Al-Babtain LeBlanc: Local expertise, international scope and a complete service offering

How this local tower builder grew to become one of the cornerstones of telecoms infrastructure in the MENA region

Read this article to learn:

  • Who Al-Babtain LeBlanc are and their background and footprint
  • How tower needs have changed in the MENA region
  • The impact of tower sharing on the key players in the MENA tower ecosystem
  • How the rollout of 5G will affect tower owners across the region

With a dedicated offering in the telecoms sector since the emergence of mobile telephony 25 years ago, Al-Babtain LeBlanc is one of the most established and trusted brands in Middle Eastern communications infrastructure. TowerXchange spoke with Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager at Al-Babtain LeBlanc, about how the company has grown, the diversification of their business offering and why they see telecoms as such a critical and growing sector. 

TowerXchange: Please introduce Al-Babtain LeBlanc, your history and footprint.

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

Al-Babtain LeBlanc is a fully owned subsidiary of Al-Babtain Power & Telecom which was founded 60 years ago in 1955 as manufacturing company concentrating on manufacture of steel products. In 1993 we formed a joint venture with LeBlanc international to concentrate on the telecoms business which was more about the telecom infrastructure: towers, monopoles and rooftops as design, manufacturing and implementation, and in 2011 we became a 100% subsidiary of Al-Babtain Power & Telecom and expanded our reach from telecoms activities to other more and new areas such as security solutions, traffic solutions, smart infrastructure solutions, Special Architectural structures etc. Since 2011 we have diversified, changing focus to become a telecom system integrator. We are based in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, but also have established businesses in UAE and Egypt and project offices in Oman, Yemen and Bahrain from which we cover all of the GCC and North Africa. 

TowerXchange: Al-Babtain LeBlanc works across multiple fields with many high-profile clients. Can you tell us about how your telecoms business line developed and where it sits in the larger business?

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

We took the decision five years ago to make it our mission to become market leaders in infrastructure for all technologies, and concentrating more on the telecoms market.  We offer a complete solution for the passive part of telecoms infrastructure, from towers to antenna and with the capability and experience to do more telecom scope design, testing and operating. Also, we do indoor based solutions, right through from tests to design, implementation and maintenance. In addition to standard telecoms sites we also offer complete solutions for smart infrastructure including smart cities, smart malls, smart schools, smart sport venues, etcetera – what we call ‘Smart X’. We are working on those solutions with international partners with the aim to provide our clients with full solution reaching their satisfaction and having the latest technology in the worldwide market.  

TowerXchange: Tell us about Al-Babtain LeBlanc’s relationship with your clients and what sets you apart from your competitors.

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

We had a very good relationship with our clients, particularly the operators in the GCC and North Africa, which came about because we are able to offer such a comprehensive solution, much more than our competitors. We have competitors in supply and we have others in implementation, but it’s hard to find someone who does both, whereas we offer a complete solution, starting from design right through to implementation. Clients feel we offer the right solution, implement in the right way, and that we are here for any issues later on. We have more than 25 years of experience and many of our team members have been working with us since the beginning, which adds value for our clients and confidence that we are the right partner, giving us the competitive edge. This is why we are coming to TowerXchange Meetup MENA to deliver this message to the region. Our design team is made up of over 50 experts who are designing everything from a normal telecoms site or monopole to a large or camouflage custom tower: we have a huge range and can offer whatever a client needs.  

TowerXchange: You offer a wide range of high quality structures. Please talk us through how you have seen your telecoms clients’ needs changing and how this is reflected in the shape of their infrastructure.

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

Firstly, our clients are looking for more comprehensive solution, not only a tower. They are looking for a service and often need a special design then installation and after sales service. They need more than just a tower. The second change we are observing is the appearance of towercos in the MENA market right now. We are seeing towercos emerging in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia already and this upcoming change is big news at the moment. Thirdly, tower owners are also moving away from standard towers and monopoles: they’re under pressure to reduce the impact of their infrastructure on the landscape or local environment, which is not a cheap solution as it needs to be customised for each client and city dependant on specific requirements. There’s a lot of pressure on us to fulfil these bespoke camouflage requirements, but providing this is one of our strengths: we designed more than 500 different towers in the last two years.

