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IoT site management: the future of tower operations

Read this article to learn:

  • Who are Infozech?
  • Why billing accurately is so important for towercos
  • How M&A deals create friction between tenants and towercos
  • Supporting operational and finance teams
  • Optimising energy management and cutting emissions

Matt Edwards

With a keen focus on an easy-to-use and cost-effective platform, Infozech has an impressive record of deploying IoT and telecom site management solutions for various telecom infrastructure companies and operators across the globe. In this interview, Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO shares how Infozech’s solutions are generating value for their customers in terms of revenue assurance, operational efficiency, and cost optimisation.

TowerXchange: Please tell us about Infozech, and how your solutions make telecommunication tower companies’ operations more efficient.

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

Infozech is a technology solution partner serving large towercos and MNOs. We are purpose-driven and have been working in the telecom and tower infra vertical for over 23 years now. Our deep domain expertise enables us to understand our clients’ business processes and convert them into efficient workflows for automation.

Our key focus is on optimising and reducing the cost of operations and maintenance, energy, and automating end-to-end-businesses processes. Simplifying periodic audits of assets and bringing field information to a central place builds operational efficiency through data accuracy and improved data quality. We are an expert at digitising, validating and consolidating all information to a single reliable source of truth which can be used to generate insights for strategic decision-making. We do this with our proven software modules, customisation capabilities, services, and consultancy.

We are growing in technology year on year and building some great success stories. We help telecom and tower companies move:

  1. From disintegration to integration – integrate multiple department-level IT and systems to create a unified system that eliminates organizational silos.
  2. From inaccuracy to improved data quality and Accuracy of assets

TowerXchange: Why is billing accurately so important for towercos?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

Billing is a critical revenue system! Billing inaccuracy has a huge business impact in multiple areas of operations

Overbilling leads to disputes impacting customer satisfaction, requiring huge numbers of man-hours and working capital to clarify and resolve such mismatches. During this process, payment remains stuck impacting cash flows and puts your client retention at risk

If there is underbilling, there is not just a loss of significant revenue, but also of working capital where energy is a pass-through and where a tower company has paid more to the vendor than what it charged to a telco. In some cases these leakages are identified and billed later on but the delay in recognising and materialising has a huge impact.

The issues and disputes related to recurring over and under billing lead to frustration and loss of trust mainly because of the lack of an integrated system that identifies and corrects input data at the source level.

TowerXchange: What makes billing accurately a difficult task?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

With rapid changes like the evolution of technologies (5G,4G), fierce competition and M&A, billing scenarios between towercos and tenant MNOs are evolving faster than ever before and becoming increasingly complex. The quantity of data processed is so high that billing automation is now a necessity to bill accurately and manage revenues. In a workflow system with high configurability database integrity is compromised and bills generated are not accurate which leads to revenue leakages impacting profitability.

Some of the common challenges we have seen telecom and tower companies face are:

    1. Energy billing as a total may be small in revenue compared to rental but is the cause of most billing disputes. A lack of accurate and reliable consumption data is the key reason that most of the billing systems lack the mechanism to validate the consumption data to build more accuracy.

    1. It is very challenging to turn the language of the MSAs/MLAs into an updated and accurate pricebook. 90% of billing is done on key parameters such as tenancy and tower type, while parameters like antenna height, floor space and region contribute 10% (and these 10% parameters are major contributors to billing errors)

  1. Low system flexibility and configurability to handle rapid changes in MSA/MLA means workflows are hardcoded and require a significant amount lot of time for reconfigure.

How customers are benefitting:

  1. Time to bill has been reduced by 58% (from 21 days to 12 days)
  2. Revenue realisation increased by 5-7%
  3. Disputes reduced to 3% from 20%
  4. Input consumption data compliance reach to 95% from 55-60% on average
  5. Team size for handling only billing reduced by 60% through process automation.
  6. Audit findings are significantly reduced


TowerXchange: How can operational teams benefit from better billing mechanisms to recognise revenues?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

We see a lot of disputes between towercos and telcos over inaccurate billing due to data inaccuracy. Resolving these disputes takes up time and effort from operation teams. Our billing solution does data validation and exception handling which helps with accuracy in billing and minimising disputes. iBill does billing on all the parameters which further minimize revenue leakage. It maintains the audit and historical data, and brings confidence in data & versioning for the customer’s account manager. If still there is any dispute the solution holds input data in a single repository making discussions more transparent and resolving disputes faster.

