Macquarie has been named in press reports from CincoDías noting that it has acquired a portion of Telefónica’s copper network in Spain for around €200m ($228m USD). Specifically, through this legacy copper infrastructure, Telefónica provides fixed broadband services via outdated (versus fiber) retail asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL) technology, as well as fixed telephony services.
Through this transaction, Macquarie intends to upgrade Telefónica’s copper network to fiber optic infrastructure, enabling high-speed broadband service. Additionally, reports specify that Macquarie will acquire Telefónica’s network directly, as a new investment, and not through its portfolio company Onivia, a Spain-based wholesale fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network operator.
Copper Network – Macquarie Buys Telefónica Assets in Spain
Telefónica’s copper network is located primarily in areas of Spain where the carrier has not yet deployed its high-speed, fiber optic infrastructure. Presently, Telefónica has 750k+ DSL customers, out of Spain’s 1.4 million total DSL customers, implying 54% market share of this legacy technology.
Post-transaction, Macquarie intends to upgrade Telefónica’s copper network to fiber optic infrastructure and lease it to third-party operators on a wholesale basis. Indeed, this is a similar strategy that Macquarie has taken in Spain through its ownership in Onivia.
Onivia is a Spain-based wholesale fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network operator in which Macquarie Capital is the largest shareholder. Additionally, Aberdeen Standard Investments and Daiwa Energy & Infrastructure (DEI) are also meaningful shareholders in Onivia.
Presently, Onivia’s fiber network passes 2.2 million homes in Spain through 5.2k route miles (8.4k route kilometers) of fiber. Onivia provides an alternative, independent source of wholesale fiber capacity for Spain’s internet service providers (ISPs) and smaller broadband businesses.
Transaction Rationale – Telefónica Divests Copper Network
Telefónica will use the proceeds from the sale of its copper network in Spain to reduce its debt levels. At the same time, Telefónica’s divestment of copper infrastructure will accelerate the shutdown of its broader copper network in Spain, which it targets achieving by 2025.
Additionally, Telefónica will reduce its future capital expenditure commitments to upgrade its copper network to fiber infrastructure. For example, deploying optical fiber to replace existing copper of the network access loop necessitates elevated levels of investment.
Copper Network Shutdown
During the nine months ended September 30, 2021, Telefónica closed more than 1.0k central offices related to its copper network, out of a total of more than 8.5k. In turn, this copper network shutdown enables Telefónica to reduce its CO2 emissions and energy usage, as fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technology is 85% more efficient in energy use than copper networks. Furthermore, since 2016, Telefónica has been able to recycle more than 65k tons of copper cable.
Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in Spain
Telefónica is focusing its current fixed broadband services towards fiber-based infrastructure. As of June 2021, Telefónica’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network passed 26.1 million premises in Spain. Currently, this FTTH network provides service to 4.8 million customers, out of Spain’s 12.5 million total fiber customers, implying 38% market share.
Digital Infrastructure Monetization – Telefónica
Over the past 12 months, Telefónica has systematically been divesting its digital infrastructure including towers (Telxius / American Tower), data centers (Nabiax / Asterion), and fiber. Specifically, within fiber, these divestitures have included 60% sales in Chile and Colombia to KKR, a 50%/50% joint venture with CDPQ in Brazil, and other agreements across Latin America.