Interview: Orange Wholesale CEO Michael Trabbia (pictured, below) expressed confidence on the prospects of tower unit Totem, noting while other operators had been disposing of infrastructure assets it was eying opportunities to expand this part of its business.

portrait image of Michael Trabbia

In an interview with Mobile World Live the executive outlined some of his aims for the company’s wholesale business, which he took charge of in April having previously been Orange CTIO.

His wide remit includes its submarine cabling division, fibre infrastructure and tower business Totem.

While operators across the globe have been selling tower assets to third parties over recent years, Trabbia noted Orange had been keen to hold on to them with a desire to keep expanding in this area.

“The market has been transforming with the tower companies buying a lot of assets,” he noted. “A lot of our peers have sold their towers. We have not. What we see is there is still growth in the market.

“You have growth every year even in a mature market. As a telco you want to improve coverage all the time and you also have new opportunities with indoor and mutualised coverage.”

The company operates 27,000 towers across France and Spain under the unit, with plans to add a further 2,000 into the business in the next two years. However it is also prepared to pounce on other opportunities.

“We are ready to take part in potential consolidation in the future,” he added. “We believe we are in a strong position and we are looking at expanding ourselves in a number of ways”.

“There is organic growth within our [Orange’s operating] countries and then there is an opportunity you can never plan for, but you can only get ready for, in consolidation,” noting it was open to both purchases or potential merger activity.

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We believe we are in a strong position and we are looking at expanding ourselves in a number of ways

Michael Trabbia Orange Wholesale CEO

Grounded satellite hopes
Discussing the much hyped satellite segment, he highlighted the technology was a compliment to operator offerings but cautioned it was technologically limited.

Trabbia told Mobile World Live he believed that satellite connectivity was a good business, though noted it was hampered by both capacity and access to spectrum.

He emphasised the service could not be a direct rival to traditional mobile and fixed broadband, describing it as a compliment to other connectivity services.

“For technological reasons it cannot be competition,” Trabbia added. “It’s very useful and we are very happy to have satellite in our offers … This is a good technology but technologies need to be used where they are relevant”.

“At the end of the day satellite has a very limited capacity. If you are thinking this is something that can replace fibre or mobile this is just not possible physically”.