I’m excited to share the news about a significant new initiative within our industry. At TowerXchange Africa, I will be announcing the establishment of the new International Digital Infrastructure Alliance (IDIA).
This is being set up to provide our industry with the strong, unified voice it needs to articulate its value to regulators and other stakeholders; and to put powerful tools into towerco hands when they are lobbying governments or negotiating rules.
The Alliance is being backed by the IFC, and by some of the biggest names in our industry, some of which I’ll be able to announce in Johannesburg. In my conversations this year about this new organisation, I have been impressed to see how many towercos recognise the increasing importance of communicating global messages to regulators at all levels – national, regional, state and municipal – with the arguments backed up by a deep resource of data and benchmarks.
That is what the IDIA will provide, in an initial three-year program which already has a concrete, agreed set of objectives and milestones.
On the one hand, it will coordinate global messaging and profile building to ensure that governments and the broader industry, worldwide, appreciate the socio-economic benefits that towercos and shared infrastructure bring to their countries. That activity will give our sector a far more independent, compelling and cohesive voice to influence attitudes worldwide.
On the other, it will provide a practical resource to help individual members, and the regional towerco associations, to lobby and negotiate with regulators. They will be able to access a rich database of best practice and of regulatory policy, country by country, in every area that affects the tower business.
This will enable them to save time and money when compiling persuasive arguments or evaluating new opportunities; and enable them to benchmark their own markets against what has been agreed in other countries, providing a transparent source of detailed information for the first time in this sector.
All this is urgently needed. The IDIA is focusing its launch efforts primarily on developing markets, where many regulators are dealing with towercos for the first time. But this is a body with global scope, because, with the continual technical evolution in the telecommunications industry our business is changing rapidly in all parts of the world:
– Towercos and MNOs alike are consolidating, but new tower customers may emerge.
– Regulators are making key decisions about 5G licensing, site access, competition, infrastructure and network sharing – but MNOs often have a louder voice than towercos.
– The advent of 5G will see the mobile network being built in a different way, with many base stations deployed on street furniture instead of towers.
– Some tower operators are extending their value proposition into cloud infrastructure as well as mobile sites.
– Governments are setting agendas for universal access and environmental policy which will affect towercos, especially off-grid
– Connecting the unconnected is a key objective of policy makers everywhere and may require an unconventional model of multi-lateral collaboration in a public/private solution
A common effort is necessary to ensure that, by 2022, the towerco business model and value has been enhanced, not weakened, by these trends.
Our own organisations, as well as our investors and customers, often struggle to weigh up the implications of all these changes quickly enough to make the best decisions. We believe the IDIA will help address that challenge, giving members a trusted source of information to support decision making and negotiation; and providing them with a forum to exchange views and experiences, and influence the next wave of evolution of the tower business.
I look forward to discussing all this with you face to face in Johannesburg.