Ice Group, the third mobile operator in Norway, painted a positive picture of its performance in 2020 despite the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to CEO Eivind Helgaker, the operator achieved "several important milestones" last year, including the first full year of positive EBITDA.
The telco is also stepping up the construction of its own 4G network, and has launched pilots of its Nokia-supplied 5G network in Tromsř and Oslo.
Ice updated its guidance for 2021 to an adjusted EBITDA margin of 15-20%. Helgaker noted that the guidance is based on assumptions that the coronavirus will continue to adversely impact the Norwegian market until at least the third quarter of this year.
The CEO said a new national roaming agreement with Telia that took effect from January 1, 2021 is expected to help lower costs, alongside efforts to increase its own network coverage.
In a rare example of a single month's figures compared to the previous year, Helgaker illustrated how the agreement is already helping Ice's bottom line.
"For example, for January 2021 our national roaming cost was NOK14 million [US$1.67 million], which is 60% less than in January last year, despite having 12% more customers in January this year," said Helgaker.
"This was contributing to an increase in adjusted EBITDA from -NOK28 million in January 2020 to NOK33 million in January 2021, increasing the adjusted EBITDA margin from -17% to 18%, an increase of 35 percentage points."
The operator is also endeavoring to reduce reliance on its roaming partner by building more of its own basestations and bringing more traffic to its own network. In 2020, it added 771 new basestations with 191 new sites in the fourth quarter alone. It now operates a total of 2,887 live basestations.
Ice has also just appointed Per Heyeraas as its interim chief financial officer, to replace Henning Karlsrud with effect from March 1, 2021.
On the up
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Ice said it achieved an "all time high" operational revenue of NOK572 million (US$68 million), up 15% year on year. It also hailed its "best ever" adjusted EBITDA result of NOK30 million ($3.58 million), equivalent to an EBITDA margin of 5%.
The operator said it continued to increase its market share and added 20,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter.
In August 2020, Ice said it had captured a 10% share of the mobile market after five years of operation and is targeting a 20% market share in the medium term with the aim of reaching 25% in the long term.
For the full-year 2020, Ice Group reported revenue of NOK2.1 billion ($251 million), up from NOK1.86 billion the year before. Adjusted EBITDA was NOK41 million ($4.9 million), "a vast improvement" from minus NOK165 million in 2019, the operator said.
- Norway's Ice Group claims 10% market share
- Tele2 gets green light to sell Norwegian unit to TeliaSonera
- Huawei has everything to lose with Telenor Norway
- Telia Norway goes all Ericsson on 5G and dumps Huawei
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading