Fabien Petitgrand, Ubiik's CTO, explains why energy monitoring and tower automation have to go hand in hand.
Fabien Petitgrand is the Chief Technology Officer of Ubiik, a global IoT solutions company which provides Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Technology. The company has joined the Tower Automation Alliance to work in the ‘Greening the Network’ and ‘Tower Asset Monitoring’ group to collaborate in improving tower energy efficiency.
Welcome to the Tower Automation Alliance, Fabien. What made you decide to be part of this alliance?
The Tower Automation Alliance is a fantastic chance to network with other tower automation businesses, as well as an excellent platform to promote Ubiik and our products. Ubiik has been partnering with one of the largest Japanese telecom operators for over three years and provides the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology for the energy consumption of their 4G and 5G base stations. This project yields great results, not only in terms of remote maintenance but also with respect to the Base Station owner, to minimize its utility bill for these assets. We are already in discussion with external partners on a large-scale field deployment, and we look forward to collaborating with ecosystem partners to take our base station sub-metering solution to the next level.
Now tell us a little bit more about your company. Can you introduce Ubiik and your innovative solutions?
Ubiik is a global IoT solutions provider with expertise in LPWAN, cellular connectivity and services to cover the multi-modality of the IoT market. Ubiik has the most comprehensive range of connectivity services, including WeightlessTM LPWAN and LTE technologies, which have already been successfully utilized in AMI projects across Asia. From data collection to data analysis, and from meter reading to energy management, our expertise ranges across the entire smart grid value chain, with over 650,000 connections under contract and more than 300,000 already deployed. Ubiik is also committed to providing vertical solutions for a variety of industries, such as agriculture and energy management.
“The future of towers will be defined by the need for more efficient, sustainable, and reliable operations. As telecom operators continue to expand their networks and roll out new services, they will need to find ways to do so in a more efficient and sustainable manner.”
You have a Base Station Energy Monitoring Solution; can you describe it and what advantages does it have for towercos and operators?
Ubiik has delivered more than 10,000 base station energy monitoring systems in Japan. Instead of paying a pre-assigned portion of the overall energy use of the site, the telecom operators have discovered an opportunity to improve their operational efficiency by monitoring their own assets on the towers or rooftops. Ubiik supplied an end-to-end solution that begins with the communication module using the particular telecom carrier’s wireless network, followed by the power meter that monitors consumption of one or many base stations, and finishes with the cloud management software to control, monitor, and oversee base station meters directly.
Do you design and manufacture your solution? Do you work with other partners?
We develop and manufacture the communication modules that go into electricity meters. We work with key partners who are among the world’s leading power meter manufacturers. We’ll design the communication module to fit within the meter along with the embedded software allowing seamless data collection for any meter standard (e.g. IEC, ANSI). Moreover, we custom-design and build cloud software systems for our clients, or we integrate our solution with existing back-end and front-end applications depending on the needs of the end users.
What’s your experience with some of the major companies you worked with in the telecom sector? How does it compare to other sectors in which you deploy your solutions?
Our primary consumers are utilities, who engage with us for huge AMI projects that cover the whole infrastructure of a nation: houses, offices, hotels, and factories among other things. In 2018, Ubiik began working as a market leader in Taiwan by offering this national-wide service. The scope of Taiwan Power’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, which will deploy at least 6 million smart meters across several areas of the country by 2030, includes city downtowns, suburban communities, industrial campuses, countryside homes, solar PV projects and so on.
The tower and rooftop base station energy monitoring system is a component of the AMI solution in terms of scale (up to hundreds of thousands of power meters for telecom operators assets vs. millions of power meters for utilities’ assets). But the technology and principle behind the solution are identical. So in effect Ubiik is fine-tuning what we had already validated with utilities, to specific industrial needs, such as telecom towers.
You have projects worldwide, especially in Asia-Pacific. What challenges does this geographical area present? Is it different from other areas?
At the junction of energy and telecom industries in Taiwan, Japan, and South Asia, Ubiik has worked on a wide range of projects. Every country is actually quite different in terms of maturity of its infrastructure, cost of capital, and regulations. We’ve had to be very flexible and nimble as a company to pivot in our business model and partnerships in order to succeed.
How tangible are the benefits of saving energy for telecoms? Can you provide some figures?
The benefits of saving energy for telecom operators are not only saving on their overall energy use, which can amount to millions of dollars in savings. They can also reduce their carbon footprint and become more energy-efficient, which will lead to more efficient base station equipment, better site selection and layout, improved energy management and controls.
Joining the alliance strengthens the Greening the Network and Tower Asset Monitoring working group. How’s Ubiik helping the Tower Automation Alliance further the discussion on these topics?
– By sharing our experience and expertise in energy efficiency and base station automation.
– By providing input on the development of best practices and standards for energy efficiency in telecom networks.
– By promoting the adoption of energy efficient practices and technologies through our work with telecom operators around the world.
Can you provide a few closing remarks on why tower automation and energy monitoring need to go hand in hand for the industry?
Tower automation can help reduce the energy consumption of telecom networks by automating operations and maintenance tasks, while energy monitoring can provide visibility into energy use and identify opportunities for further savings. Working together, tower automation and energy monitoring can help telecom operators save money, reduce their carbon footprint, and improve their corporate image.
Finally, what vision do you have of the Tower and Telecom industry for the next few years? How will the future of the towers be according to your perspective?
The future of towers will be defined by the need for more efficient, sustainable, and reliable operations. As telecom operators continue to expand their networks and roll out new services, they will need to find ways to do so in a more efficient and sustainable manner. This will require new technologies and approaches to site selection, equipment design, and energy management.
Telecom operators will also need to find ways to improve the reliability of their networks, as customers increasingly demand uninterrupted service. This will require a focus on preventive maintenance and improved monitoring and control systems.