How Sanjay Goel is leading American Tower to become a Pan-Asian Digital Infraco
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How Sanjay Goel is leading American Tower to become a Pan-Asian Digital Infraco

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New President for APAC shares his vision for the worlds largest independent towerco

American Tower, the largest independent towerco in the world, can be found operating sites in 25 markets, across six continents. In Asia, their presence has historically been limited to India – where the company owns approximately 75,000 sites. In the past year, the company has also entered the Philippines and Bangladesh through initially small-scale BTS programs after working closely with regulators in both regions.

 

Under fresh leadership in the form of Sanjay Goel, ATC Asia is well-positioned for re-accelerating growth, particularly in the context of positive recent developments in India. In this exclusive interview ahead of his headline keynote slot at Meetup Asia 2021, Goel shares all on his vision for American Tower in Asia, and more importantly how he will bring it to light.

 

TowerXchange: Congratulations on your new role at American Tower, – can you tell us a little bit about your experience, what led you to American Tower, and what new perspective you will bring as President of Asia Pacific

 

Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

I joined American Tower in March 2021 after 20-years with Nokia, where I started with the mobile networks division in 2001. During this tenure, I had the opportunity to work in India, APAC, Europe & subsequently in various global leadership roles.

In my last role at Nokia, I served as President of Global Services Business Group and Nokia Operations. In my previous roles, I had the opportunity to extensively work in the APAC market including India, Japan, and China between 2006 – 2015. I began my career at ABB and IBM, prior to joining Nokia.

 

My experience with Nokia has provided deep insights into the transformative opportunities that 5G presents. Digitalization is becoming more prevalent across Asia and the pandemic has accelerated these initiatives to make it a key priority. Communications infrastructure will play a pivotal role in realizing this transformation. Given that American Tower is evaluating the potential to expand its footprint in Asia Pacific, this opportunity attracted me to ATC.

 

TowerXchange: What is the next step for American Tower in terms of becoming a pan-Asian Towerco? Are there any markets you think offer big opportunities to enter next?
Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

As 5G goes mainstream, we expect digitalization to further accelerate, and data consumption to increase exponentially. To keep pace with this opportunity, we believe that the mobile network operators will continue to invest heavily in upgrading and extending their networks, the vast majority of which reside on macro tower sites like ours.

 

We are seeing strong activity levels on our existing sites today, and MNO’s in certain regions continue to evaluate the potential to spin off their captive tower assets, which may enable some additional inorganic opportunities for us over time.

 

We believe Philippines and Bangladesh may offer some interesting growth opportunities as they are underpenetrated markets with attractive core characteristics for potential long-term investment. There may be several other markets in the region that could be of interest eventually as well.

 

TowerXchange: We are seeing something of a renaissance of tower legislation across Asia, specifically in Philippines and Bangladesh where you have played pivotal roles in establishing the regulatory framework and policies. What is American Towers approach to working with regulators across Asia?

 

Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

Each of the APAC countries is unique, but as you rightly mention ATC works very closely with the policy makers, regulators, and other stake holders to share insights on the best practices in regulatory policies across the globe.

 

Our engagement with regulators largely centres around informing policy & regulations to enable neutral hosting in the telecom infrastructure space. We firmly believe that the neutral host model is critical to effectively meet the telecommunication and digital demands, and in a cost-efficient and sustainable manner.

 

The neutral host model is inherently green. Hosting multiple tenants on a single macro tower is also more appealing to local communities than erecting multiple towers.

 

In addition to the above, shared infrastructure allows faster time to market, thereby speeding up deployment of new technologies.

 

Today, the success that Philippines and Bangladesh markets have started witnessing is a direct result of the industry-friendly & progressive regulatory framework and policies put in place by the regulator.

 

TowerXchange: One of the big themes of Meetup Asia this year is the evolution of the TowerCo business model to embrace ancillary services such as ORAN, fibre, edge computing and active antenna sharing. American Tower are innovators in this space in the US – which of your US initiatives and lessons learnt are you looking to apply in Asia. Which have the most immediate business uses?

 

Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

If you really look from where we come, it is the macro tower that has fueled the progression from 2G to 3G, 4G and now to 5G and whatever will come next. But the way we look at the market going forward, 5G seems like a truly transformational step in a new direction. 5G is changing the game in terms of the convergence of wired and wireless technology.

