Michelle Ora on Globe Group’s past present and future working with towercos
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Michelle Ora on Globe Group’s past present and future working with towercos

VP, Site Lifecycle Management, addresses the challenges and opportunities for towercos from an MNO perspective

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Read this to learn:

  • How are Globe Group Working with towercos in the Philippines

  • What value do towercos provide to Globe, the telecoms industry, and the country as a whole?

  • What are some of the challenges Globe are facing working with towercos in the Philippines right now?

  • How would Globe like to work closer with towercos moving forward? Are there any timelines in place


TowerXchange: Please introduce yourself – what is your role at Globe and what are your responsibilities? 

“One of our priorities for this year is to ensure everything we do is towards making the towerco model work.

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: I am with the Network Technical Group at Globe, working with a team that takes care of partners—property owners, property developers, shared infra partners including towercos. This group is called the Site Lifecycle Management Services team of Globe, which is at the forefront of Globe’s network operations, making sure that every site is made available across all our stakeholders—from within Globe and to our customers.

We work with a diverse range of stakeholders that provide services to Globe. Some of our responsibilities include lessor management, site acquisition, building and maintaining relationships with national and local government and more recently, engagement with property developers. But our biggest focus for this year is building closer ties with our towerco partners and helping them to become successful.

I’ve worked across different functions like sales and marketing in Globe since joining the company ten years ago in 2013. I was part of the team that helped launch the site acquisition management team in 2016, where we started putting together all the different groups involved in the site acquisition operations, lessor & utilities management as we were at that time on a catch-up mode in acquiring sites for our network team.

In 2022, another transformation had to happen. Previously our site acquisition teams were split between commercial and operations depending on the type of real estate and property owner we were looking to develop a site on, but with the team now this has all been consolidated and integrated, which offers us better efficiency and a more joined up approach.


TowerXchange: How have Globe worked with towercos so far since the common tower regime was implemented? What have been some of the biggest learnings from this experience? 

“After three years working with towercos, we have seen each one's capabilities to build and maintain towers and we need to make sure that we are routing our orders for new sites to the towercos who can help us cover the Philippines better and faster.”

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: In 2023 there are three main ways that Globe is working with Towercos as part of our network deployment plans.

The first dates back almost two years ago when we started to contract towercos to build our new sites and manage everything from day one, including all the necessary permits and the ground lease agreement with the landowner.

Similar to this is what we called “Globe acquired sites”, sites that we have already begun working on the paperwork for but have not been built.

Our third interaction with towercos is the one that has attracted the most public attention is our sale and leaseback transactions with towercos, but we see these three as the starting point rather than us achieving our end goal.

 

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We’ve seen in other markets that towercos are diversifying beyond the tower infrastructure they provide us today in the Philippines, choosing to work across other infrastructure sharing models. This is something we are really keen to explore with them. One such example would be the indoor neutral hosting model, or the provision and ownership of the fibre connected to the tower.

But back to the tower side of things, we have double digit partners that we work with on build to suit.

The market in the Philippines is still in its early days, and we are conscious that most other markets tend to see a handful of players rise to top and reach a large number of sites. We’re expecting to see a level of consolidation in our market to track these global trends.

This will be driven by the natural market dynamics – this is a business of scale for the towercos after all, and we are also reviewing the partners that we work with.

After three years working with towercos, we have seen each one’s capabilities to build and maintain towers and we need to make sure that we are routing our orders for new sites to the towercos who can help us cover the Philippines better and faster. Our principle has always been to work with partners based on performance.

The end goal of Globe is for us to continue to provide a strong and consistent service to our customers so we want to work with towercos that can help us ensure this.


TowerXchange: What value do towercos provide to Globe, the telecoms industry, and the country as a whole?

“Building these networks is capex intensive, and switching to an opex model through the use of our towerco partners makes a lot of sense for us.”

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: A lot! We know that in any country digital connectivity is an enabler of a better economy. The Internet is a great equaliser and can bring everyone on the same footing. It provides access to education, a global customer base for business, better access to healthcare and so much more.

Digital infrastructure and telecom infrastructure needs to be in place to achieve digital connectivity and be competitive. Until very recently, all of these investments in the Philippines on the mobile side of things have come from ourselves and our competitors, Smart. This investment continues to grow as networks become more complicated and data demand is growing rapidly.

At the same time, the costs we have to bear to maintain what we have already built are also growing. We need to find ways to be more efficient and agile in our maintenance and operations. This is where the common tower companies come into play.

Building these networks is capex intensive, and switching to an opex model through the use of our towerco partners makes a lot of sense for us.

