RICKY STEYN, Country Managing Director, edotco Bangladesh

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THE TORCHBEARER OF TOWERCO

Ricky Steyn, CMD of nation-building telecommunications partner edotco Bangladesh, expounds on leading the transformation of the telecommunications landscape and ecosystem of Bangladesh.

edotco is currently the leading Towerco in Bangladesh – what excites you about being at the helm of this company and how do you see the industry and the company moving forward? What excites you most about being part of the Bangladesh telecommunications industry?
To be a part of the Bangladesh telecoms Industry is indeed very exciting. It’s becoming more exciting, especially as we share the Government’s clear vision to build a digital economy. Secondly, a very robust framework is in place for the Towerco industry to compete and thrive. Thirdly, I’m keen to work with and harness the infinite human capital potential of Bangladesh. The nation has developed a pool of talented engineers, and I’m excited to further expand their skills and capabilities.

The industry is fuelled by the rapid progression and smart use of technology, which continues to drive the nation’s digital transformation. The Government’s Digital Bangladesh Vision has opened an extended collaboration opportunity between all players within the ecosystem. As a nation-building partner, edotco Bangladesh echoes the Government’s vision to build a Digital Bangladesh. With our commitment to helping meet the country’s digital ambitions, I look forward to continuing growth by sustainable innovation and investment in advanced products and services in this sector.

We are also pushing for growth within the sector by prioritising shared infrastructure to maximize 3G and 4G potential and bring about significant cost savings for the Mobile Network Operators. I foresee the immense potential for edotco Bangladesh to grow as the innovation hub in the future across our footprint in South and South-East Asia. This will conclusively endow the sites with unique towers and civil work designs and solutions.

As I mentioned earlier, the opportunity to harness human capital and further fuel the telecom industry in Bangladesh inspires me the most. Adopting technologies like automation and data analytics within the business will bring in radical changes in services. In terms of human capital, the engineers we have in Bangladesh are some of the most capable and skilled professionals we have, and they excel despite the extreme circumstances they encounter here – a consistent cycle of natural disasters, the remoteness of the sites, and specific changes in nature have resulted in our engineers becoming resilient and developing a unique skill set that is difficult to find anywhere else in the world. I am looking forward to harnessing these qualities and as well as to learn from their experiences. I am confident we will be able to develop continuously and produce services and products that support the local markets as well as those across our footprint in the region.

 

Bangladesh’s telecommunication industry has a lot of potential for growth, especially in terms of maximizing 4G and expanding connectivity coverage. How do you see your experience contributing to these areas?
Over the past six years, I have worked on 4G deployment projects on two different continents, and my experience includes the commercial, engineering, and infrastructure maintenance segments of the business. Our infrastructure is being designed uniquely and deployed in urban and densely populated urban areas and I believe my previous experiences will play a key role in these projects.

Overall, the key takeaway from my experience is that in the 4G era, the Towerco’s role has fundamentally changed from a participative role to a key driver in the telecom ecosystem. With this transformation, infrastructure providers must drive the regulators, mobile network operators, equipment suppliers, and fibre providers with an eye on value for all in this chain.

To advance NextGen technology that will enable 5G, edotco needs to play the driving role to meet customers’ growing demand for cheap and light structure and to continue developing a dense 4G layer, by continuing to roll out 4G concurrently with 5G. Under such an impression, I most certainly believe that strategic partnerships with the stakeholders are essential to balance the equilibrium of the ecosystem.

Also, you can see that even property engagement recipients have changed. Engagement with city corporations and other private developers has increased; as such, their needs have also changed. Again, this leads us to the call for a strategic partnership to resume the technological advancement in the right place at the right time.

During my time as the Director of Engineering in edotco Myanmar, we pioneered and deployed several renewable energy projects. One notable project was sustainable telecom infrastructures that used hybrid solar-wind turbine energy to generate power for towers with low accessibility to electricity from the grid. This was particularly helpful as we were able to bring connectivity to the people even in the most remote parts of the country.
With Bangladesh’s geographical layout and suitable climate, I feel that the country has potential for such renewable energy solutions as well and I am excited to deploy these hybrid solutions to address gaps and benefit the local population here.

 

edotco prides itself as being a nation-building partner, enabling countries to be 5G ready. What are your thoughts on how Bangladesh can meet its 5G ambitions in terms of innovation, next-gen technology, capacity coverage?
As a nation-building partner, we make it one of our missions to help Bangladesh meet its digital ambitions. Only by working together, we can pave a stronger foundation for the country’s digital agenda by working towards transforming the telecommunications landscape and ecosystem.

As we move into the future, leaving traditional steel and concrete behind, the emphasis is now on innovative structures, services, and adjacencies, even more so than 4G. In meeting the 5G ambitions for Bangladesh, we should have an inclusive approach together with the ecosystem starting from planning to testing, up until implementation and maintenance of these sites.

Since the regulatory authorities are now working to set out the parameters of 5G roll-out, edotco Bangladesh aspires to contribute as an effective partaker as we have a successful test case in other countries such as in Malaysia, where we have collaborated at the policy level which allowed us to successfully implement a 5G private network at Langkawi Airport. We are indeed eager to address some of the critical challenges and opportunities to make sure it is a win-win for all.
There are technologies such as Open RAN that could significantly reduce the total cost of ownership for all, and we are very keen to demonstrate this. Other opportunities to be considered are (1) antenna as a service and (2) network analytics.

