Delmec in the Spotlight: TowerXChange Meetup Africa 2021 Team Reveal New Insights

One of the best things about our return to the ‘new normal’ is the chance to meet with international colleagues again – to share knowledge, learn from each other, and collaborate on key concerns for the tower industry.

This year’s TowerXchange Meetup Africa 2021 – held both online and in Dubai – offered just such an opportunity. The event attracted the world’s leading tower operators, towercos, investors and suppliers, including our own contingent of expert speakers from Delmec.

Delmec Stand at TowerXchange Meetup Africa 2021

Powering the Industry’s Future

“Meetup Africa 2021 is one of the most important events in our calendar,” says Delmec’s CEO Kealan Delaney. “It’s where we demonstrate our expertise, track the trajectory of the market and identify the key pain points of our client base.”

Our team found, through ongoing discussions and debates at the event, that the biggest pain points for towercos and MNOs in Africa are power and the need for rural sites. Sustainable sources and renewable technologies were much discussed, proving that investment in wind, solar and improved battery technology is needed. “We’ll use this knowledge to develop our strategies to assist infrastructure owners,” Kealan says. “We can help them to access, develop and manage rural sites and ensure they’re linked to dependable power sources.”

Upgrading and Upskilling

Damien Kelly, our Head of Engineering and Innovation moderated a panel discussion with Allan Fairbairn (Helios Towers), Mohammed Almuqbil (TAWAL), Salah Medawar (i-eng Group) and Spencer Crawford-White (NETIS) on technology upgrades, antenna evolution and tower loading and power draw. The panel contributed some interesting ideas about the future of rural towers, including an innovative tower design that would improve transport costs and can easily expand into a strong structure.

Delmec’s Damien Kelly with Mohammed Almuqbil (TAWAL), Salah Medawar (i-eng Group), Spencer Crawford-White (NETIS) and Allan Fairbairn (Helios Towers)

It’s clear that fibre is still a long way off in terms of rural Africa, with towercos still heavily focused on large macrocell sites, but Damien believes that “the future could see an active sharing network emerge, with the change from towerco to netco very likely.” Further partnerships on antenna design are predicted too, as the panel’s findings made it clear that vendors, operators and tower owners need to collaborate on future developments.

“This leads to people and talent development, with evolving technologies in an ever-changing industry,” Damien notes. “Recruitment and training will help us gain competitive advantage.”

M&A in the Region

Francois Pretorius, Delmec’s Regional Business Manager led a panel discussion on ‘the new South African towerco landscape’. The lively chat revealed new insights and confirmed that South Africa (SA) is still a key market for M&A. “It’s one of the biggest markets in terms of tower count,” Francois says. “It’s estimated that there are around 27 towercos in SA, with pension funds and investment companies actively investing with the intention of selling off the assets.” It’s been said that almost 75% of South Africa’s 25,000 tower network is set for offloading.

Damien Kelly agrees, noting that M&A frees up capital and changes the evaluation recognition by separating the MNO and tower element of an MNO’s business. “From conversations I had at the event, there’s a lot of finance available for African Towercos right now,” he says.

Delmec’s Experience and Expertise

Towerco attendee SBA, affirmed that the standard of a ‘good site’ still boils down to the same unchanged factors: unique locations, good contracts, multiple tenants and rational OpEx. It’s a simple formula, but one that needs to be managed carefully, given the investment involved.

This is where Delmec can add real value, Francois Pretorius points out, by providing engineering advice, technical recommendations and hard-earned experience in the region. “Our on-the-ground presence and cutting-edge expertise means that we’re well equipped to find innovative solutions to the region’s most commonly-cited challenges,” he says.

Delmec’s CEO Kealan Delaney is reassured that the African landscape is bright for the towerco industry. “TowerXchange Meetup Africa 2021 made it clear that growth on the continent hasn’t faltered, with increased M&A activity and rapid site development.”  The event also proved that Delmec has much to offer in this fast-moving environment. “I’m proud of my team, who shared their expertise and experience in the African market by leading panels, participating in roundtables and engaging in conversations with key stakeholders from all over the world”, Kealan says. “We’ve been operating in Africa for more than ten years, and look forward to growing our presence in the region for decades more.”

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