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How Infrastructure Management Can Facilitate Digital Transformation

By: Ulrich Schalling

Although towercos are relatively new to the mobile and wireless industries, they are playing an increasingly important role: they are needed to roll out 4G and 5G network upgrades. These sites are complex, and their resources must be properly managed to fulfill their purpose of broadening the reach of mobile networks. A properly managed towerco is capable of not only planning and executing rollouts but also streamlining ongoing operations. As towercos expand their presence and importance in the industry, they need to fully understand what’s required to manage tower sites and infrastructure.

Digital transformation is forcing change, and, like other businesses, towercos must be prepared to adapt as needed. Implementing the right technology at towers today will allow them to accommodate the new requirements of the future. The ability of a towerco to deliver quality service while keeping costs low and customer satisfaction high is completely dependent on how it manages site infrastructure. This will be the key to longevity and profitability in a changing digital world.

Managing Tower Site Information to Streamline Processes  

While a tower site and its infrastructure are intertwined, it’s wise to look at them separately from an operational perspective. Site management encompasses a broad range of activities, but all share the same basic principle of documentation. The first activity is candidate selection, during which a vast array of diverse information is collected as the towerco researches potential sites. This real estate and facility documentation must be stored in a content management system, similar to how technical information about infrastructure assets and resources is documented. Storing real estate and facility documentation in a software system streamlines decision-making and makes environmental permit tracking actionable. It also makes it possible to ensure planned milestones are hit and to ensure regulatory restrictions are honored.

Once the site is selected, planning and rollout of site infrastructure assets occurs. These activities must be managed properly, and they require a well-structured process flow and coordination between all involved parties and subcontractors. Once a site is operational, ongoing management of its assets and space become a top priority. Each site has many diverse assets to manage, including but not limited to generators, UPS, PDU, CRAC or CRAH air conditioning units, CCTV and access-control devices, poles, rooftops, antennas, radio units, BBU equipment, routers and OTN devices. The only way to keep track of and maintain the functionality of tower assets is to know exactly what you have. That means documenting them in a comprehensive database and having processes to keep the data current at all times.

As towers are multi-user and multi-tenant, it’s important for towercos to assign assets and equipment to specific tenants. These assignments should then be documented in the central database. In terms of space, the towerco must know how many racks and cages its site supports, assign them to tenants, and know at any given time how much space is used versus what is available. Space usage diagrams are a beneficial tool for analyzing and reporting on used, free and reserved space, both in aggregate and by individual tenant. These are only available when there’s an underlying database in which the detailed site-specific information is properly documented.

A common theme emerges among these different facets of tower site management: All require a way to keep track of and make specific information actionable. Towercos can borrow principles from data center infrastructure management to address this need. Any DCIM tool relies on a database of documented assets in the facility to manage space, power, cooling and connectivity. What towercos need is a software system that expands this functionality to include all assets, resources and information, across all operational areas. Managing tower site information in such a unified way streamlines all processes. A key feature to look for in a management solution is therefore a single source of truth data repository that crosses operational boundaries.  

Industry Connections: Data Centers

Traditionally DCIM is not on the radar of towercos. However, every tower and rooftop needs sufficient power, cooling and space to operate, and these are the fundamentals of DCIM. The ideal towerco management software should therefore have DCIM functionalities that make it possible to efficiently manage the space, power and temperature of towers, similarly to how it manages those elements in a data center. In terms of temperature management, the only difference between towers and data centers is that tower sites are smaller and cooling needs are limited.

Once tower assets and resources are documented within a central data repository, users will then be able to view the tower’s as-is space usage in various graphical representations—and see at a glance what space is being used, what is committed, and what is available. If power cabling and circuit breakers are also documented in the database, towercos will also have information about provisioned versus consumed power and power capacity readily available. The ability to monitor power consumption per tenant is also key to determine pricing and ensuring SLAs are met.



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