Connected Communities: The Real Impact of What We Do Every Day

A couple of years ago I found myself in a local cab, bumping along in Nairobi’s noisy traffic. Like most taxi operators, my driver was happy to chat — to me in the backseat and to his family on his phone. He flicked back and forth between kids’ smiles on Facetime, the flickering lines of Google Maps, and the regular beeps of incoming fares.

When we reached our destination and I began counting Kenya Shillings, he passed his vibrating phone back to me. “Just tap,” he said. “It’ll be easier.” Such technology wasn’t widely used in Irish taxis yet, so I asked him about it. “My phone is my life,” he explained. “My family, my job, my income, my travel, my bank, my school, my everything — it’s all in there.”  

Getting out of the car, blinking into the blinding sun, I realised that this is what we do. All the meetings I attend, the plans we draft, the towers we build and the clients we serve — it’s all for people like my taxi driver, so that he can access the world from the palm of his hand.

Connecting communities

Interestingly, much of our work tends to take place in very different environments. We’re often to be found developing streetworks in major cities to expand networks or overseeing the construction of towers in rural settings to tackle blackspots. All of our work is rewarding, but we’re particularly heartened when we play a part in bringing internet access to a new town or village in Europe, Africa or Asia.

This has so many potential benefits. It can reinvigorate rural communities; bring more educational facilities to remote students; offer new employment and business opportunities to low-income areas; and help families separated by distance to stay connected to their loved ones and their cultures.

Pandemic pressures

The need for this kind of connectivity became more acute than ever three years ago. Remember binge-watching Succession in March 2020? You weren’t alone: in fact, internet usage rose by a staggering 70% worldwide in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It wasn’t just about TV, either. Researchers from Digital Planet found that greater access to high-speed internet actually reduced COVID-19 deaths in the US, saying that “the internet may have been even more important in the pandemic than initially understood — for some, it was literally a matter of life and death.” This, Bloomberg says, “underscores the importance of digital connectivity for public health.”

This makes me all the more proud of my Delmec teams — scattered all over the world, they rose to the immense challenge facing them and played a vital role in keeping the world turning.

Access for everyone

This period taught me that telecommunications is a little like plumbing. It’s a highly complex system that operates quietly in the background, barely noticed while it works well. It’s only in times of pressure, when a pipe bursts or a network gets overloaded, that we realise how crucial such infrastructure is to our modern way of life — and what a mess we’re in if it’s fails.

Sometimes I need to remind myself of this, especially when I’m on my way to the airport in the wee hours, catching a flight to some far-flung site. It’s in those times that I think of my taxi driver in Nairobi, and remember the purpose behind our work. It’s about connecting people, families, communities, and even entire countries — and for me, that’s reason enough to bounce out of bed every morning and get to work.


Delmec in London: TowerXchange Meetup Europe 2023 Report

This year’s TowerXchange Europe saw the team stay close to home, with a quick trip across the Irish Sea to London.

The annual Meetup welcomed all the leading figures in the region’s industry, including MNOs, towercos, investors, regulators and suppliers. Although it is the second such event since the pandemic, it was for many the first time back in a room with close colleagues from neighbouring countries. “I missed the last Meetup in 2022,” says Delmec CEO Kealan Delaney. “So it was really great to see old friends, including participants from the main towercos Cellnex and Vantage.”

Discussions ranged from various project updates to digitisation and the ever-relevant streetworks. The team shared many learnings, and came home with a lot to think about, much of which they summarised here.

A fast-moving market

“The towerco market in Europe is reasonably new,” points out Orla Kane, Chief Commercial Officer, who was part of the Delmec team in attendance. “Most of the major players — Cellnex, Vantage, GD Towers, PTI and ATC — are new to the region or the result of consolidating assets.”

This led to a certain ‘back to basics’ approach to the Meetup, in which discussions centred on build-to-suit (BTS), co-locations and managing the value of assets. “Cost savings and efficiencies are evidently important,” says Orla. “For some of the participants, moving into active products seems inevitable, while others are more focused on building the core.”

Kealan Delaney agrees: “The big priorities are building more sites to generate revenue as well as developing more co-locations.” Central and Eastern Europe was heralded as the “next market” although it was acknowledged that it has a higher risk profile than Western Europe.

Future focus on ESG

Environmental, social, governance (ESG) strategy and the use of green energy were also part of the agenda, not least because of their association with efficiency. For example, Vantage have developed their first wooden tower, with plans for more.

“Cellnex spoke about ESG underpinning the base of connectivity,” recalls Orla. “Community criteria for investment is very much evaluated against ESG requirements with stringent reporting needs. We wondered if perhaps there is a role for TowerXchange to work with towercos, i.e., compiling information and standardising KPIs?”

While this remains to be seen, it was clear to all participants that ESG will play a major role in towerco activity in the region for years to come.

The fading appeal of digitisation

Once the leading topic during many TowerXchange events, it seems that the development of digitisation has been put on the back burner for now.

“Digitisation is great as a concept,” points out David Kilbride, Senior Key Account Manager at Delmec. “But it lacks industry direction and full end-to-end management of sites, assets and inventory.”

He believes digitisation will likely reappear and gain a foothold again when the industry matures, but for now it needs standardisation (and buy-in) to make it a reality. As part of a topic titled ‘Europe’s Digital Decade’, participants looked at not just digitisation, but also the associated IoT, sensors, drone nests and edge computing. It was obvious, though, that the appetite for its development had waned.

“Everyone seemed somewhat jaded when it came to digitisation,” Kealan agrees. “For now, it’s probably wise to limit its use to projects which demonstrate an immediate payback.”

Streetworks a continuing priority

A key part of Delmec’s services, streetworks continue to be a major focus within (and without) the towerco world. During a roundtable discussion, participants discussed how to build a business case around streetworks that would make it easier to sell the product to MNOs. Other opportunities in the area were also suggested, including rooftop replacements and the contribution streetworks can make to the development of smart cities of the future.

“While the need for streetworks is clear, ongoing challenges remain as roadblocks to progress,” Kealan says. “These include ownership of the proposed site; issues with existing client contracts; MNOs’ reluctance to share equipment; and a certain mindset around the project that hinders growth in the area.”

Current projects were discussed at length, in particular new efforts to connect the Czech Republic and Germany, which may give rise to further innovative streetworks solutions.

Every discussion demonstrated how integral Delmec’s role is in the region’s growth. “It was a great opportunity to build and enhance our relationship with key stakeholders and decision makers in the European market,” says David. “It was evident from all our interactions that Delmec is seen as a solutions generator, not just a run-of-the-mill service provider.”

“That’s what sets us apart,” agrees Kealan. “It’s our ability to build on previous experience, draw on our current knowledge and innovate new solutions to future challenges.” Delmec is here for the long-haul, helping to support new and existing clients and shape a new industry from the ground up.

“It’s exactly the same service we offer all around the world, it’s just nice to do it in our own backyard for once!” laughs Kealan. “It all helps to keep the airmiles down!”