Towercos today are grappling with varying difficulties from different angles. Externally, as a supplier to the telecom industry, the increasing market size and the impact of 5G on telcos and internally, the if, how, and when of transitioning to digital and intelligent data management. In this ever-evolving, dynamic and ambiguous space, towercos can benefit from the external help that a telecom consulting engagement has to offer. For their complex operations, processes, and data management, towercos can leverage telecom consulting services to revamp their business processes, achieve operational excellence, and increase the value of their asset portfolios.
Telecom consulting revolves around providing knowledge-driven services to MNOs and towercos to help them improve their telecom site profitability and operational performance. Achieving this requires identification of their needs, and then advising and leading them to convert their business objectives into actionable plans through effective supervision, and technical and commercial guidance. This calls for working in close partnership with end-users to help mobilize their existing technology for their benefit which is powered by the consultants’ technical and industry expertise. In this blog, we highlight what a telecom consulting engagement for a towerco would look like and the different contexts in which it will help add value.
Telecom consulting services can be offered to towercos in the following contexts
- Operations management
Most of the operating costs for towercos revolve around the operations and maintenance of towers since they form a considerable part of their capital investment.
Telecom consulting services involve conducting effective due diligence on the health of assets, sites, and processes which consists of 3 prime steps:
- Checking if the towers are standing and operational
Do they have the means and provisions to function well on a day-to-day basis? Are they underperforming? Checking historical metrics to analyze when they were acquired and by whom, what assets are present on the site, the type of site, when were the assets added, if it has undergone breakdowns, and when.
- Checking if the towers have multiple tenants
Are tenant equipment and assets properly identified and serialized? Do the tower tenants bring the power of their own or does the towerco provide power? Is the towerco responsible for managed services on the site to conduct installation and maintenance of tenant equipment?
- Checking if the towers are revenue-making
Are the tenant services in accordance with tenancy contracts? Is the tenant equipment correctly charged?
Once the initial inspection of infrastructure, assets, and processes is complete, the existing business processes are reimagined to create a more agile and visual operating model to maximize profitability. Moreover, the telecom consulting teams can guide the towercos through the management of their ongoing and completed maintenance activities on the tower site and initiate and support the development of a site calendar that can keep track of all pending and completed maintenance activities.
- Financial information
Large banks with investment arms and consulting firms predominantly invest in the operations of tower companies and advise them on their business processes to increase the shareholder value. For banks, the due diligence capabilities are limited to financial transactions and they do not advise towercos on the technical aspects of their operations. However, these consulting companies design a process library after adequate due diligence. They can identify and highlight process improvements in commercial areas such as lease or contract negotiations to ensure better returns on investment. Once the analysis is done, the functions are required to be carried out in accordance with the processes defined in this library making it easier to automate the everyday operations thus, saving a lot of time and enabling commercial success. Consulting firms can also help in the decision of what tools would be the best to automate the processes for these companies based on all the information they have gathered and the scenarios they are being exposed to.
- Management across markets
With a focus on site profitability of the towerco business, telecom consultancy steps in to advise MNOs and towercos on how to manage, expand, and improve operations across different instances and operational environments. Consulting firms can provide additional help with transactions involving MNOs selling their towers, the towercos purchasing them, and the MNOs leasing space on them. In this case, due diligence is carried out in the context of the market and the operational improvement opportunities it offers.
- Data-driven decision making
Digitization of tower operations is done for the following two scenarios:
One, when tower companies do not have a system in place and rely on Excel and other offline files that involve manual processes to analyze the valuation and performance of their sites across geographies and the assets they own. The consulting process, in this case, involves advising the stakeholders about the benefits of transitioning to an automated digitized platform that can function/act as the single source of truth. This is done with the objective of bridging the knowledge gap that exists throughout the tower portfolio in terms of both assets and processes, thereby, helping towerco management team stay at the top of their game. Open frameworks offer the scope to share the asset and site-level data between the internal and external shareholders and towercos can be guided on the procedure to leverage that.
The second is when the tower companies are utilizing some tools for data management but they are scattered and usually not efficient. Telecom consulting can help with the optimization of the way data is handled and decisions are made with the use of these existing tools. Consulting teams can also advise as to which tool(s) would be optimum for a specific tower company, for resolving the challenges they are facing, or for providing better control over data and thereby driving intelligent and efficient management of assets and processes controlled by these towercos. Having asset and data management platforms that help you visualize your data can help to better track, understand and control it.
Empowering towercos and supporting them on their journey of data-driven decision-making is the rationale behind digitization and automated standardization that amalgamates information from discrete tools such as site management systems, remote monitoring systems, financial ERPs, warehouse tools, and more. This is done through working closely with the stakeholders at the towercos for their insights in addition to the continuous primary and secondary research that the telecom consultancy conducts independently.
Once the telecom consulting process helps the decision-makers at towercos to master the challenge of data accumulation and application, it increases business intelligence, helps provide a better quality of service for denser networks in urban areas, makes the procedure of adding assets and expanding the infrastructure effortlessly, and also makes the tower business a viable investment option for debt and equity investors. These data usage and process frameworks are however not set in stone and are adaptable to the changing business objectives of tower companies and industry regulations.
- Data sharing
Once the towercos’ data management is in place and key decision-makers have access to absolute, accurate, and visual data, telecom consulting services can also lead the way in smoothening the process of data sharing between towercos and its tenants to provide an absolute visual so that the partners, managers, and coordinators at both ends can track and understand the performance and value of an asset better in order to make data-backed decisions to achieve operational excellence and monetize the towers effectively.
