• The TowerCo opportunity is no longer principally a real estate play, as traditional network operators work to extract value from physical network assets, and neutral infrastructure players grow and expand their ambitions.
  • Yariv Geller, CEO of AI‑powered asset digitisation solutions provider vHive, is certain that now is the time for TowerCos and MNOs to embrace autonomous digital twins as the key to unlocking a new level of economic worth, accessing previously hidden cost savings and new revenue drivers. He also presents hard cash evidence proving this.

vHive space analytics image

‘Show me the money’: vHive’s economic case for autonomous Tower Digital Twins

Source: vHive

Much has been said of the need for TowerCos to strategically manage and optimise their assets and maximise returns, with the evolving competitive landscape demanding swift and intelligent action to strengthen operational and financial KPIs.

Yariv Geller

Yariv Geller

Source: vHive

Financial markets can already be seen to be rewarding those who move faster and smarter.

Here’s the kicker: infrastructure operators now have significantly shorter journeys to higher earnings and growth, thanks to the automation, precision, and modelling capabilities introduced by the groundbreaking technology of digital twinning.

After a decade of tower digitisation, the time has come to clearly call out the economic value of ‘Tower Digital Twins’, where the latest technology provides the means to fine-tune assets more efficiently to benefit both top- and bottom-line performance. Digital twins offer a return on investment for infrastructure players, both through cost savings and revenue generation.

To provide a comprehensive picture of the impact for the telecoms industry as a whole, this article will consider the broader economic benefits that digital twin technology brings to the two major tower players — TowerCos and mobile network operators.

Digital twin cost savings there for the taking — from front line to back‑end…

As physical infrastructure asset owners and service providers, the cost savings open to TowerCos and MNOs from deploying tower digital twins are available across the systems and procedures intrinsic to running their businesses.

A seemingly mundane aspect where digital twins can pack a financial punch is in sparking a drastic reduction in site visits. Excessive field visits lead to substantial costs, including for skilled personnel and soaring insurance expenses, plus agonising delays in revenue generation. This also pressures scarce engineering resources, impacts operating expenditure, and endangers critical financial margins.

Digital twins mitigate these risks by delivering significant savings, including:

  • Improved data acquisition: inefficient survey methods often necessitate return site visits due to incomplete or inaccurate data. Climbers miss angles, manual drone pilots make errors, and adverse weather conditions contribute to the problem. Digital twins address these shortcomings by providing rapid, precise, comprehensive, and completely autonomous data capture that eliminates the need for repeat remedial visits.
  • Accurate bill of materials (BOM): field personnel arriving on site with inaccurate BOMs also leads to redundant and repeat visits, again increasing operational costs and delaying revenue. Digital twins provide the prerequisite, always up-to-date information required for equipment installation, reducing the occurrence of site revisits related to missing or incorrect data.

TowerCos and MNOs can also streamline back-end efficiency.

Traditional data gathering methods require meticulous manual work by skilled engineers and modelers to compile tower information. In contrast, the autonomous digital twin systems process can capture data from the field automatically, expediting the time from data gathering to creation of actionable insights. This leads to substantially shorter time‑to‑revenue.

Autonomous drones optimise digital twin data capture in the field

Incorporating AI-facilitated digital twin capturing technology can also drive significantly morecost-efficient field operations.

By combining cost-effective off-the-shelf drones with cutting-edge autonomous software, TowerCos and MNOs can eliminate the need for expensive professional drone pilots, reduce complexity of tasks for tower climbers, and optimise the frequency and efficiency of site visits.

Video: vHive Tower Digital Twins platform

Source: vHive / YouTube

Zoom in on any piece of equipment and explore it from multiple perspectives, sifting seamlessly through inventory analysis, inspection, and planning, to get the most comprehensive information.

Driving watertight revenue growth, faster

The financial potential of Tower Digital Twins goes beyond reducing spend on essential operations, also encompassing opportunities for infrastructure players to move the dial on revenue generation.

A quick win can be found in rectifying revenue leakage. Maintaining accurate records of equipment on towers is a persistent challenge, with discrepancies between actual equipment on the tower and recorded data resulting in lost income. Digital twins address this by ensuring accurate billing.

Leveraging digital twins can accelerate time‑to‑revenue. The process of co-location or equipment installation involves multiple steps, including site visits, data gathering, stakeholder communication, and approval processes. Delay in this workflow directly impacts time‑to‑revenue. Digital twins streamline these processes, ensuring faster deployment and quicker revenue realisation.

