Enabling Connectivity for the Future
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Having bolstered its range of integrated telecommunications infrastructure services with the addition of value-add services, Southeast Asia’s tower services expert, edotco is carefully balancing its desire to expand with a desire to constantly innovate; evolving beyond a traditional tower Company with a focus on creating its own reliable supply of power to remain competitive in a rapidly growing market.
A series of strategic tower acquisitions since inception in 2012 has resulted in edotco taking ownership of more than 15,000 towers, including around 2,200 new towers built in 2015 by the Company across its five countries of operation - Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Pakistan – representative of edotco’s position as a leading pan-Asian tower services provider.
Suresh Sidhu, Chief Executive Officer of the Company recalls: “edotco has evolved from a concept into a reality; with tower assets in multiple countries and a range of end-to-end solutions for the sector today. It is our ability to adapt and keep up with the pace of the industry that makes us stand out from the competition.”
With a whole range of tower-centric services spanning infrastructure, power, energy sourcing, operations and maintenance and monitoring services, edotco’s offering covers the full spectrum of tower needs, tailored to tackle various country and environment-specific challenges.
The Company’s recent drive to secure a reliable supply of power to its towers has proved to be a strategic move towards achieving long-term operational efficiency. “This is just one step that makes our towers more attractive and we hope this will facilitate increased tower sharing possibilities,” Sidhu adds.
Sustainable tower solutions
Heading into next year, edotco’s expansion strategy is very much focused on continued investment in its value-add, tower-centric services, including power infrastructure and new technologies designed to boost efficiency. “The vast majority of our ongoing projects are a result of our pursuit for operational excellence and investment in our brand, which affects how we are perceived in the market,” says Sidhu.
Coupled with its commitment to provide the best service uptime to customers, Chief Sales & Corporate Affairs Officer, Wan Zainal explains that edotco’s monitoring solution, echo is a step in the right direction. He explains: “echo is an automated remote monitoring system for all passive tower infrastructure; comprising power, security, fuel, battery life, temperature, alarms and any other key aspects that can have an impact on service levels.
“From our centralised echo Centre, we can proactively monitor each site via a remote monitoring unit (RMU) in real time, intelligently gathering data, resulting in cost-saving problem resolutions while minimising dependence on manual field operations.”
To make the project a reality, edotco worked closely with telecommunication and industrial power expert, Orissa Wicomm (M) Sdn. Bhd; a Company who shares edotco’s long-term view of creating sustainable power solutions through its offering of renewable energy and RMU capabilities.
Moreover, many of the markets in which edotco operate face the challenge of an unreliable power supply and by leveraging its close relationship with regional partners, the Company is ensuring that it meets its energy efficiency targets across its tower infrastructure; thus reducing operational expenditure and passing the savings onto the customer by reducing total cost of ownership.
He further notes: “We are well placed to help our customers reduce cost to maintain their profit margins. This involved tackling the common problem of energy shortages by investing in more innovative and sustainable power solutions, including exploring avenues in renewable energy.
“Moving into the power space will provide access to different clients in new geographies, providing our teams with experience in new markets. Given the increasing trend for multi-service companies, it is often expected of us to provide the power infrastructure as well as the tower, and our latest investments in this area are enabling us to do this.”
Additionally, edotco is continuously looking for ways to re-evaluate the design of its towers to ensure they can be tailored for a specific site, alongside a specific energy system; including the roll out of a camouflage design and BTS hotel in Malaysia. “Our multi-service approach will help to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for the customer, while increasing network uptime,” Wan Zainal adds.
Equipped with this all-encompassing solution approach, edotco is now assessing opportunities in new geographies starting with Myanmar earlier this year; acquiring a 75 percent stake in an indigenous tower company. “Going forward, we will be very much focused on operationalising this and aligning the new business with our own strategies and solutions,” he details.
With this new expansion, edotco has the potential to surpass the 16,000 tower mark, further emphasising its leading market position in Southeast Asia.
Building a culture of delivery
Throughout its history, edotco has placed a concerted focus on its people in terms of both training and recruiting the right person for the job. “This is something we remain very passionate about and hope to continue selecting, where possible, local people into a melting pot of multicultural diversity who will ultimately benefit the Company and its future development goals,” Wan Zainal adds.
Subsequently, edotco employees embody the customer-centric core principals and aspirations, helping to bring the best products and solutions to market, that meet the changing customer needs in telecommunications solutions.
Sidhu explains: “Our people set us apart from traditional tower companies; they represent a critical aspect of value creation in our ‘economies of skill’ approach to business. We can leverage our pan-regional approach to build a culture of delivery and continuous innovation for our customers.
“This is just one of the reasons why we intend to put in place the relevant certification trainings so that there is a clear, industry-recognisable, standard that we adhere to.”
A customer-centric focus stretches throughout edotco’s partner development programme, which ultimately attracts best-in-class and likeminded international partners who are also eager to encourage improved connectivity, better energy solutions and new expansion opportunities. “We also look for local partners and vendors where possible to not only encourage local development and training, but to garner a better understanding of each country we operate in,” he adds.
