The Economic Value of Digital Twins in Telecoms: A Game Changer for TowerCos and MNOs
Digital twin technology, a revolutionary force in the telecom sector, is redefining the operational landscape for Tower Companies (TowerCos) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). This technology is not merely an innovation, but a game-changer that offers a dual economic advantage: cost reduction and revenue enhancement.
By creating a virtual mirror of physical assets, digital twins dramatically reduce the time and frequency of site visits, improve maintenance processes, and enable productive remote collaboration, leading to significant cost savings. Simultaneously, they improve billing, enable better tower optimization, and pave the way for novel services and business models, thereby boosting revenue.
The combined effect of these benefits is a compelling value proposition that is hard to ignore: it is increasingly clear that TowerCos not leveraging this technology may find themselves struggling to keep pace in this rapidly evolving industry. In a recent article on Telco Titans, vHive CEO Yariv Geller underscored the significance of digitizing infrastructure asset portfolios. Below, we outline what Geller calls the “hard cash evidence” of the value of digital twins.
The Economic Impact of Digital Twins on TowerCos
The deployment of digital twins by TowerCos and MNOs, as physical infrastructure asset owners and service providers, leads to significant, measurable cost savings across various business operations.
One significant area where digital twins can yield financial benefits is by drastically reducing the number of site visits. Frequent field visits for tower maintenance or cell tower inspection result in considerable costs, including those for skilled personnel, high insurance expenses, and delays in revenue generation. These visits also strain engineering resources, affect operating expenditure, and threaten crucial financial margins.
Digital twins can alleviate these issues by offering substantial savings in the following areas:
- Enhanced Data Acquisition: Traditional survey methods and manual drone cell tower inspections are often inefficient, leading to repeat site visits due to incomplete or inaccurate data. Issues such as missed angles by climbers, errors by manual drone pilots, and adverse weather conditions exacerbate the problem. The right digital twin platform can overcome these challenges by offering rapid, accurate, comprehensive, and fully autonomous data capture, eliminating the need for repeat visits.
The use of autonomous drones has dramatically changed data capture in the field. By integrating AI-enabled digital twin capturing technology, field operations can become significantly more cost-efficient. The combination of affordable off-the-shelf drones with advanced autonomous software allows TowerCos and MNOs to eliminate the need for costly professional drone pilots, simplify tasks for tower climbers, and make site visits more productive and efficient.
- Precise Bill of Materials (BOM): Field personnel often arrive on site with inaccurate BOMs, leading to unnecessary and repeated visits, thereby increasing operational costs and delaying revenue. Digital twins can provide the necessary, always up-to-date information required for equipment installation, reducing the need for site revisits due to missing or incorrect data.
Unlike traditional data gathering methods that require extensive manual work by skilled engineers and modelers to compile tower information, the autonomous process of digital twin systems can automatically capture detailed data from the field. This accelerates the transition from data gathering to the creation of actionable insights, leading to a significantly shorter time to revenue.
The economic promise of Tower Digital Twins extends beyond curtailing operational expenses. It also presents myriad opportunities for infrastructure entities to augment their revenue streams.
- Revenue Leakage: One immediate advantage lies in addressing revenue leakage. The ongoing challenge of maintaining precise records of tower equipment often leads to discrepancies between the actual and recorded data, resulting in revenue loss. Digital twins tackle this issue head-on by ensuring accurate billing.
- Co-Location Process: Digital twins can also expedite revenue generation. The co-location or equipment installation process involves numerous steps, such as site visits, data collection, stakeholder communication, and approval processes. Any delay in this workflow directly affects the time to revenue. By streamlining these processes with a sandbox environment allowing multiple stakeholders to collaboratively plan changes on the tower, digital twins facilitate quicker deployment and faster revenue realization.
- Tenancy Ratios: Digital twins play a crucial role in boosting tenancy ratios as well. For TowerCos, understanding these ratios is essential, and digitization offers a holistic view of these metrics. This data aids in making strategic decisions and optimizing assets, thereby enhancing the value of towers.
- Site Marketing: Tower entities can further leverage digital twins to enhance site marketing, thereby increasing their appeal to MNOs. They can accurately showcase towers, including coverage areas and competitive insights about neighboring infrastructure. This granular information simplifies the process of selling tower space, making it a win-win for both TowerCos and MNOs.
More Advantages for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)
For MNOs, digital twins offer the same opportunities to lower operational costs, as well as meeting some of their specific needs for realizing increased revenue. In addition to streamlining co-location processes, reducing time to usable insights and lowering site visit costs, digital twins can help MNOs:
- Enhance Network Coverage: By autonomously capturing RAD (level) and compound data and leveraging AI-powered analytics to elevate the equipment layout on the tower, MNOs can achieve a precise inventory analysis. This optimization of network coverage ensures peak performance, all made possible by a robust digital twin platform.
- Accelerate 5G Expansion: With a robust digital twin platform, MNOs can effortlessly customize and optimize their tower equipment. The multi-versioning simulation allows for flexible planning scenarios, thereby accelerating 5G expansion efficiently.
Case Studies and Real-World Success Stories
The benefits of digital twins extend beyond theory, as demonstrated by numerous case studies and practical examples. Claims of cost-savings and boosted revenue are substantiated by real-world numbers and tangible outcomes.
For instance, one TowerCo managed to decrease operational costs by 15% and boost revenue by 10% within the first year of deploying a digital twin platform.
In another vHive project in the EMEA region, a client was able to discover 45% more equipment on surveyed towers than what was recorded in inventory records. In a Caribbean project, the greater accuracy of inventory enabled a company to amass an additional $1 million in a single market.
These examples clearly illustrate the significant financial advantages of implementing digital twin technology. Digital twins are not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have technology for TowerCos and MNOs hoping to thrive in the competitive telecom market.
This digital transformation promises to make the entire tower management lifecycle faster, easier, and more cost-effective. Tower Digital Twins are not merely margin drivers; they are growth accelerators, propelling the telecom industry into a new era of unprecedented prosperity. As TowerCos and MNOs continue to embrace digital twins, the industry is on the brink of a transformative era where efficiency and innovation converge to shape a more prosperous future.