Maru Towers is a telecommunications company that builds communications infrastructure facilities across South Africa.

It has a particular focus on providing rural connectivity to underserved areas and has ambitions to become the first major private South African tower company in the country.

We recently spoke to Maru Towers CEO Tumelo Mailula about the work the tower company is doing in South Africa.

Which clients do you mainly work with?

Our main customers are mobile operators such as Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Rain.

However, we also lease space on our towers to ISPs and security service providers.

How do you decide where to build your communication sites?

We use existing site data, planning permissions, population data, crowdsourced information and RF planning tools to accurately predict where the next mobile tower site will be needed.

We ensure that our sites are shared by different carriers as this ensures that carriers can provide voice and data services at lower rates.

Why do you think it is important to bridge the digital divide by providing comprehensive coverage across the country?

Our digital strategy is to connect the unconnected – to enable learning and development for every person in every community in the country.

In practice, this would allow the new startup in Motibistad to connect with buyers in New York.

Providing access to reliable broadband, especially for unconnected and previously disadvantaged communities, is at the core of our purpose as an organization.

You set up Maru Towers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while many companies were shut down. Were you so confident about Maru’s business model and eventual success?

While many industries faced major challenges during the lockdown, the need for data connectivity grew exponentially.

While business parks stood empty, demand for data from residential areas increased dramatically.

During the pandemic, it was a very thoughtful move to launch Maru Towers as a South African tower company with B-BBEE Level 1 credentials.

So yes, we absolutely believed that our venture would be successful.

What are the main trends you see in the broadband industry?

Companies such as Vodacom and MTN have changed their business models and are focusing on their core business of selling connectivity and business solutions.

MTN’s sale of its South African tower portfolio to IHS and Vodacom’s decision to spin off its own tower company are both proof of this.

We expect tower companies to evolve into full-service companies that will not only provide passive site infrastructure, but also offer capacity as a service, network connectivity, neutral site hosting, small cell solutions and Open RAN deployment services.

We’re also seeing consolidation happening in the tower company space, with many smaller players being swallowed up by larger portfolios.

Maru Towers is currently in negotiations to acquire a smaller tower company and we have successfully bought 15 tower sites and a pipeline of 150 sites from Telecom Towers Africa which is part of the Mobax Group.

We believe we can become the first major private company in the country that is truly South African owned.

What are Maru Towers plans for the future?

We see Maru Towers playing a more significant role – not only in providing passive site infrastructure, but also through end-to-end capabilities such as Power as a Service, grid connectivity, neutral site hosting, small cell solutions and Open RAN deployment services .

As a South African owned and operated company, we will also continue to invest heavily in the communities where we build our infrastructure facilities.

We want to play a key role in promoting digital literacy in all schools as a strategic priority.

Hence, our communication strategy aims at rapid global reach to all the youth in the country.

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