‘active’ voice customers and 26.5 million active data subscribers in South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho and Mozambique at the end of December 2014. In its home market, the group reported 31.38 million mobile subscribers at that date, while the remainder was split between Tanzania (11.81 million), DRC (11.49 million), Mozambique (5.05 million) and Lesotho (1.32 million). Under the plan it would share infrastructure with Bharti Airtel and MIC in the markets they have in common. India’s Bharti Airtel had 75 million subscribers at the end of 2014, and is present in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Chad, Tanzania, Congo, Zambia, Madagascar, Uganda, Seychelles, Malawi, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Rwanda. For its part, MIC had 25 million customers at the same date in Senegal, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Chad.