Time, safety and quality
Clients throughout Africa want more ‘bang for their buck’ from suppliers of towers and masts for their telecommunication projects. They prefer the convenience of turnkey solutions under one roof, from conceptualisation to commissioning.
This is the best time for the telecommunications industry, and, at the same time, the most challenging. This is a sector that is widely flaunted as one of the catalysts for economic growth in Africa. And both government departments and the private sector players like GSM companies are racing over time to deliver greenfield and brownfield projects which they have planned to undertake. It is this niche market that masts and towers have become one of the most sought after products.
Construction Review’s survey of ten leading firms involved in the design, manufacture, supply and installation of high mast towers to African countries reveals a vivid picture of contemporary client requirements. In particular, there is demand for turnkey services, safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) and the ability to work in an unforgivable environment.
Turnkey most preferred
When asked about the preferred turnkey offering in the current environment, ten firms indicate that though project requirements vary, under-one-roof solutions that offer engineering and design, fabrication, logistics and installation of high masts are most preferred. A typical turnkey would entail the fabrication of the masts and towers to suit the terrain, delivery to site of all masts and towers, supply and installation of electrical distribution boards and splitter boxes in the masts and towers, earthing and civil works, as well as mast assembly and erection on site.
SHEQ is essential
Installation involves working at height and there is bound to be a high safety risk. The masts and tower providers mention safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) as a project prerequisite. On the whole, it is important to work within the client’s SHEQ requirements.
Hands-on approach for tough terrains
The most important factor which the companies also highlight is the ability to work in a tough terrain, typical of African countries, without a hassle. The challenge which surfaces, though, is adapting the foundations and structures to suit the varying soil conditions. This requires working in a very hands-on fashion with various contractors.
To ensure that they stay relevant, the companies say that they are in an ongoing quest for new technology in towers and masts to meet the constantly changing needs of their clients. One contractor expressed this point articulately: “You snooze you loose, nothing stays the same. You have to be open to embracing new ways of doing things. You are only as good as your last project.”
Treating each project on its own merits
The companies involved in supplying towers and masts acknowledge that experience has taught them that Africa should not be regarded as one big country. It is made of different cultures and ways of doing things. “Treat each project based on its own merit. Don’t make assumptions about client needs. The most important thing is time within which the project is delivered, the project should be delivered safely, and over and above, it should be of acceptable quality,” comments a supplier who frequents DRC and Mozambique.
Rapid deployment solutions: fad or necessity?
The emergence of Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS) has brought an entirely new meaning to ‘fast track’ project execution, Construction Review gathers from Webb Masts and Towers. The RDS is a single user site solution which does not require concrete or any excavation and has low minimal impact. Webb Masts and Towers General Manager, Dave Beeming, cites fast installation, easier transportation, low soil bearing capacity, low environmental footprint as advantages in addition to its suitability for rural and urban areas.