The antenna as a service scope where the antenna and antenna lines are supplied by edotco will allow the MNOs to “plug and play” their radio and network equipment at our street infrastructure. The benefits are lower cost and aesthetically pleasing structure, which is shareable from day one.

With Network analytics, edotco has recently successfully launched test case studies in various markets on utilizing specific network data that enables us to accurately predict where MNO’s future sites are required for capacity or network expansion. By overlapping this data, we could design from day one sharable infrastructure, and so we reduce the MNO’s total cost of ownership (TCO) that can be passed on to the consumer.

These are some of the innovations we will see in the new way of working, becoming the standard scope of works for the Towercos.

Regardless of the continuous innovation for technological advancement, we understand that the success of advancing the telco industry will depend on a collective effort from every industry player and stakeholders within the ecosystem. Even by conducting a successful test case together, we may identify the learning and then collaboratively plan a 5G Network.

 

What are the leadership principles you hope to bring to and instil in edotco Bangladesh?
First and foremost, we have our customers at the forefront of all that we do. We deliver on what we committed, and a relentless pursuit of this applies to everyone within the organization. Here deliverables include everything, such as meeting uptime service level agreements (SLAs) for our customers, providing newly built sites within agreed SLAs, or just ensuring we return a call and submitting a report on time, we should keep building trust, and in doing so, we maintain consistency and discipline in delivering results for our customers.

At present, I am relishing my moments here and learning from everyone. I need to understand my people and how their contributions are enabling edotco to thrive and distinguish their own goals as individuals. In Bangladesh, we have so many promising talents and great engineers who are the backbone of our operations. I believe that nurturing the talent we have here is key to the development of the local workforce, creating highly skilled workers of the economy.
Personally, my approach is always to be people-centric and help to build a high-performing team that is consistent, agile, and resilient in nature. In doing so, I am committed to showing each individual the right path to accomplishing their own goals.

I also want the team to take ownership as I believe the principles relate, not just within the work environment, but in everything that we do. The feeling of ownership empowers us and drives us to act and thrive, just like the owner. It involves remembering that we all have a responsibility to our shareholders to build a sustainable company. That’s why I want my people to be visionary and work holistically, the way an owner does, to reach the next level.

From a company standpoint, we will keep playing a positive and supportive role in the communities where we operate and extending beyond connectivity to support the residents through our CSR and Tower to community programs.

 

What are your top 3 priorities as the Country Managing Director, and how do you see them taking place?
Working closely with all the major players in the telecommunications industry of Bangladesh to ensure edotco plays a role in expediting the digital journey of the nation, by offering shareable infrastructure for the next generation telecoms solutions such as 5G, is my foremost priority. You can see increased demand for data surges, especially in dense urban areas. It demands a different type of infrastructure in addition to the conventional tower and power solutions. This rising need for data will generate more opportunities to explore, such as street furniture that also blends aesthetically with the modern city panorama. Recently we have launched our very first smart pole solution in collaboration with DNCC in Banani, Dhaka. These partnership projects are an excellent opportunity for us to exchange our knowledge and experience we have gained from other countries across the footprints.

Maintaining and building a top-performing team is another priority. The team has been consistently performing well for the last couple of years and has a proven track record; I would like to help to move this needle from being ‘good’ to ‘great’. Also, there will be a focus on coaching the next generation leaders. To accomplish the vision, we have designed a program for the mid-level managers who will be leading the industry and will drive the journey of digital Bangladesh in the coming years.

Lastly, expediting our organizational digitization efforts is undoubtedly a priority. edotco began its journey towards digitization a few years back. Digitization is essential for automation and artificial intelligence to function as an effective enabler for businesses that are undergoing a digital transformation. In my earlier roles, I have been part of numerous digitization projects, and I look forward to applying my learnings here. To ensure we reach the next level in terms of improved customer service and experience, we need to perform predictive analysis so we can anticipate and resolve an issue before it even occurs. All these digitization drives will help us to create and enhance transparency, lower TCO costs, reduce human hours spent on remedial tasks, and ultimately allow us to offer better services to our customers at a better price. Evolving our digitization journey will create unique value.

 

People development and employer branding have been a key focus of edotco Bangladesh, please share your thoughts on how you hope to bring this forward?
edotco has one of the most exceptional organizational cultures, and people development has always been a key priority for us. I was one of the direct recipients of our development programs and have been built up to my present stature.

edotco helps to evolve employees to reach to the top of the ladder no matter where they currently stand. The best way to enrich employees is to provide proper training, mentoring, guidance, and giving them adequate opportunities to grow. There are many talent developments programs that are already in place, and we are seeking to launch more, where we can motivate our people to strive and to meet organizational values. It is a continuous process that must evolve with the times.

We recently launched the edotco Accelerated Development program aimed to develop highly talented employees with the goal of producing next-generational leaders for this organization. At edotco, we also offer a mentoring program where employees across the footprint can select their own mentors. We profoundly acknowledge our employees as the key reasons why edotco thrives and envision to become the Top 5 towerco in the world someday; thus, we care for them and help them to grow beyond the borders. These are some of the ways edotco goes beyond expediting the digital journey of Bangladesh, by creating future leaders, and that’s what makes us one of the best employers in the market.

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