The change in regulation came at the opportune time in terms of helping us roll out efficient and effective sites. The lockdowns caused by Covid really emphasised the issues that we had in the Philippines and the requirement to rebuild the nation with greater connectivity. Without towercos on hand, it would have been much more challenging for us to continue to build our networks at this time.

The Philippines being an archipelago makes towers really important for us in terms of reaching remote communities, which amplifies the value and usefulness of a strong towerco industry in the country.

 

TowerXchange: What are some of the challenges Globe are facing working with towercos in the Philippines right now?

Some of our partners are happy to hold these conversations and be flexible on how we do things, while others are keen to strictly enforce what’s in the MLA at the time it was agreed upon.”

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: There are definitely a lot of kinks that need to be ironed out as this is still a new industry and a new type of partner for Globe.

As I mentioned we are currently working with more than ten towercos. The commercial agreements we have in place across all of them vary. There was an evolution depending on when we signed them up. We knew less about the frameworks and business models that would make sense for both parties at the start, but as we worked closer with towercos we came to understand them better, and also understand our own needs better.

We are executing what’s in the MLA as we operationalise these agreements, but there is a lack of standardisation. A process that is followed for one site with one towerco might not be followed or followed differently for a second site with a second towerco.

Ideally, we would like to standardise our MLA’s across our different partners, although these terms are set for 10-15 years. All in all, this is a good thing, it demonstrates our commitment, and ensures that the tower will be in place and supplying connectivity reliably to the local population.

But we would like to work with towercos and hold conversations around how we can streamline certain practices and make everyone’s lives easier.

Some of our partners are happy to hold these conversations and be flexible on how we do things, while others are keen to strictly enforce what’s in the MLA at the time it was agreed upon.

At Globe, we have the mindset that our relationship is a partnership, and we want to make the towerco model work. We’d encourage all towercos to have the same mindset as well.

Another issue that we face is around permitting. The process is very complicated and long-winded today, so we are working with the government and NTC to make things easier. We want the telecom sector to be treated in the same way utilities like water and power are, where there are measures in place to deliver fast and effective service to an area.

One thing we are pushing the government for is to review national building codes. The national building code has been in place for several decades and is primarily designed to ensure that buildings meet the necessary safety standards for an occupier to live in. This may not be aligned to the towers we build.

When obtaining a building permit, it is also necessary to acquire a separate power permit. However, the power permit cannot be obtained until the site has been constructed, which leads to further delays. We should be able to do these two things simultaneously.

Even once a permit has been awarded, interactions with the local power co-operatives that manage the Philippines grid vary widely from region to region.

This creates complexities for getting sites online which is frustrating for Globe, even with our many years of experience. The new towercos that are entering the Philippines for the first time are having an even harder time, so we are trying to help them by explaining the different ways of doing things and helping them get to know the right people and authorities.

Another issue the towercos are facing is landlords having less familiarity with them as they do with the MNOs. This means there are more likely to be disputes and as we transfer sites to our SLB partners, we find that the landlords want to renegotiate the lease with their unknown new tenant.

 

TowerXchange: How would Globe like to work closer with towercos moving forward? Are there any timelines in place?

“With towerco partners, we could share the fibre to the site, or the energy equipment required for backup or supplementary power. This will unlock further value in the neutral host model.”

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: As discussed, we have worked closely with towercos on Sale and Leaseback transactions and build to suit. We have also recently signed our first co-location with EdgePoint Infrastructure, on a site where Smart is the anchor tenant. Our outlook for 2023 is to add the same number of sites to our network as we have in the past few years, but we hope that a much larger percentage will come from co-locations rather than new builds.

We’re excited about this opportunity, because it will help us deliver sites faster, cheaper, and more sustainably.

Other areas we see opportunities to work with towercos are by sharing more of the infrastructure than just the tower. With towerco partners, we could share the fibre to the site, or the energy equipment required for backup or supplementary power. This will unlock further value in the neutral host model.


TowerXchange: Globe are a part of TowerXchange’s advisory board for the brand new “Philippines Connect” event. Why do you think this event will be useful for the industry, and what do you hope to takeaway from it?

Michelle Ora, VP, Site Lifecycle Management, Globe Group: TowerXchange brings a global perspective that can help inform the Philippines route forward. Towercos are relative newcomers to our market, and regulators and MNOs would all benefit from hearing how the model works in other ASEAN nations.

Furthermore, we see a TowerXchange Philippine show as a great opportunity to explore some of our domestic challenges and opportunities, bring together all the relevant stakeholders to address them and work together to masterplan the next steps of connectivity for the country.

Want to find out more about Philippines Connect? Contact Matthew Edwards at matthew.edwards@towerxchange.com

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