One such international partner is 9 Dots Consulting, who is working closely with edotco to deploy a new central enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for the Group to be put in place in January. The solution will drive faster internal decision-making, improve workforce productivity and lower the cost of the Group’s ongoing IT expenditures. “So far, our partnership has been successful and we hope their good work continues long into the future,” says Wan Zainal.
Aligning with the country’s vision of achieving a technologically advanced nation by 2021, edotco Bangladesh (BD) has focused on harnessing the potential of renewable technologies and sustainable energy monitoring solutions to support the growth of its business across both rural and urban geographies.
“Bangladesh is a nation developing at a steady pace, and our current investments follow our continued commitment to the country’s communication needs; having invested US$180 million in the past year,” explains Darryll Sinnappa, Manging Director, edotco Bangladesh.
Offering the same level of reliable and high quality integrated telecommunications infrastructure services Group-wide - including built-to-suit end-to-end solutions, co-locations, energy, operations and maintenance (O&M) and remote monitoring via its echo system - edotco BD is to invest a further US$100 million over the next two years to scale-up its already prominent local profile to remain ahead of the competition.
“Currently edotco BD has more than 7,000 towers in its portfolio throughout the country, covering the seven divisions, 64 districts, 533 thanas and 4,575 unions. We are proud to have expanded to the most geographically-challenging locations, becoming the first to build towers in locations such as remote islands in coastal areas, border sites, hill tracts and so on,” he adds.
“In order to realise the dream that is known as ‘Digital Bangladesh’, it is a high necessity to preserve energy. This is something which edotco BD is focusing on by harnessing the potential of, and disseminating renewable energy technologies,” says Sinnappa. “Solar technology, lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines and intelligent cooling systems are just some of the products we have introduced to the market, and we hope to play a big part in the future, throughout the nation.”
Real-time monitoring via the echo system is one of edotco Group’s exclusive services, and is also the first of its kind to be provided to the tower services sector in Bangladesh. This technologically sophisticated system can monitor fuel levels, temperature, energy consumption, power systems, environmental conditions and other variables; addressing them before any cause for alarm occurs. “Our system is value-based, as opposed to the traditional alarm-based systems, which provides more value to our customers,” he further notes.
Building technical competence
In a developing nation such as Bangladesh, strategic investments and monitoring of trends are two crucial factors that dictate future expansion. Therefore, edotco has to make sure that its investments facilitate the demands of the steadily-emerging middle-class and support pro-growth policies implemented by the Government.
“We would like Bangladesh to be considered as our base for building technical competence across edotco’s entire regional footprint,” says Sinnappa. “By deploying a set of sustainable core competencies which derive from both our unique products and internal resources, we will make sure the relevant differentiators are in place to retain a competitive advantage. For example, in terms of our people, we will continue to maintain our current development programmes to enhance and optimise the nation’s resources.”
Adaptability is another core competency in edotco’s repertoire that shows the Company’s ability to adjust and continually monitor its business performance, without jeopardising the accuracy and the quality of the overall procedures. “Adopting new technologies that maximise operational efficiencies, such as the echo system, adds incremental value to achieving the nation’s dream of a digitalised Bangladesh,” he details.
The Managing Director summarises: “By continuing to increase the number of tenancies, to maximise economies-of-scale, edotco BD is targeting an overall boost to its performance to ultimately obtain the number one towerco position in the country.”
Driven by its continuous aptitude for improvement across the board, edotco has spent a considerable amount of time optimising the design of its towers and internal support processes with the ultimate goal to provide a better product to the customer.
Wan Zainal outlines: “Going forward, we hope to acquire new customers, create an even stronger customer-centric mindset in our customer-facing staff; while continuing to bring new and innovative solutions to a growing number of countries.
“Moreover, edotco wants to play a key part in opening up opportunities for tower sharing across Southeast Asia, which will demonstrate our keenness to create quality partnerships and work in tandem with others, while remaining competitive in terms of our multi-service approach. In Malaysia, we have just launched our first multi-tenant cellular-on-wheel under the brand name, edotco Mobility Solution eMOS.”
Sidhu concludes: “Ultimately, we are targeting a multi-service, tower-centric approach without losing focus on the customer as the end-goal. Offering an all-encompassing service was a logical step for us to be able to expand the business and keep adding solutions to our portfolio; offering a total service solution while continuously innovating and working on continuous improvement to make a continued impact across the countries in which we operate.
“Customers change and we need to adapt to that, hence our approach to value-add and our keen focus on sustainable energy solutions; which will also come into play in terms of our CSR focus heading into 2016.”
Group-wide CSR in 2016
In 2016, edotco is to adopt a Group-wide corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme; primarily drawn from its growing expertise in energy solutions, which will become the focal point for its investments in the local communities. “It is important that we address the wider challenges within each country that we operate through utilising our skills in telecommunications and the associated industries to make a big impact. Up until this point, we were involved in CSR on an ad-hoc basis and we are very pleased to now be evolving further into this space by channelling our excess energy generation back to the community,” highlights Wan Zainal.