ADB extends $40-M loan to build telco towers for southern areas

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DAVID ARROWSMITH-UNSPLASH

TIGER Infrastructure Philippines, Inc. has secured a $40-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fund the construction of telecommunications towers that will cater to underserved areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“This project will improve access to the digital economy in the underserved regions of Visayas and Mindanao and have a tangible impact on the quality of life for local communities,” said Suzanne Gaboury, ADB’s private sector operations department director, said in a press release on Wednesday.

The loan will fund 380 telecommunications towers in the southern regions to support rural connectivity, the bank said, adding that the project will support common tower sharing, which will allow multiple mobile network operators to lease the same location.

“We are confident that by working with ADB, Tiger can strengthen our digital infrastructure portfolio as we continue to respond to demand for reliable mobile network connectivity in Asia,” said Simon Skouboe, the Tiger Infrastructure group’s executive chairman.

Tiger Infrastructure is jointly owned by Cell Tower Services Pte. Ltd. and Daily Life Renewable Energy Pte. Ltd., which are both incorporated in Singapore.

Cell Tower Services is said to be well established in the telecommunications towers business with projects around the world, while its partner is in customized design, engineering, procurement, construction, installation, and commissioning services for renewable energy systems across Asia and the Pacific.

Of the loan extended by ADB, $25 million will come from its ordinary capital resources, while $15 million will be from Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund — or LEAP — which is administered by the bank.

According to the press release, the project will support common tower sharing, allowing several mobile network operators to lease the same location. Tiger Infrastructure will handle construction, land leasing, operation, and maintenance. Telecommunication equipment installed on the towers will belong to the tenants, it added.

Established in 2016, LEAP is capitalized with a $1.5 billion commitment by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and is focused on the delivery of private sector infrastructure projects.

ADB said that as of 2021, the Philippines had 27,000 telecom towers, or 164 towers per one million people, which it described as one of the lowest coverage rates in the region. Citing the government, it said an estimated 60,000 more towers are needed by 2031 in unserved and underserved areas. — Aaron Michael C. Sy