Telecom consulting services can work in partnership with the towercos and MNOs to lay down a best-practice framework that permits aggregation and automation of the towercos’ data with that of the tenants or third parties that manage security, power equipment, etc. to enable better decision making leading to sustainable growth and increased shareholder value.
- Energy management
Because of the use of diesel generators, the energy consumption levels of towercos are quite high, and there has been a lot of public and regulatory pressure to minimize them. In addition to the energy consumption, even the costs of power and fuel for towercos can run high at about 30% of the gross revenue. Telecom consulting services can help guide the tower companies in effective energy management and controlling the associated costs. This initiative would also start with data collection, such as electricity bill readings, etc. of various sites and locations, and consolidation before analyzing the data to discover areas of energy wastage and reform the operational processes around it. Keeping in mind their commercial viability, tower companies can also be guided to explore alternative energy sources such as fuel cells and solar power.
- Preventive maintenance
Tower companies own and handle various asset categories such as power equipment, generator sets, HVAC systems, cabinets, and racks. This equipment undergoes wear and tear and needs to be checked and serviced on a regular basis. Given the complexity of each piece of equipment, they require customized maintenance based on their usage.
The efficiency of HVAC systems that are continuously being used gradually declines over time and can increase the utility costs if not maintained and replaced periodically but regular maintenance can delay the declining effects. However, power equipment or generators that are used sporadically can be sweated and may not require as much maintenance. Telecom consulting for tower companies can help collate the service and maintenance data for assets across sites, analyze it in coalition with the operational process data, and even automate the frequency of preventive maintenance services to ensure that the loss of operational efficiency due to assets underperforming or malfunctioning is kept at its minimum.
- Software implementation
Telecom consulting firms can not only guide towercos into selecting and purchasing the telecom asset management software, but they can also help with the training, product implementation, data migration, and integration with existing systems to ensure the processes align and towercos are able to make the most of their telecom asset management platform. The first step towards this is to conduct a comprehensive gap analysis to bridge the gap between best practices and processes to standardize the business operations of towercos across all operating markets. Consulting teams then help towercos to transition smoothly by migrating and validating the legacy data (offline to online) to ensure a clean repository of site portfolio data. Telecom consulting services can also advise on integrating data with third-party tools through enterprise service bus architecture and help develop a collaborative product roadmap that is towerco-led.
Telecom consulting can help towercos define their strategy on the following aspects:
- ICT system landscape: ICT is the setup consisting of data, hardware, software, and the people operating them. Telecom consultants help in integrating and automating other software the towercos might be using in the initial phases.
- Process landscape: Process consultants can ensure that the processes of the towerco align with and span across the software/ asset management solution and other business support systems they have deployed.
- Process optimization: Process consultants also help in redefining or re-engineering towerco processes for better outputs in terms of operation and asset management. Consultants provide suggestions on automating process workflows and also offer readymade and customizable process templates.
- Asset data management
Consulting and legal firms in the telecom space can guide towercos to make wise investments in their infrastructure and lead the decisions and financing of new asset purchases. However, from an operational standpoint, asset management for towercos is again reliant on effective asset data management of existing assets to maximize the cash flow from them. Telecom consulting can advise towercos on how to better track and understand their assets to eventually control and automate them. This process ideally starts with a time-consuming process of asset audit across sites and geos to ensure the data is both current and accurate. Once the data is in place, telecom consultants can step in to dissect the data to categorize the assets owned by towercos into those that generate revenue above or below their assigned benchmarks. Separate asset management strategies could then be formulated for these categories to ensure that towercos centrally have complete control over the assets they own irrespective of their location and can work toward maximizing the returns from every single asset.
When it comes to asset management, because of the increase in the number of variables, having a single view of all asset-related data that is also current and accurate can become complex and the need for a platform that can not only function as the single source of truth but also provide control and automation of asset management becomes imperative. In this scenario, telecom consultancy can also look into advising the towercos on the benefits and drawbacks of various telecom asset management platforms and guide them in picking the one that could benefit them the most and empower them to effortlessly manage an increasing number of assets over a period of time.
- Site management
Profitability at the site level is the predominant success factor for towercos. The objective of a telecom consulting firm is to reduce the total cost of ownership of these towers that can be done by attuning the site’s infrastructure to the tenancy ratio of that particular site, by properly maintaining the assets, and investing in equipment that can reduce the expenditure on fuel and power. Once the asset data sharing is in place, the diesel generators and batteries that are being sweated in a particular location can be swapped to a different site. Only an industry expert could provide this sort of strategic consulting to cut costs at the site level while maintaining quality and ensuring that there is no overlap in tower portfolios in certain regions.
Towercos can pick a circumstance mentioned above or a combination of them in accordance with their requirements. Since value addition is a requisite for the telecom industry, telecom consulting effects an ongoing process of providing strategic consultancy to tower companies by designing solutions that are both cost and time-efficient in order to support them to successfully and sustainably increase the rate of growth, shareholder value, and profit margins.
Moreover, as towercos are repositioning their goals from increasing tenancy ratio to achieving operational excellence, there will be a soaring demand for telecom consultancy and companies that can provide knowledge-driven solutions based on years of telecom industry expertise and are open to adapting their solutions to the changing industry trends will lead the way. Through years of advising and leading towercos to increase tower cash flow, these consulting companies in an already niche field have developed a rich database of case studies and expertise through working on and resolving complex tower operation problems and will go from strength to strength.