How you do anything is how you do everything

Italian firm Ascot brings innovation, experience and passion to revolutionise energy solutions

Read this article to learn:

  • Ascot’s journey in revolutionising energy solutions
  • Ascot’s new E3 program for the telecom industry
  • Who are Ascot’s customers in Asia and worldwide
  • Why the ESCO model is the future of the industry

Ascot is an Italian manufacturing company that operates internationally in the power energy sector. Ascot is mainly focused on the production of diesel generating sets, hybrid technologies and power plants designed in accordance to the customer’s specifications and varying climate conditions. Its products are manufactured in Italy and made of the highest quality European materials. To-date, it has more than 34,000 installations worldwide across multiple sectors including telecoms and oil and gas. Read on to find out how it has stepped up to client challenges to deliver innovative and proven solutions that keep off-grid and unreliable grid sites running.

TowerXchange: For our readers who may not be familiar with Ascot, please tell us about the company.

Dr Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

I am pleased to introduce Ascot Industrial SrI, an Italian company with a presence in 59 emergent countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific and the Americas; a long, winding and successful path that started 30 years ago and carried out with the passion, enthusiasm and determination of the whole team. Since 1986, Ascot has been one of the world’s leading suppliers of customised high efficiency energy products, hybrid power plants and diesel and gas generators.

TowerXchange: Why is Ascot considered the pioneer of the advanced tailor-made AC generators and the “father” of hybrid technologies? And how does it fit today into the telecom ecosystem?

Dr Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

We entered the telecom market in early 2003 by chance as we were engaged in a big EPC power project in Sudan.

We were summoned for consultancy by “Mobitel” (today Zain) as their off-grid generators were not functioning at all due to the high operating temperatures. Immediately, as we were approaching their telecom site in the desert, we identified the harsh environment as the key reason why generators failed, even before seeing them. In fact, using a standard generator in the desert is like going off road with a city car instead of using a 4×4 car.

In order to solve the problem, we analysed several factors and discovered the inefficiency of the entire power system that was designed by just adding components which were immediately available in the market off the shelf, without any specific engineering study; the telecom site was made of one or two diesel generators with a separate fuel tank of 1000 litres, separate ATS and with service intervals to be done every week as the generators needed to function 24/7. Furthermore, in order to install the entire system, civil works were required to build three platforms to allocate the fuel tank and the two generators plus all the cabling and piping connections.

In March 2003, Ascot made the first revolution in the telecom industry by starting to offer a plug-and-play box capable of functioning for up to 41 days without stopping independently from fuel, oil and service interval – we called it the first SWAP “from standard DGS to advance tailor-made DGS.” This began a new era: an all-in-one box housed the diesel generator, the 1300 litres fuel tank to guarantee fuel for 41 days, the integrated control panel and ATS to prevent the sand from blocking the contactor, the automatic lube oil system to avoid the weekly service interval and the automatic dummy load to prevent the damage of the engine when the load was so low after peak to start the air conditioning of the indoor shelter.

The systems were all ready to work as a plug-and-play solution in 30 minutes, situated on two concrete slabs removing costly and laborious civil works. The high-quality products were the result of Italian design and engineering coupled with German technology. Above all, as the result of extensive R&D, Ascot designed the first Remote Management System (RMS) to control the performance of the diesel generator.

With this SWAP, the telecom operators made a substantial reduction in capex costs as the civil works together with the additional cost of transportation, procurement of components and installation were reduced to minimal, while the opex got a huge reduction as the service interval, 5x less (one visit in 41 days compared to a minimum of five visits in the same period for the standard DGS).

The Ascot products were the most demanded products all over Africa as unique solutions.

It took ten years for our competitors to understand what was inside the Ascot magic box and to try and copy our inventions, while advertising it as something innovative.

On June 27, 2007 Ascot made the second telecom revolution designing the first hybrid in the world of the telecom; we call it the second SWAP “from advance tailormade to hybrid.”

On that date, I personally visited Khaled Pervez in Bahrain and at that time he was managing the whole network of Zain in Africa and his big concern was the huge fuel consumption of the diesel generators operating in his network; while I entered into his office he said to me “Mike, as you are the power specialist, please find an engine with low fuel consumption.“ While I was trying to explain that the fuel consumption is directly linked to power, he stopped me saying “Ok, then please invent a diesel generating set that gives power even when the engine is switched off.”

At that moment a project done some years before related to the construction of huge battery chargers (900 KW – 2000 Amps DC) to charge the mega batteries of the submarines came to mind: then the idea of creating a hybrid system was born. We just needed to replicate the technology of the chargers on a smaller scale.

