SYDNEY, AAP – Telstra has sold off just under half its mobile towers business to a high-powered consortium, including Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, for almost $3 billion.

The deal with the Future Fund, and retirement funds Commonwealth Superannuation Corp and Sunsuper, is for 49 per cent of InfraCo Towers, which is Australia’s largest mobile infrastructure business with 8200 towers.

Telstra, which retains majority ownership, will use the proceeds to pay down debt and spend $75 million to boost connectivity in regional Australia.

But shareholders will also be winners, with about 50 per cent of the $2.8 billion proceeds to be returned via a possible share buyback.

More details on how that will play out will be announced in August when Telstra posts its full-year results.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the September quarter of this year.

The deal is a fillip for Telstra, coming more than a year ahead of forecasts.

While the telecommunications group had previously flagged it was looking for outside investors for the business, a transaction wasn’t expected to be done before the end of the 2022 calendar year.

The consortium approached Telstra earlier this year.

“We believe the value of the transaction, the high calibre consortium members and the terms of the agreement, which protect Telstra’s network differentiation, support our decision to accelerate the process,” CEO Andrew Penn said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We have built the network through decades of investment and innovation and we will continue to ensure that we provide our customers with access to this world leading connectivity for years to come.”

The transaction values InfraCo Towers at $5.9 billion.