TowerXchange: As the MENA landscape changes and we see an increased amount of tower sharing on the horizon, through independent towercos, regulator-mandated co-locations and bi-lateral collaborations between MNOs, what changes do you think will need to be made to MENA towers and where should tower owners be focussing in terms of rollout?

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

Usually we are told that tower sharing is affecting solutions providers globally, as the market goes from three operators to only one main infrastructure provider but we see this very much as an opportunity. Tower sharing and making towers fit their landscape are a key part of the master plans of local and national governments, but delivering this needs more than a subcontractor. 

This is where we fit, we can add value, one of the advantages of Al-Babtain LeBlanc is that we are not just tower supplier but also enhance existing towers and structures, we can add camouflage for existing sites, and upgrade and strengthen towers.  Do we see tower sharing as a threat to our business? No, we look at it as another trend: the stage of “single operator site” is almost over and we are entering a new stage of sharing sites, which we look at as an opportunity which will increase our market share as it requires a more specialised company. 

The need to upgrade towers is a new trend which is an opportunity for us as a tower player, as new technology like 5G will require a specialised company which can do the analysis of existing sites and the replacement of the existing sites where needed. We explore how tower owners can utilise existing structures as well as providing new products, both of which necessitate a lot of experience and engineering work. In 2018, Albabtain LeBlanc engineering workload was double than the average of the previous years, although we built the same number of sites. 

So, as 5G rollouts will be started soon, this will become more and more important it is a big opportunity for replacing, enhancing and camouflaging sites, driven by 5G and new colocation needs.

TowerXchange: We are seeing regulators putting increasing pressure on tower owners to minimise the impact of their towers on the landscape. How can Al-Babtain LeBlanc support MNOs and towercos in conforming to these demands?

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

There are over 25,000 Al-Babtain LeBlanc traditional towers in use in the GCC which we’ve designed, manufactured and in many cases implemented in the last 25 years. When it comes to landmark projects in the region, we have played a critical role, supplying more than 4,500 towers for the huge USF project in Saudi Arabia to cover the rural area country wise. Another of our stand out projects was the Abu Dhabi Police Tower in Abu Dhabi, which is over 70 metres high and for which we undertook the design, civil works and erection.  

It’s also important to note that we don’t just have good relationships with infrastructure owners, we also work closely with regulators as well. We participate in workshops and give presentations, as well as suggesting solutions to help them manage this industry and create the right regulations. As a leading player in the manufacture of camouflage solutions in the GCC with a wealth of experience working for regional MNOs, we have a wide base of knowledge. 

So, to answer your question, yes we consider ourselves is the best partner to MNOs and towercos to make their projects more successful and profitable. 

TowerXchange: Talk to us about urban infrastructure. With the advent of 5G and countries like Saudi Arabia and Dubai making plans for ‘smart city’ infrastructure, what can Al-Babtain LeBlanc do to facilitate the rollout of densified networks?

Omar Abdulaziz Al Rasheed, General Manager, Al-Babtain LeBlanc:

We look at 5G from two angles: firstly, 5G for existing infrastructure, for which telecom services companies are needed to install 5G on existing towers. We’ve already started a project with MNOs in the GCC to analyse and enhance their infrastructure based on these needs. 

Secondly, there will be a bigger need for small cells, small city sites, for which we have various solutions which can be customised based on city requirements. We have already created customised solutions for clients in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Oman. When developers are focussing on a specific property or land, we can adapt our offering and work closely with their team to come up with a bespoke solution. 

So in terms of 5G we can do the small cells and city solutions, and we can do upgrades to existing sites if needed as well. Whether city sites or rural sites, we do telecom installation, indoor solutions and mobile solutions as well.

Leave a Reply