Digital twins have a key role to play in enhancing tenancy ratios. Understanding these is pivotal for TowerCos, and digitisation provides a comprehensive view of the metrics. This data informs tower value and strategic decisions, helping TowerCos optimise their assets.

Tower players can also benefit from digital twins through improved site marketing that crystallises their appeal to MNOs. They can showcase towers with precision, including coverage areas and competitive insights about neighbouring infrastructure. This detailed information simplifies the process of selling tower space.

Real metrics from vHive Tower Digital Twins

To underscore just how impactful Tower Digital Twins are as revenue drivers, consider a recent project in EMEA, where vHive’s solution unearthed 45% more equipment on surveyed towers compared to inventory records, resulting in a substantial uncollected revenue opportunity.

During another 2022 project in a Caribbean nation for a major US-based tower player, vHive’s digital twin system revealed equipment discrepancies so significant that they enabled the leasing department to collect an additional $1m (£822,000/€947,000) in just this single market.

With extensive experience in digitising tens of thousands of towers over the past decade, vHive has witnessed Tower Digital Twins reduce time-to-revenue by 80%, as well as accelerate tower selection, simulation, approvals, post-installation comparisons, and operational readiness from three months to just two and half weeks.

What’s next for Tower Digital Twins?

The financial benefits that digitising towers brings to the table today are already benefitting bottom lines. But this is just the beginning: we are only on the cusp of what this exciting digital revolution has to offer the telecoms industry.

Here is a glance into how we at vHive are already shaping the next generation of Tower Digital Twins to drive even more revenue and efficiency wins for both TowerCos and MNOs:

  • Self-service co-location: this is what we consider to be the “Holy Grail” in the tower sector — providing the ability to make any desired change on a tower in a self-service mode. The next step will be to further simplify the process of making changes to towers, enabling MNOs to easily request and secure quick approval for modifications through a precise digital model, including streamlining the change process.
  • Shifting from fault analytics to preventative maintenance: advanced analytics will provide increasingly dedicated insights for proactive maintenance, significantly reducing costs and pre-empting issues before they become critical. This shift in paradigm will empower stakeholders by having our system proactively tell them about a problem before they can even see it.
  • RF analytics: this type of monitoring will enable enhanced understanding of radiation patterns that will lead to better and faster planning of equipment installations, ultimately enabling MNOs to improve service quality.
  • Work verification: TowerCos and MNOs both invest in construction work on towers. By having the digital twin automatically compare between as-built and as-planned, both parties can ensure compliance and rest assured that construction work is aligned with agreed-upon changes.
  • Digital due diligence: as merger and acquisition activity continues across the infrastructure sector, digitisation opens opportunities for capturing site inventory quickly and more accurately.

Tower Digital Twins are both margin drivers and growth accelerators

Fundamentally, Tower Digital Twins are a growth enabler for TowerCos and MNOs.

For service providers seeking to expand profit margins while minimising capital expenditure, there is essentially no way of doing this at scale today without digitising infrastructure asset portfolios to the cloud.

Automating the entire tower management lifecycle, from survey to analysis, and planning to implementation, brings speed and dramatic cost reductions, while also unveiling new revenue opportunities in nearly every step of the value chain.

By revolutionising the entire workflow and making it digital, automated, and significantly shorter, digital twins reduce time-to-revenue to just a few weeks rather than a few months, turning the value chain from slow and complex to fast and easy.

vHive profile

vHive is a leader in digital twin software solutions, accelerating enterprises’ continuous digital transformation through data-driven decision-making. Its cutting-edge software enables clients to deploy autonomous drone hives to digitise field assets and operations. With a strong focus on uncovering new revenue opportunities, dramatically reducing operational costs, and enhancing employee safety, vHive is making a significant impact across multiple industries, including the telecoms sector.

With a dedicated digitisation software platform, vHive’s solution can orchestrate digital assessment of a broad range of tower types in a variety of locations, providing high-resolution images and 3D models that can be used to inspect, manage, and maintain critical assets. Key benefits for tower operators are said to typically include a 40% increase in surveying capacity, a 60%+ reduction in time spent in both the field and office on securing and assessing data, and a dramatic increase in employee safety — in addition to revenue-generating benefits.

Founded in 2016, vHive is a global player with operations across five continents and over 40 countries, and has raised $36.5m in funding. Learn more at www.vHive.ai.