A new study predicted that around 23 per cent of European mobile towers could end up under the ownership of independent tower companies this year following recent tower divestment announcements by several mobile network operators.
TowerXchange, which specialises in research into the telecoms tower industry, noted that 2016 is shaping up to be a "transformational year" for the European independent tower industry.
The company said in the past few days, for example, Telefonica has confirmed its intention to "carve out" its infrastructure business including 11,500 towers in Spain, with a view to a possible listing or sale of the business.
In other deals, VimpelCom has moved into the next stage of bidding for the sale of its 10,400 Russian towers; Telecom Italia confirmed three bids for the imminent sale of a stake in its infrastructure business, Inwit; and Turkcell has just opened discussions with bankers regarding a potential sale of its 7,500 towers in Turkey.
As things stand, 18 per cent of Europe's 600,000 sites are owned by independent tower companies. This could rise to 23 per cent if the above-mentioned deals go ahead, but could be as high as 36 per cent if rumours of other deals come to fruition.
For example, Telefonica is believed to be interested in selling its German towers while VimpelCom's towers in the CIS, MTS and MegaFon's towers in Russia, and Orange's towers in Poland are also subject to sale speculation.
"Plus, as European MNOs start to divest their assets, others are sure to follow suit," TowerXchange added.
Scott Coates, CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Group and chairman of the European Wireless Industry Association (EWIA), said the European independent tower market has now passed the inflection point.
"EWIA's members have over €60 billion of global wireless infrastructure assets and our industry is set to make transformational investments across Europe that will improve connectivity for consumers and lower costs for network operators," Coates said.
- see this TowerXchange release
Telefónica to start O2/E-Plus network integration in 2016
Report: Vodafone Group propping up UK business as fierce competition, high network costs, take toll
Telefónica Deutschland transfers 7,700 mobile towers to Deutsche Telekom
Report: Telecom Italia targets almost €1B from planned towers IPO
Report: Wind Italy launches refinancing of €1.8B loan after agreeing tower sale