ATC to invest $263m in India to make its tower portfolio 5G-ready

ATC India 5G export hub vendors
Photo by Leonid Eremeychuk

Tower infrastructure provider American Tower Corp (ATC) is planning to invest Rs 2,000 crore ($263.1 million) in India by 2023 to drive organic business growth and expand its towers portfolio in the country through both organic and inorganic routes.

ATC plans to add 3,500 tower sites in calendar year 2022 to address tower expansion requirements with telcos preparing to roll out 5G network later this year after the spectrum sale expected sometime this month.

Sanjay Goel, ATC’s executive vice president and president of Asia-Pacific, said that ATC is well positioned to harness the 5G potential to serve its telco customers in India.

“We certainly are well positioned to do our part.  We believe that given our nationwide scale, long-standing customer relationships and learnings in the marketplace over the last decade plus, we’re in a great position to deliver strong growth both organically and through the deployment of new sites for many years to come,” he was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

ATC, which has a 75,000-strong tower portfolio in India, believes that wireless transmission points will need to double to serve the 5G market and will involve significant investments by key industry players including telcos and other tower companies. Wireless transmission points include macro base stations, small cells and Wi-Fi access points, among others.

Over the last seven years, India’s telecom tower industry has grown 65% with the number of mobile towers increasing from 400,000 in 2014 to 660,000 in 2021. India’s telecom tower count will surpass 1 million, Goel said.

The ATC executive said that 5G availability will power new use cases resulting in explosive data growth, which in turn will result in a tremendous data driven demand, requiring a significant number of new sites and capacity enhancement of existing ones.

“As India goes 5G, we plan to expand our tower base to address these tower expansion needs. In addition, India will probably need half a million small cells and microcells over the next three years, and no one stakeholder group has the capability to provide all of this capacity. Collaboration among key players will be critical,” he told the publication.

A successful 5G rollout in the country, he said, will be enabled by robust new-build tower expansion activities, greater densification, smaller towers, street furniture, small cells, in-building solutions and fiber to tower.

Goel added that there is a need for tower fibersation to pick up for 5G services. India currently has around 34% of telecom towers with fiber connectivity. However, he said that at least 70% of towers need to be connected with fiber for the full potential of 5G to be realized,

ATC operates in countries such as the US, Canada and Europe, and is in the early stages in Brazil, Chile, and South Africa. ATC is also reportedly planning to buy a portion of Vodafone Group’s 21% stake in India’s largest telecom tower company, Indus Towers.

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