Airtel Africa CEO Raghunath Mandava on network investment

Airtel Africa today said it aims to spend $650 million to $700 million of Capex for making investment in network in the current financial year.
Airtel Africa listing on London Stock Exchange“A detailed analysis of this Capex indicates that, in a worst-case scenario, we would be able to reduce it significantly without compromising network quality by prioritising expenditure,” Airtel Africa CEO Raghunath Mandava said.

Airtel Africa spent $642 million towards Capex, excluding spectrum acquisitions, during the current fiscal ended March 31, 2020.

Airtel Africa achievements in fiscal 2019-20

# Customer base up by 11.9 percent to 110.6 million
# Revenue increased by 11.2 percent to $3,422 million
# Voice revenue up 5.2 percent
# Data revenue up 39 percent
# Mobile money revenue up 37.2 percent

Airtel Africa, as part of the network strategy, aims to invest in the 4G network through single RAN technology for ensuring better 4G coverage and more capacity in 4G network capacity, for more customers.

Airtel Africa said capital expenditure in Nigeria increased to $325 million from $180 million as the business invested in rollout of network infrastructure.

Airtel Africa invested $181 million in Capex in East Africa, slightly lower than the previous financial year. FY 2019 Capex was higher due to network modernisation in East Africa. The East Africa region includes Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Airtel Africa has invested $133 million in Francophone Africa region focusing on mobile network modernisation as compared to $190 million in the previous financial year. Airtel Africa has more than doubled the number of 4G sites in the region.

Francophone Africa region (previously called Rest of Africa) includes Niger, Chad, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and the Seychelles.

“We aim to create a modernised network that can provide the data capacity to meet growing demand and enhance connectivity and digitalisation in our markets. This is possible through building and modernising our network through optimal design, including spectrum additions, carrier aggregation and fibre rollout,” Raghunath Mandava said.

Airtel Africa’s 65 percent of total sites are now 4G. Airtel Africa launched 4G services in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Niger, making 4G services available across all 14 countries.

Airtel Africa invested in fibre capacities, adding more than 8,000km of fibre (43,000km in total). Airtel Africa increased the number of sites on fibre and long-distance fibre capacities.

Airtel Africa also acquired additional spectrum, adding 2600 band and 900 band frequency in Nigeria, 1800 band in Chad, 1800 band and 2100 band in Malawi.

Airtel Africa said the current Covid-19 pandemic may affect the timely deliveries of capital goods. Airtel Africa has around $280 million of capital work in progress and $250 million of capital commitments.

“Our strategy of diversifying our sourcing across four major providers is also protecting us from a company- or country-specific supply chain risk,” Raghunath Mandava said.

Airtel Africa has ensured a travel ban across the business to ensure significant savings. It has also deferred the salary review for management and employees until there is more clarity on the COVID-19 impact.


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