On November 7, 2007 the first prototype of hybrid units was deployed in Sudan replacing existing gensets running 24/7 with the first Ascot Hybrids.

Despite the great result achieved in Sudan, Khalid Pervez considered the Ascot Hybrid as a prototype and not a product ready to be mass deployed in the market so he challenged Ascot again requesting to deploy another twelve samples for all their operations in Africa. It was a painful journey and a lot of money was invested in the project. We learned on the field and each single hybrid was followed by an Ascot engineer that fixed errors in real-time and reported to Ascot factory; an online guidance between field and company that brought the project in three years to an advanced stage until October 2010 when Vodafone group entered into a deal with Ascot.

In October 2010, Vodafone Group’s innovation center (Johannesburg) was searching for a proven hybrid solution with at least three years testing on field and apparently Ascot was the only choice. After six months testing in Durbans (South Africa), they adopted the Ascot Hybrid at group level and a FWA was signed and Ascot started the first massive deployment of hybrids in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

In 2011, the world of telecoms started to talk about hybrid and Ascot already had five years of proven experience ahead of any other company.

From 2011 to 2014, Ascot continued to deploy hybrid solutions to the market becoming the pioneer of the hybrid solution and once more, as it had happened in the first SWAP, all the biggest competitors started to attempt to copy Ascot’s solutions without great results, as they could attempt to copy the concept but never the spirit and the soul with which the hybrid was born.

Today many hybrids are available in the market, but no one has fifteen years of field-proven experience and results that make the real difference between one hybrid and another. Today we sell actual performance and not just promises and we have solid performance tables built on real numbers and tracked via our RMS.

Since the last two years, the Ascot hybrids have been successfully installed successfully in North America and ready to change and positively influence a new big market as the United States and Canada with innovative solutions always one step ahead.

TowerXchange: Based in Italy, the company has expanded globally to serve customers worldwide. Specifically, what have been some of your activities for Asia?

Dr Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

The innovative telecom products became the Ascot trojan horse and thanks to them, the Ascot brand became recognised worldwide thanks to the recommendations of our satisfied customers. In addition, I was motivated to personally kick start each and everyone of our 59 current operations and today with an active park of 34,000 installations worldwide, I am proud to have contributed to emissions reduction worldwide.

Ascot hybrid power systems in telecoms have a successful and documented track record, capable of reducing fuel use by up to 78% against customer baseline at sites with 2kW loads and up to 98% when adding an alternative energy source such as PV panels or wind.

Activities in Asia started in early 2011 with Tower Bersama in Indonesia and continued in the Philippines. We also went on to become the best products in Myanmar with Ooredoo and Telenor both choosing Ascot as their preferred partner in the country.

TowerXchange: What do you see MNOs and towercos struggling with the most when it comes to their energy requirements? 

Dr. Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

The MNOs and towercos must consider the energy requirements as the heart of their system, as without power they cannot run the show. They must trust companies that have a proven reputation in the market and with clear commitment to performance. They must be able to put precise numbers in their P&L, numbers that only proven products can guarantee.

TowerXchange: We understand Ascot is launching a new program for the telecom industry which is very exciting. Can you share the details with us and how this concept came about?

Dr Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

Yes, the new Ascot E3 program for telecoms acts at two levels: one is represented by telecom operators and tower operators, the other one is what we can consider “corporate social responsibility,” so it is about people (mainly villages). We called it E3 because the keywords are:

EMPOWERMENT: For tower operators, more products, tools and models to maximise efficiency and increase savings; for people it means energy ready for utilities and fitting with their demands.

ENVIRONMENT: For tower operators, products and system based on hybrid technologies, batteries and fuel reduction; for people it stands for silent batteries, able to reduce environmental pollution (low carbon emissions).

ECONOMY: For tower operators, a product to reduce costs for fuel, maintenance and using also natural gas/LPG; to people it means energy for utilities, at the right price for value considering they are mainly generated using renewables sources (sun and wind).

To each of those categories, we have developed innovative products, which cannot be disclosed at this point, however will be presented at the Mobile World Congress 2018 as the third revolution in telecoms.

TowerXchange: Looking forward, how do you think energy and network requirements will evolve, whether from a business case, regulatory or operational perspective? 

Dr Michele Greca, CEO, Ascot:

The ESCO model will be the future. The goal of telecom operators is to generate profit from phone calls and to gain more market share; to do so they need to have a reliable network operating at lower opex.

The phone call tariff and the revenues generated by the operator have a direct impact on the opex, in fact only with lower expenditure and reliable service operators will be able to decrease the call tariff and acquire more subscribers or simply generate more revenue. In this context, the traditional model and focus of low initial capex is shifting to capex+opex. All in all, this leads us to one word only and that word is ESCO.

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