Delmec: The truth behind your assets

What you need to know about whose equipment is hanging on your towers, and how safe they are

Read this article to learn:

  • The most common hurdles faced by tower owners in terms of updating and maintaining an asset register
  • How to bring an asset register back up to 100% accuracy
  • How and when tower portfolios should be audited
  • The benefits of portfolio certification to investment, expenditure and business development

With asset registers incomplete or out of date in many parts of the world, tower owners are getting a shock when it comes to the capacity of their structures, the safety of the sites and, most shockingly, the legitimacy of the hardware hanging from their towers. Spencer Crawford-White from Delmec talks us through some of the major challenges tower owners face in managing their assets and how a tower portfolio can be brought back into line.

TowerXchange: Tell us about Delmec’s current footprint and key markets.

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

Our company is based in Ireland, with operations in Africa, Asia ,UK, Europe and the Middle East. Projects in North and South America are growing at present with Central America, India and Western Europe also markets of interest for us.

Our core offerings are centred around our highly skilled technical team who are totally telecoms focused. Our core offerings include:

– Portfolio assessment & management;

– Structure refurbishment solutions;

– Technical due diligence;

– Structural engineering and design;  

– Design & supply of structures;

– Training & certification;

– Installation & project management services.

TowerXchange: What are the core capabilities which Delmec offers to the tower industry?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

The assessment and certification of structures and people is our core capability – it’s what we do best. Our services have all been designed around supporting our customers’ needs and requirements. There’s a certain synergy and efficiency in what we offer – we’re not the cheapest but we are the  most  cost effective when we combine all our offerings together for our clients.  What we offer is the means to get the job done right first time and reduce timescales allowing sites to support additional equipment quicker, which can have an enormous revenue benefits.

We recognise the value of utilising local resources, it is inefficient to fly direct resources to the field for day to day maintenance and survey works so we have developed dedicated courses where we train and certify local contractors to our recognised standards. Increasing their quality assists us by improving the quality of the site data received. Site data is collated into TiMs our custom in house software system that allows management and sharing of site data with our team and clients.

TowerXchange: Where does Delmec see the biggest growth in the tower industry taking place over the next few years?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

The African market needs to build more structures for network in-fill but the headache of leases and planning isn’t interesting to an MNO. Towercos are more focused on the infrastructure and are well positioned to offer large scale build programmes to support MNO expansion plans. Overall the global market will move towards the independent towerco business model, meaning you’ll have infrastructure owners and MNOs totally separated. Tower networks have been traded for over 20 years now, but I think towercos are now doing it on a greater scale than before. Post the down turn investors are more cautious and are looking to place money in secure tangible assets with recurring revenue from blue chip customers.   This is fuelling the tower portfolio industry and Delmec are well positioned to advise and support clients when buying or upgrading these assets.

TowerXchange: Given Delmec’s track record in auditing asset registers, what would you say is the most common problem which towercos and MNOs face in creating and maintaining accurate asset registers?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

Globally, maintenance and inventory records are not well maintained and verified. Every single company we’ve spoken to has issues with asset data around both the active and passive infrastructure. They have an idea of what they have on their asset register, but this rarely has the detail of what they have in each location from a safety or structural perspective. The more we’ve gone to Africa and started helping, the more interest we’ve had from their European counterparts, which leads us to believe that even assets there don’t have as good a set of records as possible.

Maintaining site data generally is a big issue globally both in terms of the structure and recording what’s on it. Most site providers that we do physical reviews for are surprised by the equipment on their towers. There are huge implications for lost revenue and also significant safety concerns if you don’t have a handle on what’s hanging on your towers. Unregistered equipment hanging on towers is a huge loss in terms of revenue and capacity.  It’s mostly down to poor record keeping but there’s also the odd opportunist – smaller radio broadcasters or broadband microwave solution companies who might have reached a private arrangement with the land owner where the site is located. There are also instances of unapproved power connections, which of course is the biggest cost to infrastructure managers in Africa due to the lack of reliable grid provision.

TowerXchange: How would you go about rectifying problems with an asset register?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

The main reason we’re employed is because at the starting point, towercos often struggle to align the recorded data they received with what is on the ground. They’ll do an audit on 10% of the proposed sites before an acquisition and ask questions like can you get there? Is there a tower? Has it got a fence and does it look okay? No other information comes back, not even photos in most cases. When we go out we’ve often got nothing beyond co-ordinates and a theoretical size of structure. They might have pictures of 10% of the towers if we’re lucky, we help them assess every tower and ensure collection of a complete active and passive data set for every site.

How do we rectify problems? Initially we carry out a Red Amber Green (RAG) report of the portfolio, which guides and prioritises our action plan for the sites. We train and certify local contractors and employees to survey the sites. The data gathered is fed to our in-house team who create an analysis and design solution for each site.  Reports are tailored to suit our customers’ needs from basic summaries through to full rectification instructions and bills of materials.

Part of our solution is to arrive at a certificate of conformity when we know 100% that the site is okay. We will give clients a report detailing what and how to improve, then we will sign off on a local contractor for them, then certify the structure on a scale from ‘gold’ to ‘white’. For gold certification we go and inspect the site ourselves, silver is checked by one of our approved contractors, bronze is certified by the client’s contractor and for white certification the client details what they have done and we take their word for it. Unsurprisingly everyone wants gold level certification once they have committed the time and funds to the upgrades. They can take the certificates to the bank for investment for the future as our certificates are well known in the market.

TowerXchange: So tell us about the full benefits of certification?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

A reduction in insurance premiums, ability to increase borrowings, getting a higher (and more reliable) calibre of customer. MTN, Tigo or Vodafone want to protect their network and they’re looking for something of this standard, which is important to ensure their SLAs are met. It’s also very useful for further investigation – we receive a 40% return rate of business, so having that data in our system means it can be very quick for us to help customers know how they can maximise their assets.

The site owner is responsible for safety and security of the site, whether they are independent owners, towercos or mobile network operators, certification gives them peace of mind.

TowerXchange: Who should use an asset register auditing service and why is it important? When is it most effective to review an asset register?

Spencer Crawford-White, CTO, Delmec Engineering:

Commercially, of course, it’s critical. Maintaining an accurate asset register is critical when aiming to maximise a tower portfolio’s earning potential and capacity.

Accurate asset registers are also important for safety – keeping an accurate accident register is vital. Commercially, of course, it’s also critical.

When should they be reviewed? If you look at the standards there are significant variations across the type and location of a structure. Yearly inspection should really be the norm, but certain clients could see that every couple of years is enough. Some might leave it five years but in our experience it’s a lot cheaper and more effective to keep on top of problems as they arise than to wait for something serious and risk having to make major repairs or even replace infrastructure.

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