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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.

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