Delmec in Dubai: TowerXChange MENA 2022 Report

This year’s TowerXchange MENA gathered together MNOs, towercos, investors, regulators and suppliers from all over the world to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the region.

Leading industry figures were in attendance, including representatives from TAWAL, Zain, IHS Towers and our own experts from Delmec. Taking place in Dubai, the event offered a valuable chance for colleagues to catch up while sharing knowledge and insight – and a little Middle Eastern sun.

Topics ranged from megaprojects and smart cities to digitalisation and cost optimisation. Now that our team are back at their desks in much-chillier Carlow, they’ve been sharing some key takeaways from the event.

M&A Movement

Much discussion centred on new M&A interest in the region, which has, until now, seen low penetration rates. “Towercos currently own just 14% of towers in MENA, but 40.3% in Sub Saharan Africa and 70% in Asia,” says Damien Kelly, Delmec’s Head of Engineering and Innovation. “Although MENA ranks low, there is a lot of opportunity in the region.”  He predicts that we will see the emergence of new towercos, particularly in countries such as Pakistan, but is cautious about the route to site growth. “While M&A is the quickest option,” he says, “build-to-suit (BTS) is still the most cost effective.”

Orla Kane, Head of Sales and Marketing, reports that key drivers of this new boon in M&A activity in MENA include positive regulation, new market entrants and technology advancements such as 5G and drone use. “That said, there are challenges too,” she says, “and power and energy are chief among them.”

Power & Energy

A core focus in global telecommunications is the environment and climate change. Most major companies in the industry have sustainability targets, and are increasingly relying on renewable energy to meet them. “MNOs and towercos need to deploy sustainable power solutions like solar, wind and green battery technology,” says Francois Pretorius, Delmec’s Regional Business Manager. “But the investment required is significant.”

TowerXchange facilitated a focus session on energy strategies (hosted by Delmec advisory board member Chuck Green) and a roundtable discussion on energy solutions and cost management. An ongoing concern is rising energy requirements from advanced technologies: it was noted that 5G could increase the power draw from site to approximately 30kVa in some cases. “Participants made a number of suggestions such as active sharing to reduce the load or incorporating renewable solutions to reduce the cost, although the key takeaway was that a collaborative approach is needed to tackle these issues,” says Damien Kelly. “This will require MNOs, towercos and equipment manufacturers to work together to reduce the power draw.”

Managing Megaprojects

Future predictions are always popular at TowerXchange events, and MENA 2022 was no different. Damien Kelly moderated a panel on supporting MENA’s leadership in digital infrastructure megaprojects. These could include smart cities, sports arenas, holiday resorts and international airports. “The discussion highlighted interesting points about infracos,” Damien recalls. “The panel spoke about their route to market, the contracts that govern their network management and how starting from scratch can change the dynamics for their business model.”

Attendees did point out that there is much to do in terms of technology rollout to support and sustain megaprojects like this. “The Asia region mirrors the mobile landscape of Africa where there is still some catch-up needed in terms of mobile penetration and 3G / 4G,” says Francois Pretorius. “With demand for coverage growing it’s likely we’ll see significant organic BTS growth in the area in the coming years.”

Áine Kenna, Delmec’s Sales Development Manager, echoes this, recalling that “towercos are responding to high demand in Pakistan with a BTS rollout program of 1,000 new sites per year on average.”

From Telco to Netco

Damien Kelly was a busy man in Dubai, as he also moderated a roundtable on towercos transitioning to netcos, with input from regulators and owners alike. “The session highlighted that to facilitate this transition, MNOs will need to delegate a number of control mechanisms to towercos, something that may be difficult in certain markets,” Damien notes. “In addition to this, MNOs will then be forced to expand their offering to maintain market advantage.”

For Áine Kenna, the discussion showed that MENA is a region that enjoys a strong relationship between MNOs, towercos and regulators. “All three are aligning with the same goals,” she says. “We could learn much from how they support the region in achieving the balance between demand and fulfilment.”

That opportunity to learn is one of the real benefits of international events such as TowerXchange MENA 2022. Our team is highly qualified, experienced and talented, but also dedicated to expanding their knowledge through communication and collaboration with industry partners. That’s how we deliver an unrivalled service to our clients and customers all over the world. Synergy does indeed shape success, whether in rainy Ireland or sunny Dubai.

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