Top Takeaways from Delmec at Meetup Asia 2022
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Top Takeaways from Delmec at Meetup Asia 2022

Delmec's team share everything they learnt at last years show

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“At Delmec, we believe that synergy shapes success. By working together in collaborative partnerships, we engineer a smarter way to build and manage telecoms tower infrastructure, seamlessly connecting people and businesses to the world. All of our partners, from towercos to mobile network operators, trust us to deliver the insights and engineering expertise they need to succeed by optimising value from their tower assets. We welcome the opportunity to help our customers and partners overcome the next telecoms tower infrastructure challenge, whatever that may be.”

As long time partners of TowerXchange and regulars at our towerco meetups across the world, we invited the Delmec team (pictured) to share their key takeaways from their time in Singapore.

A Fast-Moving Market

A key takeaway from all participants is one shared by Delmec: The Asian market has seen unprecedented levels of M&A activity of late. This tidal wave of activity has brought with it many new towercos, some only weeks or months old. “All of these new operators are working at a rapid pace to analyse their portfolios, serve their customers, build efficient processes, and establish a sustainable business,” points out Orla Kane, Delmec’s Chief Commercial Officer. “The scale of activity and the speed of progression in this market is quite extraordinary.”

The Philippines in particular is undergoing a sizable shift in tower ownership, with six sale-and-leaseback deals over the last 12 months.

“There was a lot of discussion around further M&A opportunities as well as growth through BTS in the Philippines,” says Orla. “We can probably also expect to see consolidations due to the higher number of smaller towercos.”

The push towards 5G is partly responsible for this rapid acceleration of infrastructure in the region. Mohan Villavarayan, Delmec’s Asia Regional Business Manager, moderated a panel discussion that traced how stakeholders might expect traditional tower company models to transition to the new age of 5G.

“One of the key takeaways for me is the difference in 5G rollouts in different markets and how this in turn is effecting towercos” Mohan said. “The challenge is for traditional towercos to accept that their revenue model and product offerings need to change rapidly in the next 5 years. Street furniture will dominate new roll-out and legacy revenue from macro towers will diminish with microwaves being replaced by fibre transport and legacy technologies being decommissioned.”

“Delmec can assist towercos in cost-effective designs for rapid roll out of street furniture and also in consultancy services focused on speed to market and revenue capture”

Mohan’s colleague Damien Kelly, Head of engineering and innovation at Delmec also highlights that the team “can help in a few ways; we would focus on urban development such as street solutions, urban infill with various site typologies, supporting inventory management for swap outs and new colocations and reducing power consumption on sites.”

When newer technologies demand 5G capabilities, our solutions will focus on the 3 core areas; Power, Urban infill and full network upgrade from previous, older technologies.”

Mohan also attended a ‘Spotlight on Malaysia’ roundtable, that had a significant focus on 5G deployment. Specifically, there were discussions on the government’s Special Purpose Vehicle (the Digital Nasional Berhad or DNB) that is managing the wholesale distribution of 5G bandwidth.

“Interestingly, the participants were divided in their opinion on whether this was a positive or negative,” Mohan recalls. “Most of the Malaysian participants were of the view that we may see a single entity indirectly emerging as the dominant operator with control of the 5G spectrum allocation.”

The Drive Towards Digitisation

Delmec CEO Kealan Delaney found the working group discussing the many challenges and opportunities around digitising the business one of the highlights of the show. The group focused on challenges such as automation, emerging technologies, asset management platforms, and digitised workflows.

Kealan arrived at the working group keen to glean some insights into the pros and cons of the solutions available. “There is no doubt that digitisation is a fact of life now in our industry,” he said. “It’s just a matter of creating the right roadmap to take us from where we are to where we need to be.”

The participants generously shared their varied experiences with the audience. Mat Jones of Amplitel gave his insights into data integration with customer systems, emphasising how much of a priority it is for their business. Tim Knowles outlined how Frontier Towers Associates faced a different set of challenges, having scaled from four to 150 people and 600 to 4,000 towers in just two years.

Their business model changed from BTS to SLB, which means they need more OEM, site monitoring, and automation.

Whether the form of digitisation in question related to automation, drone use, digital twins, or something else, everyone in the group agreed that securing buy-in from the people whose day-to-day roles would be affected is the key to smooth adoption.

“When developing new processes, it’s important to involve colleagues from the outset, as they’ll invest in the success of the initiative,” says Kealan.

Prioritising digitisation projects can be tricky. Damien advises towercos to follow a six step process to help:

1 Assess the current business needs and identify areas where digitisation can improve efficiency and competitiveness. This can involve analysing current processes and systems, identifying pain points, and exploring new technologies and solutions.

2. Prioritise High-Impact Projects: This can involve assessing the potential return on investment, the level of difficulty, and the timeline for implementation.

3. Focus on Customer Experience: The customer experience should be a key consideration. This can include improving the customer experience through better communication and faster response times, as well as enhancing the overall user experience through the use of digital technologies.

