Telco Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is affecting every industry, and the Telco sector is no exception. Digital transformation describes an all-encompassing shift from legacy methods to leading-edge technologies through operational approach, data management, service delivery, and client engagement.

But what does digital transformation mean for tower companies, sometimes referred to as telcos? And what steps is this industry taking to stay competitive in the digital age?

Keep reading to learn more about the key aspects, technologies, and practices transforming telcos — and the benefits they provide.

What Does Digital Transformation Mean for a Telco?

Digital transformation is a broadly used term found in almost any industry. What does this term mean for tower companies?

Telcos strive to modernize and update various aspects of their physical assets, which are then leased by customer-facing mobile telecom operators. Without the right tower technologies and capabilities, mobile operators won’t be able to offer the best services to their customers.

Transformation for tower companies focuses mainly on enhancing the following:

  • Network infrastructure: Telcos strive to increase both capacity and availability by updating to the latest technologies and tools.
  • Operations: Operational efficiency can be significantly increased by adopting autonomous drone technology, AI, and cloud-based backend technologies.
  • Customer service: For telcos, mobile telecom operators are the customers — meaning calls and inquiries need to be addressed quickly; otherwise, end users may be affected. Digital transformation introduces several ways to improve the customer experience.

The driving force behind digital transformation is the need to remain competitive in an ever-evolving telecommunications landscape. Tower companies that embrace digital transformation become more efficient and competitive, while those that don’t may fall behind.

What does this look like for the rest of the telecommunications industry? Digital transformation for telcos allows mobile operators to improve their services’ quality and expand to new markets. A few of the critical services being affected by digital transformation technologies are:

  • Voice
  • Video
  • Texting and rich text messaging
  • Networking and Internet access

Offering the highest quality and reliability possible to end users begins with tower companies digitally transforming their operations.

What Technologies Enable Digital Telco Digitalization?

Technology is at the heart of any digital transformation. The core technologies and resulting solutions powering telco transformation are:

  • Digital twins: A digital twin is a comprehensive virtual map of the physical infrastructure of towers operated by the telco. These twins can enable effective maintenance, help understand the causes of outages or service degradation, identify potential revenue drivers, and provide simulation of changes on the towers. Both tower companies and mobile network operators can benefit from digital twins.
  • Smart Tower Technologies: Towers can now have intelligent monitoring systems that leverage real-time analytics to help predict maintenance needs, monitor structural integrity, and autonomously optimize energy consumption. These technologies can go far in providing high uptime ratings and service continuity.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML): We’ve seen how AI and ML have impacted almost every industry in recent years. For telcos, ML algorithms can identify important parts in historical data to predict hardware failures or find ways to improve performance.
  • Energy management: Effective energy management is essential and valuable for telcos, as better managing energy cuts costs and possibly emissions. Tools are available to help optimize power usage, switch to backups or renewables on demand, and maintain better energy efficiency.
  • Tower-as-a-Service (TaaS): New platforms allow telcos to evolve existing business models into TaaS, strengthening the ability to service multiple tenants simultaneously to increase revenue. For example, mobile operators, ISPs, and broadcasters can all use the same tower with the TaaS business model that leverages software to intelligently manage services.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT devices can significantly improve the infrastructure that powers telecom services. New levels of data can be generated for analysis, while alerts can be triggered whenever an unexpected outage occurs.
  • Big Data: Telecoms can leverage more data than ever with ML models to produce actionable insights to inform business decisions. A telecom company can analyze Big Data to understand network traffic and user behavior for improved services, or harness Digital Twin platform to get a comprehensive view of the entire portfolio’s condition and potential revenue.
  • Cloud computing: While not the newest technology on this list, cloud computing still profoundly impacts telcos’ services. Companies can now access data from anywhere in the world and get real-time information from web-based platforms.

Key Steps of Digital Transformation for Tower Companies

Towers companies need to take a long-term approach to digital transformation to benefit from offering improved services. Every company’s digital transformation steps will look slightly different, but we can give a high-level overview that applies broadly. Typical steps include the following:

  1. Planning and assessment: Begin by thoroughly understanding your current capabilities, infrastructure, and processes. Then, set specific objectives describing the technologies you need. You’re then able to create specific milestones to get from your starting point to your objective.
  2. Upgrading infrastructure: Modernizing your infrastructure to support advanced technologies is vital and may be the most time and resource-intensive step in your transformation. The goal is to enhance capacity, connectivity demands, offer 5G services, and improve data handling technologies.
  3. Data and IoT integration: Collecting and centralizing data is a crucial element of most telcos’ digital transformation. The towers themselves should be equipped to collect and transmit a wealth of data via IoT devices. You may also wish to integrate additional third-party data about regional conditions or industry-wide information to advance services further.
  4. Implementing automation and AI: Machine learning, AI, and Big Data can be leveraged to automate or simplify a range of repetitive tasks telcos need to handle frequently. For example, AI can create predictive maintenance models to prevent degradation and extend the lifespan of each tower.
  5. Updating customer service methods: New technologies can accelerate responding to and servicing customer inquiries. This step may include revising maintenance and inspection methods using digital twins and autonomous drone software to respond to customer requests rapidly.
  6. Continuous improvement: Digital transformation is never truly over. Once you achieve your objectives set out in step one, you can consider this specific campaign complete, but continuously reviewing and improving services as technologies evolve is essential.

