ISLAMABAD: Edotco Group — a unit of Malaysian telecoms firm Axiata Group – planned to invest $250 million in the next five years in Pakistan to expand and upgrade its network infrastructure to meet the projected 5-fold increase in mobile data usage in the country, a company official said on Thursday.
“The company has already invested over $100 million in Pakistan, and intends to invest $50 million on per annum basis in the next four to five years. If there would be chances of any major transaction, the company was willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more,” said Suresh Sidhu, chief executive officer for Edotco Group.
“We need conducive environment for investment, cost effective infrastructure system ie incentives for infrastructure.”
Sidhu Pakistan could become hub of connectivity on telecommunication services with Gulf region and urged the authorities to take certain pre-requisite steps to go ahead with 5G technology, including installing fibre lines across the country.
He, however, lamented delays in implementation through procedures and decision taking processes.
Sidhu said technology – 3G/4G is faster in Pakistan, and also urged for sharing telecom infrastructure to make the tower infrastructure cost-effective.
The group is the largest independent tower company with 850 towers and envisaging having 20,000 to 30,000 towers i.e. 20-30 percent in the near future to enable telecommunications providers to efficiently meet their growing infrastructure requirements.
“Edotco is committed to laying the foundation of a 5G-ready Pakistan, but it required some prerequisites, including fiberisation, smartphone penetration, as well as spectrum availability and policies on part of the government level,” he said.
Currently, around six percent towers in the country were fibre connected, with around 31 percent smartphone penetration.
Pakistan’s telecommunications industry would need over 30,000 new tower sites by 2022, double the amount it has now. The new sites would be coverage sites to extend connectivity to rural and hard to reach areas, as well as capacity sites, to meet the increasing data usage growth, as more users transition from 3G to 4G and beyond.
“At the moment, the towers in Pakistan are operating at approximately 4,300 subscribers per tower – more than twice the 2,000 per tower ratio recommended. Building and maintaining this infrastructure requires a substantial capital investment and resources from MNOs,” Sidhu added.
Edotco, in September last year called off a $940 million deal to buy 13,000 telecoms towers in Pakistan after regulators failed to provide all approvals for the transaction.
Since it was formed in 2012, Edotco has grown rapidly and attracted new shareholders. It currently operates and manages a regional portfolio of more than 28,000 towers in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.