 

This will also offer opportunities for communications infrastructure companies to potentially add new solutions to their offerings. On one hand we expect to see faster speeds and higher data volumes continuing to be served by the tower network that we already have. The other 2 tenets of 5G, one around latency and the second around massive connectivity will mean that the transport networks and edge computing capability will have to be coupled with the macro tower network.

 

We expect to evaluate these opportunities within the context of our prudent capital allocation strategy and believe we are well-positioned to be successful should the return profiles be attractive.

TowerXchange: What are some of the local challenges you’ve faced moving beyond India into the Philippines and Bangladesh this year? How have you overcome them?

 

Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

At ATC our market entry is predicated on various factors including the industry landscape and growth potential, the regulatory environment and foreign ownership regulations, ease of doing business, rule of law and so on. We find that Philippines and

Bangladesh are favourably placed on many of these macro factors.

 

Within the markets, we endeavour to create a deeper understanding of the dynamics with a focus on building operational and management capability to establish our presence.

 

We also look for industry specific factors such as CPI linked commercials, a vibrant vendor ecosystem, seamless implementation of industry policies, clarity on taxation and duty structure, and adoption of the neutral host business model by the MNOs.

 

With Philippines and Bangladesh both in the early stages of the independent towerco ecosystem, we find that some of these factors are taking time to resolve themselves.

 

Nonetheless, our experience in the recent past has been that we have very proactive regulators and governments, and as these markets mature most of these initial teething challenges will be overcome soon.

 

In order to overcome some of these challenges, ATC has engaged with policy makers, regulators and other stakeholders in the governments to promote a sustainable business environment.

 

To develop the vendor ecosystem, we are encouraging our vendors from other parts of the world to come and establish their operations in these new markets.

 

I would also encourage platforms like TowerXchange to educate the stakeholders on some of these matters, to share their experience, learnings & the benefits of digital infra sharing with regulators, and to provide them with success stories from other markets.

 

TowerXchange: Sustainability is front of mind for TowerCos and operators alike heading into 2022. What is American Tower doing to support your clients carbon emissions targets, and can you share some of your own milestones and sustainability goals moving forward?

 

Sanjay Goel, EVP and President – APAC, American Tower:

Reducing emissions is an important part of our overall strategy and we believe it is an opportunity to both improve our cost efficiency and our appeal to our tenants, especially in emerging markets.

 

Global smartphone connections have doubled over the past five years, resulting in greater demand for our power as a service. Despite this increase in demand, our 2020 carbon footprint was 627,706 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e), which was 4% less than in 2019.

 

This reduction is attributed to an 8% decrease in communications site generator emissions due to several initiatives, including converting to renewable energy and using innovative technologies to increase energy efficiency.

 

Nearly all our carbon footprint is attributed to generating power as a service for tenants in markets with non-existent or unreliable electric grids—a marketplace differentiator that drives our overall customer satisfaction.

 

Though we cannot control the energy demand from tenant equipment, we are working to reduce the associated scope 1 emissions by investing in efficiency improvements and renewable energy.

 

Since 2017, we have invested more than $200 million toward these efforts. We also recognize that reducing our scope 1 emissions naturally translates to helping our tenants reduce their scope 2 emissions, further improving customer satisfaction.

 

American Tower recently announced expanded greenhouse gas reduction targets via our science-based targets (SBTs). We are targeting to reduce direct scope 1, indirect scope 2 and indirect scope 3 supply chain GHG emissions by at least 40 percent by 2035.

 

This will be measured against a 2019 baseline to build upon our targeted 2017 goal of reducing our diesel-related emissions.

 

Setting these targets is the result of a measured 18-month process where we assessed our global greenhouse gas footprint across all three reporting scopes and developed tailored roadmaps for each.

Sanjay Goel and Manish Kasliwal
Sanjay Goel, EVP & President, APAC (R) and Manish Kasliwal, VP & CBDO, APAC (L), American Tower

Interested to hear more about what American Tower have to say about their evolution to a Pan-Asian Digital Infraco? Make sure you register to join TowerXchange Meetup Asia 2021 HERE.

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