"5G will entice towercos to think well beyond traditional towers" - Fares Nassar IHS Towers
Ahead of the annual TowerXchange Meetup Americas 2022, we speak to Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region at IHS Towers.
We expect to see the initial deployment of 5G equipment to coincide with the continuing densification of the 4G network. Could you tell us about your plans for adapting your existing infrastructure to host this increase in equipment demand?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: We believe that we are well positioned to help our clients densify 4G and launch 5G. In Brazil, we are already launching 5G, while simultaneously densifying 4G. We are also a leading provider of DAS systems as well as small cells, and, last year, we acquired a company specialized in urban furniture street-level deployments with thousands of locations already agreed for urban deployments. Additionally, our recent acquisition of TIM Brazil’s access fiber network in Brazil, with more than six million homes passed, has further positioned us to be able to offer fiber to the street (FTTS) connectivity using our high-capillarity fiber network, which will be one of the major infrastructure demands for 5G deployments.
A more widespread overlay of 5G will result in a significant increase in power demand on site. As a towerco with extensive power-as-a-service offerings in other markets and you looking to offer power management or back-up power in LatAm?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: Yes, indeed. Our customers are asking for power solutions in remote, rural areas where the need is for generation back-up, and in dense urban areas where the need is for back-up as well as green alternatives. As you noted, because of our extensive experience in power systems in Africa, we have a large portfolio of power solutions which we are offering our LatAm customers.
5G poses some technical challenges in the context of urban densification, especially for indoor sites. The current indoor systems often don’t support the 5G spectrum bands, and in addition to increase in demand for coverage, this creates opportunities for towercos. What is your strategy in tackling some of these issues?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: We are one of the leading providers of DAS systems in Brazil and most of our DAS systems are passive which should simplify upgrading to 5G. We are, however, also offering our clients the option to upgrade to active 5G DAS, if of interest to them. In that case, we deploy and manage an extended perimeter in our DAS offering.
What new kind of expertise must towercos acquire to stay competitive in the 5G era? What sort of new internal systems and processes, and technical and business skills do you see IHS Towers developing in LatAm?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: 5G expands the wireless distribution ecosystem beyond the towers into the need for extensive fiber-based FTTS connectivity and the deployment of street-level and urban furniture solutions, which require specific expertise as well as access to adequate real estate and extensive DAS systems knowledge. In the case of IHS in Brazil, and soon in our other LatAm markets and beyond, we are leveraging our in-house engineering expertise, to address these various needs.
What is the industry doing to ensure standardization in 5G rollouts in various countries and maximize future economies of scale?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: Both regulators and other stakeholders understand the need for 5G rollout standardization to ensure cross-operability and decrease ecosystem costs. IHS Towers actively seeks synergies across its geographic markets and across is infrastructure platforms, to achieve economies of scale which aim to benefit the ecosystem as a whole.
You will be speaking at the 5G CXO panel at this year’s TowerXchange Meetup Americas. Other sessions at the event will cover broader operational issues, such as digitalisation, and future towerco business models. Where does 5G fit in the context of towerco digitalisation and the infraco model?
Fares Nassar, Head of Latin American Region, IHS Towers: The deployment of 5G will entice towercos to think well beyond traditional towers, into street-level deployments, with or without active radio, fiber connectivity, edge data centers to feed low-latency applications closer to the point of consumption, IoT applications, fiber access networks with virtual network slicing to accommodate multiple co-existing applications such as fiber to the home and streets, as well as host multiple operators on the same access network. Smart monitoring and AI-based predictive and corrective systems will also be required to insure high availability and low operating costs.
All of these seismic movements will force towercos to move from being providers of passive, or even active towers, into sophisticated providers of intelligent infrastructure which will require digitalization and the introduction of AI and smart tools. IHS Towers has utilized its Network Operating Centers (NOCs) for years which enables remote monitoring of its tower sites in real time and can be further levered to help support the 5G requirements I spoke about. So, for IHS Towers, the move into 5G is more of an evolution than a revolution.
Fares Nassar will be speaking at the annual TowerXchange Meetup Americas, taking place on 13-14 July 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida, US. For more information, please visit https://meetup.towerxchange.com/americas