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!”