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Ramboll India: Delivering sustainable tower solutions

August 03, 2016
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India offered ample opportunities even 20 years back when Ramboll decided to make its foray into the country. The company continues to see India as one of its top markets and is bullish on the country’s growth prospects.

Headquartered in Denmark, Ramboll is mainly a design and engineering company with interest across sectors such as buildings, transport, telecom, oil and gas, environment and health, planning and urban design, water, and energy. The company has leveraged its vast engineering experience to provide consultancy services to various stakeholders in these industries.

Ramboll entered the Indian market in 1997, as part of a joint venture in the transport sector with construction major Larsen & Toubro. The company has since expanded its capabilities to encompass other critical industry verticals as well. “We were able to establish ourselves in the Indian telecom sector in 2005; oil and gas in 2008; and the building sector in 2008. In 2011, we further augmented our transportation vertical and in 2014, we opened our Global Engineering Centre in Gurgaon. In the same year, we started offering transportation planning services,” explains Pawan Maini, managing director, Ramboll India. Driven by the government’s vision of developing smart cities, the company has recently established a practice of planning and urban design in order to tap the emerging opportunities in this area.

Telecom as the key vertical

While Ramboll has a presence across several sectors, it has been able to position itself as a market leader in the telecom passive infrastructure sector. In fact, the company’s telecom business in India is driving the growth of this vertical globally. This is because Ramboll’s telecom business in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Africa and Myanmar is also being handled from India.

In the telecommunications industry, the company’s key offerings range from tower solutions, including design, smart site, rapid deployment, camouflaged and individual solutions, tower load validation analysis (TLVA), software engineering services to radio frequency and electromagnetic field-related services.

Sustainability is one of the cornerstones of all Ramboll’s offerings, including tower designs. The company’s three-legged tubular lattice tower design is very popular among telecom operators and has been widely accepted as the most cost-effective solution for their networks. “Owing to its tubular profile and light weight, these towers consume 10-30 per cent less steel as compared to other towers. Their light weight also leads to a considerable reduction in the carbon footprint as compared to other towers,” says Maini. In addition, these towers are able to withstand tough wind and soil conditions, making them best-suited for Indian operations, especially in rural areas. Over the years, the company has seen the demands of telecom operators evolve from setting up new towers to optimising existing ones. With the industry becoming incredibly cost-conscious over the past few years, Ramboll has been continuously innovating its offerings to deliver cost-effective solutions to its customers. To meet the changing requirements of telecom operators, the company has developed towers and poles with smart and rapid deployment solutions that enable the foundation and installation of towers within an optimised time frame. Ramboll also offers camouflage solutions for telecom towers to meet the aesthetic requirements of customers at tower sites. Further, the company undertakes TLVA to address the challenges of network coverage and capacity gaps by fully utilising the existing tower base.

With its large portfolio of offerings, Ramboll has been able to attract some of the biggest players in the telecom industry including Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, Indus Towers, Viom, Bharti Infratel, American Tower Corporation, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea.

Recent initiatives

According to the company, one of its key achievements is the development of the National Electromagnetic Frequency Portal (NEP). In a unique public-private partnership between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), telecom service providers and Ramboll India, the NEP brings together members of the public, telecom service providers, and DoT regulatory enforcement cells to create a transparent and effective process to ensure regulatory compliance of electromagnetic field (EMF) guidelines at tower sites.  To date, the portal successfully hosts information for more than 1 million base transceiver stations (BTSs) across the country. While this information is available only to service providers at present, DoT plans to open it to the public as well. As a result, citizens will be able to access EMF related information and the GIS-based database of telecom towers in their area. “This initiative has brought operators on a common platform, encouraging them to share critical information for the benefit of the whole industry,” says Pankaj Sachdeva, director, telecom, Ramboll India.

To further strengthen its position in the Indian market, Ramboll has recently launched its new engineering centre in Hyderabad. The centre aims to provide research and development facilities for tower engineering to drive its telecom business in India as well as in other markets.

Emerging areas of growth

Ramboll’s overall revenue from operations in India during 2015-16 stood at around Rs 1.6 billion, of which telecom contributed about 25 per cent. Over the next two years, the company is targeting revenue of Rs 2.5 billion, driven largely by the telecom sector.

According to Sachdeva, the Indian telecom industry is witnessing a surge in demand for data services, which calls for an increase in network coverage by allowing higher antenna load on existing towers. Further, given the high frequency spectrum on which data technology operates, there is a need to bridge network coverage gaps. While this calls for new tower deployments, tower companies face challenges such as land acquisition, tower aesthetics and stringent timelines. “Ramboll is addressing the challenges of land acquisition, footprint and aesthetics through low-footprint solutions, camouflaged solutions and self-sufficient sites,” says Sachdeva.

Going forward, the company sees value not only in the telecom vertical, but in the country as a whole. According to Maini, “India is an exciting market that is throwing open numerous opportunities for a company like Ramboll. The company is excited about the potential synergies and partnerships in the run -p to the government’s Smart Liveable Cities initiative. The specific areas of partnership include urban development, master planning, solid waste management, sanitation and water management.”

From a telecom perspective, too, the initiative provides immense opportunities. Smart cities need massive telecom infrastructure, and cloud and data centre framework for the quick deployment of information and communications technology components in various domains. This will drive further growth in data, calling for the deployment of more towers and also utilising the existing assets of more than 400,000 towers to the fullest.

Moreover, with the large-scale commercialisation of 4G services, the Indian telecom industry is undergoing a sea change in network roll-outs and the way sites are built. Therefore, the tower industry will be at the core of addressing the capacity and coverage requirements.

With ample avenues for expansion and rich experience in serving the Indian as well as the global telecom industry, Ramboll is well placed to leverage the upcoming opportunities in the Indian telecom market.

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