Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


Helios Towers Teams With Vulatel to Expand into South Africa

Article Image
Helios Towers is expanding into South Africa through a joint venture with local mobile and fixed network construction company Vulatel Pty Ltd., to be named Helios Towers South Africa (HTSA). The company will build greenfield tower infrastructure, which will be made available to the country's mobile operators on a wholesale basis, as well as the fiber and microwave transport network network connections that link to the towers and provide backhaul capacity.

"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," Kash Pandya, CEO of Helios Towers said in a statement.

Pandya told TechCentral that Helios plans to invest up to US$100 million during the next three to four years in South African infrastructure.

Helios has long been open with its ambition to enter the South African market. In March 2018, Alexander Leigh, the company's Chief Commercial Officer, told ITWeb that the company was evaluating an entry into South Africa, noting that "it's an attractive market but with a slightly different dynamic in terms of the development we have in our markets today."

He also cautioned that "we want to make sure that if we were to enter a market like SA, that we can do it on the right terms, the right structure with the right execution. There is not so much of a power problem in urban areas but there is in rural areas where we feel we could contribute if we were to enter that market."

Until now, Helios has operated in four African countries. The company claims to be market leader in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo (or Congo Brazzaville). It also has a strong presence in Ghana. In total the company serves more than 13,000 tenants on 6,560 sites.

In March 2018 Helios suspended its plan to float on the London Stock Exchange, only one month before the scheduled IPO, without giving specific reasons. (See Helios Towers Abandons IPO Plan.)

The targeted valuation of the company at the offering was about $2 billion, on the back of $345 million annual revenues and $146 profit from the year before. Adding a fifth market to its portfolio, especially the market most likely to be the first to embrace 5G in Africa, will enhance Helios' pedigree and attractiveness in the eyes of potential investors if the company re-ignites its IPO plans.

"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," Pandya added.

Its partner, Vulatel Pty Ltd, is a B2B telecom technology company with an extensive footprint in South Africa. It provides fiber and wireless solutions, site building and network equipment distribution, as well as offering managed services.

Commenting on the market and partnership with Helios, Tlhabeli Ralebitso, chairman and CEO of Vulatel, stated: "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. 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."

Helios, which will own 66% of the JV, is owned by telecom operators Millicom and Bharti Airtel and hedge funds including Albright Capital Management and Soros Fund Management. Vulatel Pty Ltd is 69% owned by black investors, including 45% black women. Bloomberg noted that this ownership structure will "give Helios a South African partnership that complies with government initiatives to redress inequalities stemming from apartheid. That gives Helios an advantage when seeking approval for deals in the country."

— Wei Shi, Site Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Hot startup of the month: Rwanda's Smart Ikigega

This month's hot startup, Smart Ikigega, wants to revolutionize the rural agricultural trade ecosystem in Rwanda by helping farmers access finance and harvest insurance.


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Innovation hub

Sponsored video

More videos

Flash poll

All polls

Latest video

More videos

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: June 2022

By Omdia Analysts

5G was the major news trend across Africa in June, as Orange became the first operator to launch 5G in Réunion and operators in Senegal accelerated their 5G plans despite spectrum delays.

More Guest Perspectives

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up