Helios Towers enters South African market via Vulatel partnership

16 January 2019 | Jason McGee-Abe

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Helios Towers has entered the South African market after entering into an agreement with Vulatel to create an infrastructure platform in the country.

The infrastructure platform, which will be called Helios Towers South Africa (HTSA), will build out wireless and fixed line open-access infrastructure in South Africa. Some local reports suggest that the company will look to spend around $100 million on building network infrastructure in the country over the next three years.

“I am thrilled to announce our entry into South Africa, which delivers against our stated strategy of providing MNOs with open-access infrastructure to meet the growing demands of their customers in Africa for fast, stable and available networks,” said Kash Pandya (pictured left), CEO of Helios Towers, which owns and leases out 6,500 cellphone towers in Africa.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Vulatel, a business with impeccable telco sector expertise and deep local credentials in South Africa. Today’s deal creates a platform that will further diversify our geographic mix and allow Helios Towers to enter an exciting market and expand our product offering.”

South Africa had long been considered an attractive opportunity for Helios Towers due to its “economic growth, population demographics and demand for advanced telecommunications services”. The company says that it expects the South African market “to lead the way on 5G rollout in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

HTSA expects to be able to support this by building greenfield mobile tower infrastructure and the associated high-speed microwave and fibre-optic infrastructure that will enable MNOs to meet their customers’ needs.

Vulatel and Helios Towers are ideal partners with the former complementing Helios Towers’ extensive international towers expertise and access to capital with their experienced management team and established relationships within the South African market. Vulatel will help HTSA deliver not only in the tower space but also in other attractive open-access telecom infrastructure verticals.

Tlhabeli Ralebitso (pictured right), chairman and CEO of Vulatel, added: ”There is a significant infrastructure gap in South Africa today, which means the demand in data services is not being met. We are convinced this provides an unrivalled opportunity to build a leading open-access infrastructure platform to address that gap.”

Ralebitso was the founding managing director of Vodacom Ventures and previously led Vodacom Group’s M&A and investor relations’ functions. He is supported by Vulatel’s managing director Jean-Pierre Crouse, who has 24 years of experience in the sector and was part of the Vodacom team and was chief implementation officer at Dark Fibre Africa.

“Our vision has always been to establish a nationwide service network before entering into the open-access telecoms infrastructure market on the back of our trusted relationships with the telecoms operators in South Africa. We are delighted to be entering into this partnership with Helios Towers, which will allow us to accelerate our plans by leveraging our joint expertise in the sector and Helios Towers’ strong balance sheet and international experience,” added Ralebitso.

Last year, Helios Towers, which has over 6,500 towers in four key markets, announced that it was upgrading and building mobile backbone sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).