Sector: Technology & Telecoms
Countries of operations: Multiple
Tower of strength
It’s not much good having a mobile phone if you can’t call people with it. And that is where Eaton Towers comes in. The company has developed a network of transmission towers across Africa which is used by many of the continent’s largest telecoms providers, including Vodafone, Orange, Airtel and MTN. “Like everyone else, the African consumer wants a smartphone and a fast, cost-effective connection to the modern world,” says CEO Terry Rhodes.
Eaton Towers has already raised millions of dollars from international private equity and bank debt to invest in shared infrastructure of thousands of transmission towers throughout Africa. However, Terry is convinced that there’s a huge need for additional investment in infrastructure over the coming years. “The biggest opportunity is the unmet need for communications and internet access.” he says.
“The biggest opportunity is the unmet need for communications and internet access”
Growth has been spectacular in recent years and now two in three Africans have access to a mobile phone, but there are still hundreds of millions more waiting for their first phone.
“Our challenge is to keep up with the demand and make sure the broadband networks are offering an excellent platform for their services.”
Besides the benefits to consumers that a wider rollout of communications infrastructure will bring, Terry says there’s also a strong business case for mobile network operators using the type of shared infrastructure that Eaton Towers is developing, as it would allow them to reduce their capital expenditure and operating costs while still benefiting from improved reach.
- $200m - Eaton Towers’ turnover, up from zero just six years ago
“Our customers are facing increasing demand for internet and data services, but network and operating costs are significantly higher in Africa, while revenues per customer are falling,” says Terry. “We focus on providing and operating the towers so our customers can concentrate on offering innovative services. And that’s the best advice I can give a small business just starting out: really understand your customers’ needs.”