Business Benefits of Telco Digital Transformation

Companies that adopt the right technologies can reap the benefits in several powerful ways. These benefits translate directly to offering better service to mobile operators, reflecting on the end users.

So, let’s explore some potential benefits tower companies, mobile operators, and end-users may experience after digital transformation.

Provide a Better Customer Experience

Adopting the above technologies can quickly improve the services provided to customers.

For example, telcos can use ML and Big Data to identify areas in the network that are underperforming, even if they’re not triggering outage alerts. Then, technicians can analyze and correct the performance problems to increase the quality of service to customers previously affected by it.

Enable Data-Driven Insights

We touched on data-driven insights earlier, but how do those insights look in practice? There are several ways telcos and their customers can benefit by analyzing massive amounts of data with machine learning algorithms:

  • Helping planning to expand coverage
  • Enhancing strategic development
  • Understanding how to provide better services to existing customers
  • Allocate budgets with a precise understanding of current usage and needs

Ultimately, unlocking data-driven insights is an essential goal of many digital transformation campaigns.

Cut Costs with Automation

Autonomous drone technology, AI and machine learning also enable a new level of automation. Everything from tower inspection and analysis, network monitoring, equipment discrepancies assessment, to structural engineering approval processes can become significantly more efficient with automation.

The result of pursuing opportunities to automate repetitive tasks is cutting costs throughout your operation while likely providing end users with a better experience. Automation will look different for many companies, but once the right tools are in place, there are plenty of opportunities to automate tasks throughout the organization.

ng wind turbines effectively, industry professionals play a vital role in the sustainable and clean energy revolution, ensuring a consistent source of renewable power for generations to come.

What is Wind Turbine Maintenance?

Wind turbine maintenance is a critical aspect of ensuring the efficiency and longevity of wind energy installations. For professionals within the wind turbine industry, this process involves a comprehensive set of activities aimed at keeping turbines in optimal working condition, especially as turbines are frequently exposed to extreme weather conditions that further contribute to wear and tear.

Below are some of the key challenges and strategies for cost-effective maintenance.

Once a wind farm is built, it must maintain critical components to maximize output and extend longevity.

The core components of a wind turbine that require frequent maintenance are:

  • The turbine blades
  • The nacelle
  • The hub

Additionally, onshore towers house computer controls and power cables that require inspection and maintenance. Offshore towers are similar but have more complex foundations to add to the inspection list.

Common Wind Turbine Maintenance Issues

What are the most common maintenance issues wind farms face?

  • Manufacturing defects
  • Process control
  • Storm
  • Grid
  • Ice
  • Lightning
  • Loosening of parts

Many of the above issues can be kept in check with routine inspections and maintenance. Technicians and engineers will be able to know when simple maintenance can prevent issues or when it’s time to call in the OEMs.

Environmental causes can also be mitigated by adopting leading-edge maintenance strategies that use the right tools and systems, like vHive’s digital twin and drone inspection software.

Challenges with Conducting Wind Turbine Maintenance

All equipment requires inspections and maintenance, but wind turbines present unique challenges to stay aware of, including:

  • Wind farms can be in remote locations or spread out over a large land holding or offshore
  • Lack of appropriate data to predict maintenance
  • Not enough personnel with the training necessary to conduct maintenance
  • Needing to respond to unexpected downtime and unscheduled maintenance
  • Inspections and maintenance become too costly, often due to poor inspection processes and maintenance scheduling
  • Inspection of turbines often carry safety hazards associated with climbing

Overcoming these challenges is crucial to the successful operation of a wind farm, and it involves using the right strategies and tools to manage wind turbine maintenance costs. This means effectively catching potential issues before they escalate and cause more expensive problems.

Key Wind Turbine Maintenance Strategies

There are several strategies for wind turbine maintenance, many of which leverage leading-edge solutions that enable rapid inspections or generate more data to drive maintenance decisions. Let’s explore the core maintenance strategies and how they can enhance maintenance for your operation.

1. Predictive Maintenance

One of the most effective strategies is predictive maintenance, which has higher wind turbine maintenance requirements to adopt and enact. This strategy helps prevent breakdowns by leveraging data analytics, IoT and AI to predict problems before they occur.

You’ll need to use the right tools to benefit from predictive maintenance, such as digital twins, rapid autonomous drone inspections, and IoT devices. From there, the right solution can analyze a wealth of data to determine when maintenance will likely need to be performed.

2. Preventative Maintenance

This maintenance strategy is a time-honored method of scheduling routine inspections, and the replacement of critical components like bearings, gearboxes, and blades before they fail. This proactive approach minimizes costly downtime and repairs.

Since wind turbine blades are highly susceptible to wear and damage, this strategy calls for skilled technicians to perform regular cleaning, surface coating, or even replacement to maintain optimal aerodynamic performance.

3. Unplanned or Corrective Maintenance

When an issue already occurs, corrective maintenance is crucial. Teams are tasked with diagnosing problems and conducting repairs promptly to minimize production losses. This often includes fixing electrical, mechanical, or structural components. From there, technicians can ascertain what needs to be repaired to return the turbine to ideal performance.

As advancements in wind turbine maintenance and inspection technology continue to emerge, wind farm owners and maintenance stakeholders implement automated inspection technology such as vHive’s autonomous drone inspection technology and Digital Twin analytics, to enhance their turbines’ efficiency, reliability, and energy production.

For the latest insights, best practices, and technological advancements in wind turbine maintenance, stay connected with our platform.