Power Management: Craving for Power

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Power consumption is a vital constituent to provide telecom services. And with growing number of mobile users being added to the network each passing day, it has become all the more important for the operators to manage power consumption for their telecom infrastructure.

According to VOICE&DATA estimates, the power management segment of the telecom industry even failed to power itself and witnessed a flat performance in the fiscal 2011-12. Though the segment witnessed some trickling business, it has failed to put itself on a growth trajectory owing to unmet expectations in terms of volumes. This happened because large operators waited and watched before making any major infrastructure decision.

India currently has more than 400,000 telecom towers. The Indian telecom industry consumes 2 bn liters of diesel every year for maintaining its mobile towers, and approximately `10,000 crore is annually spent on diesel. On an average, about `260,000 is being spent annually to fulfill the diesel requirements of a single telecom tower. Thus, undertaking initiatives to use energy more efficiently will not automatically translate to reducing power consumption.

Moreover with the required infrastructure rollout to implement newer technologies like 4G and BWA, the urgency to manage power efficiently becomes even greater. This calls for a unanimous approach by all stakeholders of the industry to try to move towards low power and eventually 'no power' technology. As efficient energy management makes smart use of power possible, it will help avoid further need for energy, keeping the environment clean.

The Score Card

New alternative energy solutions and renewable power solutions like solar and hybrid models are already being deployed on the sites that are demonstrating energy savings. Apart from deploying cleaner energy sources, tower companies have realized that it is imperative to monitor various power consuming elements in their telecom infrastructure, and hence real-time monitoring systems are increasingly becoming the norm.

With the power crisis and lack of proper power infrastructure in remote locations in India, the expenditure on power is even more. In a scenario like this, the challenge is to maintain the profitability, and yet expand network connectivity. Let's take a look at some of prominent players of the segment and their performance over the last fiscal.

The confident strides of the segment was demonstrated with Delta India Electronics showing an impressive growth rate. Maintaining its top place on the V&D100 list, the company churned out revenue of `347 crore in FY12. It has a market share of 49.7.

Delta India, that has an expertise in indoor power solutions, outdoor power solutions, and TEC approved power solutions, successfully implemented site management and control solutions, hybrid solar solutions, and launched the first-ever project on fuel cell technology.

The solutions include implementation of 1,000 telecom sites project with reduced diesel consumption leading to more than 60% saving than an average telecom site, remote site management service for bi-directional monitoring and control of telecom sites being offered through the company's central network operations center, fuel cell site, hybrid site installation for major telecom operators as well as theft control solutions implemented in nearly 2,000 sites.

Delta also offers site automation solutions such as site surveillance, access control, tamper-proof theft control solutions under its wireless asset management & wireless fuel management services. These solutions can be monitored, controlled, and managed through the central network operations center backed by IP cameras, RF tags, and sensors. The strategic tie-ups announced by the company in the fiscal include Ballard-Dantherm (Canada) for Fuel Cell technology and C&D (USA) for Advanced VRLA (Fast Charge) and Li-ion batteries.

Making it to the second place on the chart is Emerson Network Power. The company recorded a revenue of `139 crore in the FY 2011-12 and captured a market share of around 20%.

The company provides end-to-end operations and maintenance of telecom infrastructure companies and enterprise cooling system for medium and high-density data centers. It also bagged a project from Datacraft India to design six internet data centers across India. These data centers will be located in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, and Ludhiana.

The company announced the addition of three next-generation UPS systems for large data center facilities in India-the Liebert Trinergy, the Liebert 80-Net, and the made-in-India Liebert SX. It is offering the energy efficient UPS systems currently available for protecting mission-critical infrastructure such as tier-3 and -4 data centers, from disruptions to mains power supply.

The company recently changed its business model and is now focusing more on being a packaged power solutions provider. The change in the model is being driven by the acquisition of Avocent, which is into rack manufacturing and power management software. Avocent's power management software plays an important role among large enterprises where monitoring power distribution and heat emission is critical. The monitoring software provides details like heat generation, power requirement, etc.

Making it third on the charts is Eltek Valere. The company churned a revenue of `85 in the fiscal and as grabbed a market share of around 12%. It's products and solutions are designed to match any power requirement within the telecom sector, and includes are power systems, rectifiers , monitoring and control, convertors, inverters, outdoors solution,Telecom Utility Manager(TUM) and Solar Hybrid Solutions.

