green light for the sale of the pylons from Free to Cellnex

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The institution said "yes". This Friday, August 30, the Competition Authority gave the green light to an important operation for Iliad, the parent company of Free. According to a statement, it authorizes the purchase of the towers in France by the operator Xavier Niel by Spanish Cellnex. Concretely, Cellnex will get its hands on the company Iliad 7, which will operate some 5,700 pylons of its mobile network in France. The Spanish group will rent them now from Free.

In the same way, Cellnex will also acquire 2,200 Iliad telecom towers in Italy, where the group is also a mobile operator. These operations will allow Iliad to bail out. Last May, the group said that these maneuvers would bring him about 2 billion euros. Xavier Niel's group, which is currently struggling in France against the clutches of Bouygues Telecom and SFR, is counting on this windfall to get out of debt. But also to boost its investments in fiber, 4G, and future 5G.

Cover the territory faster

In March, Thomas Reynaud, CEO of Iliad, argued that this sale would allow the group of "To multiply (its) investment capacities".

"This operation is part of the group's new cycle of growth and innovation," he continued. It will enable the efficient deployment of the infrastructures of tomorrow for the benefit of all operators, and aims to better respond to territorial coverage issues. "

Iliad is not the first operator to swap its mobile phone pylons for hard cash. In France, Bouygues Telecom was the first to sell its own. Between 2016 and 2017, the operator of Martin Bouygues, then in difficulty, sold 2,000 pylons to Cellnex, for a total of 700 million euros. Last year, SFR did the same. After suffering major trade woes, Patrick Drahi's operator sold a little less than half of one of its subsidiaries, SFR TowerCo, which operates more than 10,000 of its telecom towers.

"Investment wall"

This trend in the sale of pylons is not specific to France. Vodafone, the British telecoms giant, is thinking of selling more than 60,000 towers in Europe, mainly in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

According to Jean-Luc Lemmens, at the head of the telecom think tank Idate, European operators who sell their towers have no choice. "Between the deployment of the 4G that is not completed, that of the future 5G, the arrival of fiber and what they have to pay to expand their frequency portfolios, ISPs are today who are facing an investment wall "he explained to The gallery a little over a year ago.



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