back to article Not-so-paltry towers: Vodafone gears up to flog off massive masts business

Vodafone is looking to flog off its towers in the next 18 months, the mobile operator revealed in first quarter results ended 30 June (PDF). The telco today reported a fall in overall revenue of 2.3 per cent to €10.6bn for the quarter, while total UK sales rose 0.1 per cent to €1.57bn. Nick Read, Vodafone group chief exec, …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Alert

    Asset Stripping?

    They may regret this unless the aim is to be only an MVNO, simply a reseller for mobile and only owning cable, fibre and DSL assets. Doesn't make sense in the medium to long term.

    1. Nick Kew Bronze badge

      Re: Asset Stripping?

      Why not? It would make much more sense for telecoms infrastructure to be shared, and separating it out is a step towards that.

      If the road network were built on the same model as our telecoms, you'd have to drive on an entirely different set of roads if you subscribed to BP vs if you subscribed to Shell.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Asset Stripping?

        "It would make much more sense for telecoms infrastructure to be shared, and separating it out is a step towards that."

        Shared infrastructure was something the government of the day _didn't_ want happening on the grounds it could lead to cartel behaviour and widespread not-spots.

        It still could.

      2. Gareth 7

        Re: Asset Stripping?

        Not really. The roads are the electromagnetic spectrum which is shared so it's more like choosing the Megabus over National express.

  2. phuzz Silver badge

    So soon Vodafone will have the same owner as Virgin Media?

    Liberty Global seem to own, or have shares in, a lot of stuff.

    1. Sulky

      Vodafone are buying assets from Liberty Global.

  3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Bollox!

    We believe there is a substantial opportunity to unlock the embedded value of our towers,

    "line"

    "We will capture industrial efficiencies through network sharing agreements signed in multiple markets,"

    "House!"

  4. djstardust

    Oh dear

    Selling the family silver (aka asset stripping) is never good in the long term. Temporary fix for being in the shit due to bad management decisions in the past.

    But hey, what do we know......

    1. Often Confused

      Re: Oh dear

      From what i remember (may be wrong, brain is a bit fried from all the heat this week) EU is pushing Cell operators to share towers. Easier to not share towers, make a new company and then leave that to deal with the fallout.

      Secondly, 5G is pretty much long(er) range wifi, so large cell towers are (in an ideal world) going to be phased out. - I dont believe this for a second of course, there are still long wave radio stations, and GSM is still a thing. - but you know... optimism

      1. Death_Ninja

        Re: Oh dear

        Yup in a 5G world those masts are almost certainly "legacy" that will have little value into the future.

        Offload and rent mast space back while the legacy goes away over time.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Oh dear

          "in a 5G world those masts are almost certainly "legacy" that will have little value into the future."

          I'll believe _that_ when I see it. Towers have a tendency to end up being used for hundreds of new tasks before they die.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      Maybe not such a bad idea. It doesn't say they are selling off all of their equipment. Just the towers.

      Over here (in the USA) managing 'towers' (including utility poles) through dedicated real estate entities has been a pretty lucrative business. Back when I worked for a power company, we were absolutely shite about tracking them as assets. And collecting fees for secondary utility contacts (telephone, cable TV, etc.). Then they sold off the poles and structures and leased them back. The tower company is a lot better at tracking (and maintaining) their assets. Also (and I'm not sure if this applies to Vodafone), we were a regulated utility, with a set ROI for all of our operating assets. Meaning that someone in a utilities commission could look at our asset book value and say 'This is all you can charge customers' based on a percentage of that value. Once we switched to an (unregulated) entity providing structures which we rented to hang our wires, the monthly rental fee could be transferred to our rate payers, no questions asked.

      Vodafone isn't in the business of erecting and maintaining structures. They operate RF equipment, switching and back haul networks. And if the structures business is really that valuable (profitable) an asset, you can now invest in it directly.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear

        "Back when I worked for a power company, we were absolutely shite about tracking them as assets."

        As you mention, that's partly motivational ("not core business"), partly ROI (the expenditure of staff time in coordinating the contracts was frequently higher than the income - thanks to regulatory overload)

        I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the company they things were sold off to was a wholly-owned subsidiary via a director, etc - and happened when someone realised that one of those new-fangled desktop computers could perform the tracking and charging that used to take a room (or three) full of expensive filing clerks.

  5. Dwarf Silver badge

    I wonder how a mobile operator can operate if they have no facilities to communicate with mobile devices ?

    Sounds like the accountants are in charge again..

    What happens when they upgrade from this Generation to the next Generation (4G to 5G, 5G to 6G).Who would be paying for that ?

    How much more will consumers end up having to pay for the privilege of making a call ?

  6. DWRandolph

    creative accounting

    I still twitch at "earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation"aka EBITDA. even worse than non-GAAP. What are they doing that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles would get them in trouble?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: creative accounting

      "What are they doing that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles would get them in trouble?"

      Losing money.

      Part of the management-speak lexicon includes the following:

      "Profit" - profit

      "Profit before tax" - loss

      "EBITDA" - loss

      "Loss" - staggering loss

      Voda may be one of the oldest telcos, but their service has always been pricey and fairly naff. I can recall $3k roaming charges in the 1990s for 4 weeks on the wrong side of the world and 10 calls in total.

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