Delmec Connects, Digitally: Team Report from TowerXChange Meetup Asia 2021

The towerco industry is one which moves fast, with a constant flow of M&A activity, technological advances and regulatory changes.

That’s why here at Delmec, we work hard to make sure we’re fully up to date on our industry’s developments. One of the ways we do this is by taking part in global networking opportunities like the TowerXchange Meetup Asia 2021.

The event – which has been running since 2014 – seeks to ‘connect the Asian passive telecom infrastructure industry’, bringing together key representatives from the world’s leading tower operators, towercos, investors and suppliers. Delmec were represented on this prestigious stage by a team of experts, including our CEO, Kealan Delaney. 

Market Movement

“Meetup Asia 2021 is an important event for us, in part because it’s an opportunity to examine the major trends and challenges in the Asian market,” says Kealan. “With so much due diligence and towerco expansion in progress, it’s vital we keep abreast of the latest developments.”

Mohan Villavarayan, our Asia Regional Business Manager, agrees, pointing out that the extensive market activity involves not just ‘true’ towercos, but also those with investment fund majority stakeholders, leading to a difference in endgame and long-term views. “Where ROI is concerned investors have a mixed view on selecting a 5G focus versus a traditional portfolio with a mix of macro towers and street furniture,” he says. 

The team also heard much about major movement in the region, with Edgepoint setting its sights on the top two positions in the ASEAN market, and edotco planning for an expansion to achieve 70,000 towers by 2025 – including enlarging its footprint from eight to 10 countries. Developments are also afoot in Indonesia and the Philippines: “ATC is potentially looking to expand their Asian (or rather APAC) footprint from India and the Philippines to Australia,” Mohan notes. 

Increasing Data Demands

It’ll come as no surprise that a hot topic was the global increase in data demand – and the solutions proposed by the world’s leading MNOs. “Growing demand is positive for the industry”, ​​Damien Kelly, our Head of Engineering and Innovation reminds us, “although there are challenges involved in meeting customers’ needs.”  

Urban solutions are still a major focus for the Asian market, and there appears to be acceptance from local regulators around the placement of these poles, albeit with arguments related to height restrictions and alternative placements. Damien notes that many towercos are looking at alternative revenue streams to improve ROI, such as incorporating electric car charging, bin storage and CCTV hosting. “Both MNOs and towercos need to work with regulators to educate them in the technology which will aid the deployment and development of these solutions,” he says. 

Digitisation also presents an opportunity for tower owners to provide proactive digital twins, rather than the traditional interactive models. “Drones and apps are still being used collaboratively,” says Damien, “but discussions at the Meetup confirmed digitisation is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.”

A Greener Outlook

One of the main takeaways from the event was that sustainability is a growing focus.  Energy is still a major talking point,” Damien says. “With more and more towercos focusing on their carbon footprint, the industry is looking towards alternative, greener solutions to powering their sites.” Trust is key though, and Damien cautions that wind, solar and improved battery technology now needs major investment and large-scale implementation to prove their value.

Delmec’s Technical Engineer Nikola Erdelja led a related roundtable discussion on ‘Right-sizing infrastructure: Improving site design for greater ROI and sustainability’. The participants  examined what smaller, lighter equipment might look like in the future, allowing the addition of extra operators to existing structures without the need for strengthening, or the possibility of lighter and less expensive new structures in their stead. Recyclable materials were also discussed, as were plans to adapt to a changing climate; it remains to be seen if existing wind maps can meet the more extreme weather conditions that are emerging worldwide.

For CEO Kealan Delaney, an overarching theme of the event was how to increase data delivery in the region. “Our many discussions at this event proved what we all knew instinctively: the new global demand for data is not a temporary blip, but a permanent fixture,” he says. “This means that power management and new, innovative – and potentially actively shared – street, urban and rural solutions are vital.” 

Kealan was also buoyed by the superb feedback garnered by the Delmec team. “As always, I’m very proud of my colleagues, who ably demonstrated their exceptional knowledge and valued experience to key industry stakeholders,” he says. “It’s been great to close 2021 on such a positive note.”

The energy of TowerXChange Asia 2021 reflected the reality of the market today: busy, progressive, and ever-expanding – with Delmec front and centre.


The Future of Work at Delmec

Like most business leaders this year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of work. It’s become clear that workplace changes are no longer a temporary fix to pandemic-related problems: they’re here to stay, in one form or another.

We’ve been fortunate over the last two years that as a globally-active company, we already had a strong digital infrastructure in place. Our established business systems allowed staff to collaborate seamlessly and our tailored KPIs helped them demonstrate their progress, whether in our HQ in Ireland or any of our offices abroad.

However, working remotely has its drawbacks too, as most of us have discovered by now. Personally, I missed the opportunity to interact personally with my colleagues and team members – it’s harder to develop ideas when not meeting face-to-face. Building relationships with stakeholders, clients and partners is also more challenging than it was when I was flying around the world on a regular basis. Employee wellbeing is affected by the lack of social engagement too; there’s a lot to be said for those water-cooler chats on a Monday morning.

After all the upheaval of recent times, most companies are now settling into one of three different types of workplace organisation: a centralised, on-site workforce; a network of remote workers; or a hybrid ‘best of both worlds’ system.

A recent survey by Accenture showed that a majority of workers (83%) prefer the hybrid work model, and that’s the direction we’re taking at Delmec too. We’ve developed a remote working policy that promotes a certain amount of in-person time each week. We find that this is the best solution to ensure safety, offer flexibility and build a positive company culture. Much of our work can be done remotely, but it’s also very important to us that we facilitate social interaction and team development, as well as safeguarding and improving the wellbeing of our employees.

Those Accenture findings point to a number of efforts leaders can make to build a better future of work. These include designing work around people, building digital fluency and leading with humanity – helping to build a “a fail-fast culture of ongoing experimentation and improvement.” My background in engineering and training in Harvard Business School helps me lean into this approach, as I’m solution-focused, and not afraid to get creative along the way.

As a company, adaptation is something we’re familiar with in Delmec, as much has changed in our industry since our formation in the 1970s. We’ll continue to develop our remote working policy as we learn more about how to support our team members in this rapidly-changing environment. We know that the path to growth can be bumpy, with challenges related to communications, training and mindsets.

Experience has taught us that these can all be overcome by collaborating with our teammates, colleagues and partners – synergy shapes success isn’t just a company tagline, it’s a way of life here. Together, we can make sure the future of work is bright at Delmec.