Coming in fourth on the list is Acme. The Acme Battery Cooler maximizes the lifespan of expensive telecom batteries and results in quick RoI. It is designed for cooling battery cabinets with IP54 protection level and is suitable for operating in industrial environments. Its Green Shelter is an integrated, tailor-made, and end-to-end energy management solution to minimize energy needs at site resulting in power savings of 3,120 units/year/site.

The shelters come as riveted/rivetless/or liftable shelters. Its Ultra Low Cost Site Solution (ULCS) lowers energy consuming operations based on DC architecture that saves 35% energy for sites with poor grid connectivity. The architecture reduces diesel consumption by 30%, air conditioner power by 67%, and reduces battery bank by 50%. The company commissioned 15 MW Solar Photovoltaic Power project at Khambat in Gujarat.

Acme has signed a module supply agreement with First Solar Inc for project execution. The agreement covers the supply of First Solar's advanced thin-film modules. ACME Group is making strides into newer technology areas that have the capability to fuel its growth in the times to come. There has been a deliberate focus on commercializing technologies for environment-friendly and efficient energy generation systems like Solar Photovoltaic for megawatt class power generation.

Meanwhile Schneider Electric started a new business vertical which provides audit, assessment and consulting services for better Data Center infrastructure management. It audits the health of data center and checks its performance in terms of energy efficiency, space, flexibility and availability.The vertical is expected to help most data center operators who plan to have a virtualized and load-balanced infrastructure

Propelling Growth

The telecom industry has been one of the biggest consumers of energy since networks became operational 24x7. The growth of the sector is directly proportional to the mounting costs for developing physical infrastructure and the Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs).

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector currently contributes approximately 2% of global carbon emissions, more than 2/3rds of which are generated by the network.

A typical communications company spends nearly 1% of its revenues on energy which for large operators may amount to hundreds of crores of rupees, a Trai report suggests. Around 70% of telecom towers are in rural areas, where grid connected electricity is not available and as a result, a very large chunk of the towers are powered by diesel generators which produce a total of 5.3 mn liters of CO2 every year. Due to this high dependence on diesel, the operational costs of these cell sites increase drastically to about 200% more than those where grid power availability is regular. So operators are left with no other option than to look for alternate power supply solutions like wind power, solar power, hybrid, or bio-diesel solutions.

With decreasing ARPU and increased opex, operators need a future-oriented wireless network solution to handle the challenges and boost profits. Now, the operators had to look for some solution without getting struck there. Maintaining the green juggernaut, instead of looking for green solutions for their energy requirements for the 0.35 mn plus towers, they looked for power efficient processes and more energy saving equipments for their entire network, and not just at tower sites.

The major challenge today is also the high capex for the hybrid solutions, even though the RoIs are better. The telcos are looking out for the financial model, which is based upon opex. It is thus leading to a new crop of system integrators, who have yet to mature in taking decisions in terms of idle hybrid offerings to have the optimized energy savings.

What Pulls them Back

Almost all the stakeholders of the industry have still not joined the bandwagon in order to make power management a business case, that once used to be a corporate responsibility and now a need.

Replacing the unstable grid power that India has, mostly in the rural areas which are said to be a goldmine for telecom operators and have the potential to be the savior in a war-like situation that the telcos are going through at present, with other alternative sources of energy like solar, wind, bio-diesel, etc, was thought to be the best bet. However lack of the right kind of business model coupled with the poorly developed alternative energy ecosystem, has somehow not allowed the whole proposition to pick up momentum.

The other major challenge is the lack of appropriate regulatory measures for rolling out projects. A telecom player witnesses the highest per unit cost of downtime amongst all major business sectors in the country. However the present state of disruption in the sector has led to a capex crunch.

Many of the rural BTS sites are still running on old technologies and less efficient equipments. Upgrading these old sites involve a huge investment. Deploying reliable, environmental friendly and robust solutions in remote areas and receiving data is another challenge. Early detection of failures is a major concern due to the remote access.

The Future

The concept of energy management is still evolving with the industry players trying to understand what needs to be done in a realistic fashion, and the business models have to emerge. The need of the hour is to cover a lot by the various proponents of the energy management solutions.