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By transposing digital twin technology to telecoms, Axians can help its clients to standardise and optimise the way in which they market their infrastructure.

Axians has been expanding its expertise in the field of telecoms infrastructure for many years now. Today, our business is facing a new generation of players: TowerCos. Originating in the US, these finance companies have built a business model that involves acquiring passive infrastructure (towers) from traditional mobile network operators (MNOs) then leasing it back to them so that they can install their antennas on it. In the space of a few years, some 60,000 assets (pylons, rooftop installations, water towers, etc.) have been taken over in France by five firms: Cellnex, Totem, TDF, American Tower and Phoenix Tower.

Before signing 12, 15 or 20-year leases with France’s four MNOs, the TowerCos appoint companies like ours to assess the mechanical resistance of each asset, list space availability, validate compatibility when adding or changing active equipment, and so on. This project management work involves a number of phases: performing studies then the design; taking photographs; developing drawings, design calculations and quotes; then finally launching the works. All of these stages are essential and sometimes require more than 10 visits to each site by our teams and subcontractors.

Consequently, it takes considerable time to market infrastructure. It’s the ultimate “first come, first served” market. MNOs, which are subject to nationwide coverage and competition requirements, must race to be the first to install their antennas on towers. As for the TowerCos, it’s in their interest – if they want to ensure their model is profitable – to have multiple tenants for their infrastructure. Ideally, they should host the four operators on each tower.

A unique solution to speed up processes

So how can processes be accelerated? At Axians, we’ve been working hard to find a way to do this for a year and a half. We’ve now come up with a solution called (R)Evolution that is unique in its comprehensiveness and level of technological quality.

In partnership with Pix4D, a Swiss company specialising in photogrammetry-based digital modelling, we transposed digital twin technology, now widely adopted in the building industry, to telecoms infrastructure in order to build a software package that reduces marketing cycles by several months.

This innovative software solution also helps improve our travel carbon footprint and reduce business risks.

The intuitive usability of the software means that in two clicks, and at any time, a wide range of features can be actioned, including an exhaustive photo library, point-cloud modelling, building information modelling, a panoramic view of the tower environment, dimension measurements, inspection, an inventory of the types of antenna equipment, report generation, etc. This significantly improves the accuracy and reliability of calculations, on which efficient preventive and predictive maintenance depends.

The use of modelling also cuts costs in later phases of the site’s development, with fewer technical visits, easy and more reliable design, streamlined documentation, etc. And finally, a drastic reduction in site visits helps optimise our travel carbon footprint and lowers the risk of road accidents and falls from height for our engineers.

On average, changes are made to towers every two years. This makes digital twin technology all the more attractive for TowerCos since the upfront investment will very quickly be recovered.



Jean-Philippe Scherrer, Axians director, VINCI Energies