February 20, 2024

TowerXchange MENA - new opportunities in a rapidly adapting market

Ani Chiuzan

Chief Marketing Officer

Having recently returned from TowerXchange MENA (Middle East & North Africa), it's clear this region’s telecommunications industry is undergoing a significant shift - all the while facing many of the familiar challenges experienced by other adapting markets around the world.

Overall, the MENA region is expected to see around 17% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) in mobile adoption over the next 10 years, and like many telecom markets, is experiencing rapid increase in demand for high-capacity networks. In MENA, we see this with the beginnings of 5G deployment and densification, driving demand for alternative site designs and smart city tower installations. This translates into an anticipated x4 to x5-fold growth in network power consumption over the same period.

But there was one conversation that dominated the exhibition hall this year - the emergence of truly independent TowerCos in a market typically dominated by MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) or MNO-backed TowerCos. TowerCos are not new to MENA, but the cultural shift towards the independent TowerCo model as the de facto route to network growth and management certainly is.

Part of this cultural shift includes embracing the multi-tenant model and moving away from the concept of a tower as the sole domain of a single MNO. At present the region has a tower-to-tenant ratio between 1.1 and 1.3, compared to a global average of 1.75. This shows there is significant opportunity for the MNOs and new TowerCos to tap into economies of scale, which will support both the investment needed for 5G densification as well as building momentum and justification for investing in the infrastructure needed for geographical coverage expansion.

Industry paradigm shifts such as this create both opportunities and concerns, and MENA is experiencing an influx of new entrants - agile, entrepreneurial, innovative - that will define new market dynamics with their tenancy and collocation models. Mindful of their emerging role as guardians of the region’s infrastructure portfolio, these new TowerCos are keen to embrace technologies and solutions that maintain or improve network resilience and drive operational excellence. They want visibility of their assets, insights into how they can be optimised for both cost and revenue and automated actions to ensure efficiencies at scale with minimised resource constraints.

With sustainability as the backdrop to many of the initiatives taking place in the region as well as consumer demand driving need for rural expansions, there is a concerted effort to lobby governments to extend the availability of grid power and reduce dependence on diesel generators. The consensus, however, was that the pace of network expansion would outstrip grid roll-out and that diesel reliance would inevitably still be a key component of building new digital infrastructure.

With that in mind – let’s go back to a statistic from the second paragraph – namely that there will be an estimated x4 – x5 increase in total network energy consumption by 2035. Given the growth of the market, and the anticipated roll-out of 5G, this is hardly surprising – but it is still a stunning increase in power demands over a ten-year period.

As architects of the industry’s first software platform designed to optimise tower network operations – reducing fuel use, finding hidden efficiencies, streamlining maintenance workflows, and cutting CO2 emissions – we had many conversations at the conference about how PowerX solutions can be a key contributor to the growth of this market. As new MENA TowerCos look to maximise the returns on their investments, all the while increasing service levels to MNOs and expanding network footprints, PowerX’s AI-driven analytics and data science tools uniquely lead the way in optimising their networks’ energy efficiencies. For one of the faster growing telecoms markets in the world, the potential of this exciting innovative technology couldn't come at a better time.

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