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Elevating your Tower Portfolio: How Telecom Consulting Can Drive Business Growth and Success

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.

10 Business Areas Telecom Consulting can Impact Towercos

1. 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 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, 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.

2. 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 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, experienced 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 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 their towerco clients based on all the information they have gathered and the scenarios they are being exposed to.

3. Management across markets

With a focus on site profitability of the towerco business, telecom consultancy steps in to advise 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.

Consulting firms also play a crucial role in helping multi-country towercos optimize their operations across different markets. These firms are experts in their field and can provide valuable insights and recommendations on how to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase revenue through best-practice processes.

One way consulting firms can assist multi-country towercos is by conducting market research to identify trends and opportunities in the telecommunications industry. This research can provide valuable information on consumer preferences, market conditions, and regulatory requirements that can be used to inform business decisions. Additionally, consulting firms can also provide advice on how to structure and manage operations to meet the specific needs of different markets.

Another important area where consulting firms can help multi-country towercos is through their expertise in financial analysis. They can help identify cost savings opportunities and assist in forecasting revenue, as well as provide advice on how to raise capital and structure financing. Furthermore, they can also help with the negotiation and drafting of agreements, such as tower leasing agreements, with landlords and other stakeholders.

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4. Data-driven decision-making

Digital transformation 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 teams stay on 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.

In both scenarios, towercos need to understand how and which tools need to be integrated, and where specific datasets are mastered. For instance, site management tools typically are the master for site and asset data, while ERP tools are typically the master for materials, vendor information, and the financial ledger. Knowing how best to leverage the native functionality of various tools is key to setting up an efficient systems landscape.

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.

5. 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 active equipment, security, power equipment, etc. to enable better decision-making leading to sustainable growth and increased shareholder value.

Integrated customer portals can be used as a means of exchanging data and automating customer self-service. MNOs can use the portals to view information about their sites, place orders for new sites or upgrades, track the status of their work orders, and receive billing information. . Meanwhile, towercos can use the portals to provide customers with information about the towerco's site portfolio and to receive payments for the space that the MNOs lease on the towers.

This improves the customer experience and reduces the need for customer service representatives, which can be beneficial for both the towerco and the MNO. Additionally, this also helps the towercos to keep track of customer information and usage, allowing them to make better business decisions and provide better service.

6. 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 go green through minimized diesel consumption. With the costs of power and fuel for towercos running high at about 30% of the gross revenue, telecom consulting services can help guide 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, wind turbines, and solar power.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Using these inputs, the business processes are then picked up for digitalization. Business process automation frameworks enable speedy configuration of processes with role-based access, smart data forms with key informational fields, and SLA-driven milestones.

9. Change management

Consulting experts can advise towercos to adapt new tools and transition from Excel to online tools by identifying specific needs and goals, researching available solutions, recommending the best options, providing training and support for the new tools, and helping them understand how to import and organize data from Excel. Furthermore, consulting experts can help towercos by providing guidance on how to effectively use the new tools for team collaboration and communication, setting up shared workspaces and permission levels, integrating with other software and services, and providing best practices for remote teamwork. With the expert's guidance, towercos can streamline their operations, improve efficiency, and ultimately achieve their goals by utilizing the new tools.

Telecom consulting services can be offered to towercos in a variety of ways with respect to change management. Some examples include:

Strategy development, where consulting firms can work with towercos to develop a change management strategy that aligns with the company's overall business goals and objectives.

Identifying key areas of the business that need to be changed and developing a plan for implementing the changes effectively.

Risk assessment and management, which can help the company to minimize potential negative impacts of the change. Communication and stakeholder engagement, which is critical to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the changes and are on board with the plan.

10. 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 a 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.

Telecom Consulting: Rising to the Challenge

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 affects an ongoing process of providing strategic expertise to tower companies by designing solutions that are both cost and time-efficient, while successfully and sustainably increasing the rate of growth, shareholder value, and profit margins.

Moreover, as towercos are repositioning their goals from increasing the 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. Towercos are now open to adapting their solutions to the changing industry trends that 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.