All of this will significantly reduce the effort of billing and operational teams. Better acceptance of the bills by telcos helps build deeper customer relationships based on trust, improving customer satisfaction.

TowerXchange : How can finance teams operate better, chase outstanding sums more accurately and speed up reconciliation?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

Finance teams have several important KPIs with respect to billing; billing on time, billing customers on all parameters while ensuring each contract is recognised fully and meets regulatory and auditory requirements, and ensure there is no stuck cash flow. Telcos can then accept the bill and release payment.

Infozech’s iBill helps in all three:

  1. We automate end-to-end business processes to reduce the billing generation cycle.
  2. We have an expert team in understanding, capturing and configuring all MSA parameters so that billing is done without a miss and there is no revenue loss.
  3. We build billable data accuracy with justification through all relevant data points to prevent or reduce disputes so that telcos accept the bills and there is no delay in payment.

With all validated data stored at a single place and with stringent checks, an accurate bill is generated so finance is able to better assess their position with greater visibility of revenue. iBill reports provides deep insights about the financial health of sites. Loss-making sites are identified and highlighted and the actionability can be defined. From this information, management is able to maintain sustainable margins for at least 95% of the sites.

TowerXchange : How can better billing enable better total energy management?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

An ideal billing solution enables and empowers billing owners to manage the very core of billing; data curation. iBill integrates with power systems to get the energy consumption data for billing and both sanitises and validates it. iBill collects site load and site consumption data and uses data validation rules to identify exceptional sites which are likely producing erroneous data. In case of missing values the system takes averages based on historical data to generate accurate bills leading to increased revenue assurance.

With better billing based on accurate energy data a towerco can see a comparative analysis of its power consumptions on similar sites to identify opportunities for optimisation.

TowerXchange : What particular issues arise from power-as-a-service billing?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

Power-as-a-Service (PaaS) revenue relies heavily on the towerco being able to bill its customers for the actual power consumed in a given period, where the rate per kilowatt has been contractually agreed. Normally, an average is taken for this as operators consume more at certain times of the day, so an intelligent energy management and billing solution is required to generate the average consumptions per day, week, and month for all tenants. Additionally, the system must have the capacity to measure actual consumptions at any given point of time.

With the rising costs of diesel many operators are imposing generator run caps on the towerco/PaaS partners as the cost is higher than making use of grid, hybrid systems and of course the targets they have set for reducing carbon emissions. In these cases of DG capping, the towero can lose out on his revenue in both MLA types:

  • PaaS Actual consumption will not be able to bill the agreed average energy consumed if exceeding the generator run hour cap
  • PaaS or Towerco pass-through cost: The towerco will not be able to bill the customer for the actual fuel costs if generator run time exceeded the daily cap.

Other challenges without the intelligent billing and energy management solutions are as follows

  • Multiple tenancy billing
  • Battery charging consumption measurements
  • Site load measuring not being applicable to tenants
  • DG cooling off periods and forced run hours due to poor grid availability measured


TowerXchange: Does better billing have a role to play in carbon emissions reductions and going green?

Ankur Lal, CEO, Infozech:

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) is one of the most widely used emissions reporting standards for businesses. GHG Protocol requires companies to break down their emissions into three categories or scopes:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions. This means that they directly come from your company’s owned or controlled source such as company vehicle emissions.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchased sources, such as your company’s consumed electricity or cooling.
  • Scope 3: All other indirect emissions within your value chain including the upstream supply chain and downstream GHG emissions (e.g. from customer usage). Think of emissions from business travels, waste disposal transportation or investments.

Yes, an intelligent billing solution pulls its data from the Energy Management System as we have multiple power sources with separate reporting and units of measure for billing. A good towerco business model weighs heavily on multiple tenancies, each having in their MLAs different sustainability targets set by each customer, and these are then reported on separately.

So the billing solution plays a major role in reporting on the energy emissions reductions due to receiving the following data inputs:

  • Energy management system supplies data on all power sources utilised to supply each tenant with power in the month
  • Maintenance management system provides the data on all site maintenance activities which includes the site visit travelling
  • Asset management system provides all the data for the movement of assets, tower corrective or planned upgrades due to the customer requests.
  • MLA inputs which were agreed by the operator and Towerco (contract terms for emission reduction)

As you can see, billing is a very important aspect of towerco opperations for converting M&A deals into revenue, for revenue assurance, for customer relations, for operational performance and for sustainability targets.

This interview is originally published in TowerXchange at–the-future-of-tower-operations



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