Airtel’s plans to significantly boost its telecom infrastructure across the continent to grow its market share see the company investing in Meta’s submarine cable and strengthening old partnerships. 

After seeing a 1.4% revenue decline within nine months in the connectivity business, Airtel Africa is pushing to correct this trend by entering into infrastructure expansion collaborations with companies like IHS Towers and investing in the 2Africa cable network system

The deal with IHS Towers allows Airtel Africa, through its subsidiary Airtel Nigeria, to take 3,950 tenancies over the next five years. Airtel Africa also extended the term of its existing tenancies covering approximately 6,000 tenancies until December 2031. The agreement includes 2,500 collocations in addition to 5G amendments and build-to-suit sites to be owned and operated by IHS Nigeria.  

Taking tenancy at a tower site is part of the strategies telecom operators use to curtail or reduce the cost of operating the business. Also, telcos that own tower sites often deal with tower companies like IHS or American Tower Company to lease and manage them. For example, MTN Nigeria is the biggest client IHS has. 

“Airtel Nigeria, as well as Airtel Africa we serve in other markets in Africa, has been a long-term partner of IHS, and I am delighted that we continue to strengthen our collaboration to help facilitate mobile connectivity in our largest market, supporting our customers in rolling out new sites throughout Nigeria,” said Sam Darwish, chairman and CEO, IHS Towers. 

The telco has also launched Telesonic Limited, a subsidiary that will use Airtel’s ground fibre assets and submarine cable systems to meet the growing demand for wholesale data in Africa. The subsidiary will offer comprehensive terrestrial fibre and submarine cable solutions. 

Apart from managing Airtel’s extensive fibre network (75,000km of terrestrial fibre) across the continent, Telesonic has also invested in Meta’s 2Africa submarine cable system. 2Africa is one of the largest submarine cables interconnecting 33 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The 45,000km cable was landed in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria this January by the Bayobab Group, marking the third and fourth in a series of six landings from the 2Africa subsea cable system. 

2Africa’s successful landing in Lagos brings the number of submarine cables to eight that have so far landed in Nigeria. 

“No doubt, Africa is experiencing a digital revolution, with surging demand for data centres across various sectors, especially by the continent’s growing youth population. With robust and scalable infrastructure, we aim to bridge the digital divide and unlock opportunities for innovation and economic growth. Our investment signifies not just a technological advancement but also a catalyst for progress, connecting people and ideas across borders,” said Segun Ogunsanya, Group CEO, Airtel Africa. 

Airtel is also concluding plans to break ground on its mega data centre, known as Nxtra, in Lagos, Nigeria in March. The facility will be designed to host high-density racks and integrate the latest practice construction to achieve a 1.3 power usage effectiveness (PUE). The data centre which will go live in mid-2025 will also deliver 34 megawatts of total power, making it the first of its kind in Nigeria. Airtel told TechCabal that the data centre will be industry-agnostic, hence any company from any sector can host their data in the facility. 

Frank Eleanya Senior Reporter, TechCabal

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