4. Invest in Data Management: Data management is a critical component of any digitisation project, and towercos should invest in technologies and systems that can collect, store, and analyse data effectively. This can include cloud-based systems, data analytics tools, and machine learning algorithms.

5. Consider Integration with Other Systems: The digitisation projects should be integrated with other systems and technologies that the TowerCos are using, to maximize efficiency and minimize disruption.

6. Foster a Culture of Innovation: Finally, TowerCos should foster a culture of innovation and encourage their employees to embrace new technologies and processes. This can include providing training and support, encouraging experimentation and risk-taking, and recognising and rewarding success.

“By prioritising digitisation projects in this way, TowerCos can maximize the benefits and minimize the risks, and ensure that their business is well-positioned for the future.” Damien says.

Mohan agrees. “Conversion to a fully digitised operation is both time consuming and costly. As such the sequence of the digitisation program needs to be mapped with the company’s long range business plan. As there is no ‘big bang’ solution companies will need to prioritise revenue and cost drivers and then set about completing the digitisation of these processes in sequence and in alignment with their business plan.”

Working globally means dealing with myriad countries’ legislative rules, technological limits, and cultural considerations. “It’s easy to get bogged down in granular detail,” says Kealan. “So as an industry we need to keep it simple, demonstrate true value, and find solutions to these constraints.”

3) Changing Business Models

Delmec have noticed that the changing face of our industry is a popular topic at all of the telecoms events they have been a part of recently, so they weren’t surprised that Meetup Asia 2022 was no exception.

Damien Kelly, Head of Engineering and Innovation attended a roundtable that examined towercos and digital infracos. “Interestingly, both ATC and Crown Castle contribute about 15% to 20% of their top line to non-traditional tower leases,” Damien points out. “This is major as it shows a shift to small cell solutions in an effort to densify the network in urban locations.” These solutions can provide lower-cost options for coverage, preventing the ratio-related losses that a typical macro site might experience.

There are numerous challenges when it comes to operating these types of sites compared to traditional tower structures and towercos are aware that they need to do all they can to make new site designs just as profitable, and design them for multiple tenancies while ensuring maximum revenue and keeping the costs of deployment and ownership as low as possible.

“This is a complex issue” Mohan says. “No tower company has the perfect solution as of today. Provision of street furniture for urban densification depends on the availability of grid power or alternative energy sources, fibre connectivity and both government and landlord authority to occupy the site. The pricing of these 3 components and the CAPEX outlay would provide the numbers that the towerco needs to exceed to be profitable. The ability to share these sites and skill in negotiating the three cost drivers would be what’s required.”

Rural sites pose a different challenge, as the capex required makes them unattractive to many towercos.

“There was much discussion around potentially reducing the cost by not overdesigning the solution at the beginning, but having the option to upgrade when a second tenant comes onboard,” Damien recalls.

One of the benefits of gathering so many international delegates in one room is the opportunity to hear the innovations at play in different countries.

“One attendee outlined a government-backed scheme to push RAN-sharing in New Zealand, which allows a more attractive ROI,” Damien says. “Additionally, if an ultra-rural off-grid solution was rolled out, the towercos could train residents in the area to carry out general maintenance on the solar panels, further reducing the opex on the site. It makes for a very interesting proposition.”

Damien explains more about The Rural Broadband Initiative. “The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is a government program aimed at expanding broadband access in rural areas. The goal is to ensure that rural communities have access to high-speed internet that is reliable and affordable. RAN-sharing can help reduce costs for operators and increase coverage in rural areas, where it may not be economically viable for each operator to build its own infrastructure” he says.

“Rural areas in developing countries could benefit greatly from increased RAN-sharing, as it could bring affordable high-speed internet to remote communities that otherwise would not have access. If RAN-sharing continues to be a growing trend in the industry, towercos will need to consider several factors, most importantly their network needs to be flexible and scalable to accommodate different requirements and network configurations of different operators.”

“Also, it must be cost effective to be attractive. As the costs of new sites is ever increasing, and if regulators/governmental bodies enforce RAN sharing, towercos need to see a positive impact of their network rollout. The key to this initiative must be a mutual buy in from both sides.” Damien continues.

Valuable Opportunities to Learn

Delmec believe the biggest benefit of Meetup Asia 2022 is in its name: the opportunity to meet with colleagues, clients, and customers from all over the world. While our teams are always glad to be invited to share our knowledge, we also recognise that listening is as important as speaking.

“The organisers ensured there was a good cross-section of executives participating in the roundtables, discussions, and keynote speeches,” Mohan says. “This helped us gain important insights into the tower industry in Asia, including its pain points and opportunities for growth.”

“There is no doubt that the Delmec contingent contributed enormously to the discussions in Singapore,” Kealan confirms. “They collated, analysed, and shared on-the-ground experience that has real impact on the international telco stage. But we also returned with a clearer picture of how to put those skills and that knowledge to work in a fast-changing environment — in Asia, Africa, and beyond.”

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