Daniel Laper: “Over US$4bn in telecommunications infrastructure investments will be required in Brazil by 2030”


The Director of New Business & IoT at American Tower talks about 5G, digital transformation, and IoT in Brazilian industry and agribusiness.

Brazil – American Tower has provided wireless connectivity infrastructure services and solutions in 25 countries across six continents for more than 20 years. topin talked with the company’s Director of New Business & Internet of Things (IoT), Daniel Laper, about the advances in Open RAN, 5G, IoT, digital transformation of industries and agribusiness, market growth expectations for the next few years and much more.

Laper has over 15 years of experience in the Technology and Telecommunications sector. The Director holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology from the Minas Gerais Education and Culture Foundation (FUMEC); a postgraduate degree in Project Management from the Institute of Technological Education (IETEC) and in Telecommunications Engineering from the Brazilian National Institute of Telecommunications (INATEL). He also has an Executive MBA in Global Business Administration and Management from the Brazilian Institute of Capital Markets (IBMEC) São Paulo.

topin: What are American Tower’s operating sectors and the most relevant products to the present day, considering the advances in Open RAN and 5G?

Daniel: American Tower is the independent owner, operator, and developer of multi-client infrastructure for wireless communications and broadcast. We have over 23 thousand communication sites in Brazil, an optical-fiber neutral network operation in the state of Minas Gerais, and a national neutral network for the Internet of Things (IoT) in LoRaWAN™.

Learn more about LoRa® technology and the LoRaWAN™ protocol at the end of this article.

Across all of these lines of business, there is our DNA, which is infrastructure sharing. This already well-established model of mobile communication towers now also applies to other contexts, such as optical fiber and the Internet of Things, due to technology evolution and market maturity, as well as the evolution of the need for investments to support new technologies.

In this context, we understand that sharing infrastructures will be a great enabler of 5G. We estimate that over 4 billion dollars of telecommunications infrastructure investments will be required in Brazil by 2030; in addition, we foresee that it will be necessary to install five times more antennas throughout the territory to have a continuous and effective development of the sector. 

In order to support the development of optical fiber businesses of the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) model, IoT, and other sectors, such as data centers and new 5G models, we have recently announced the creation of a new regional business unit in Latin America.

Other than Brazil, we have optical fiber operations in Argentina and Mexico, arising from acquisitions, and an FTTH startup in Colombia. There are over 46 thousand kilometers of fiber installed in four countries where we explore the FTTH, fiber-to-the-tower (FTTT), and wholesale models.

topin: What advantages does a vertical or rural production have when implementing IoT in its business?

Daniel: It is possible to collect information in the field, such as climate and soil variables, using smart devices, such as micro weather stations and soil sensors, for example. After that, the device sends the information to the internet, making data available for decision making and automation of the irrigation system. In addition, with the aid of a LoRaWAN™ autonomous station, powered by solar energy and satellite transmission, it is possible to integrate the network with the coverage present in the rest of the country in solutions related to the agricultural sector.

Another example is the transmission of information for asset and agricultural machinery management, aiming at streamlining logistics. Satellite backhaul connectivity allows the solution to be implemented in remote areas, where there are no other ways to connect to the internet.

topin: What is your forecast for the next five years regarding the growth of IoT in the Brazilian market?

Daniel: We have recently reached the landmark of five million connections in agreements signed for the next five years for our neutral IoT network, with Everynet as a technology partner. With our neutral LoRaWAN™ network for IoT, we have also hit the five-billion transmitted messages mark three years after activation.

In the first year of operations, we observed a strong tracking activity, an already existing vertical, enhanced through the complementarity of technologies. Soon after came smart metering – water, gas, power – which grew tenfold during the pandemic. Still in the Smart Cities vertical, we observed an increase in traction of street lighting remote management, of which we already have 18 pilots throughout the country, including some capital cities.

These volumes provide evidence that we have the opportunity to work with the commercial operations of the network, simplifying our offer and allowing the market to have the conditions and flexibility it needs to develop. We have 16 cooperation agreements for the development of ecosystems and believe this is a beneficial relationship to all those engaged in it, from academia, companies, to society in general.

For us, the Internet of Things is like a collective game, where a robust ecosystem is the great lever for scale. Since the beginning of our operations in Brazil in 2001, 8 billion reais have already been invested in the construction and acquisition of telecommunications infrastructure; almost 75% of this figure has been used in the last six years.

topin: What are the requirements for the digital transformation of the industry? In what do we need to invest?

Daniel: When we talk about digital transformation, we need to understand that this entire process essentially goes through IoT solutions. This is because the solution enables the digitization of objects and the collection of information of various types, generating new sources of revenue, operational efficiency, and value for society and companies, expanding digital transformation, and allowing new tools and analyses.

Over 46 thousand kilometers of fiber are currently installed in four countries where we explore the FTTH, fiber-to-the-tower (FTTT), and wholesale models. The Internet of Things is a means to reach a greater goal, whether a business or social objective, increased revenues, cost reduction, improvement of client experience, or safety and comfort. Thus, every strategy must be based on real needs and opportunities.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop strategies that are relevant enough to motivate and justify the investment and mobilization of the entire chain – devices, networks, integrators, Big Data platforms, and analytics to support the decision-making process, and others. Once this need or goal is clear and the strategy is defined, it is a matter of finding the best partners to make the opportunity possible – the much-discussed ecosystem – always aiming at scale.

topin: What are the most relevant players to ensure the digital transformation of Brazilian industry and agribusiness?

Daniel: IoT solutions will be major players in this transformation, pervading different business areas. In the agricultural sector, this will be no different. Investments – increasingly necessary in this sector – will drive businesses of the entire agribusiness ecosystem, providing more connectivity, systems integration, and the possibility of more efficient analyses about everything that happens on farms, for example.

The smart devices already being used, such as micro weather stations and soil sensors, are an important advance in this regard. The sector is developing through these solutions to transform how daily work is performed in the field, optimize this service, and bring even more information, which is increasingly connected and assists companies in the sector in their decision-making process.

The expansion of connectivity will also be influenced by the arrival of 5G, which is starting to take its first steps in the Brazilian territory. I believe these investments – initially expected to address the country’s capital and large cities – will soon go to the agricultural sector, enabling more speed in the whole collection, storage, and data analysis process with IoT resources directed to farms.

LoRa® and LoRaWAN™

Long Radio (LoRA®) is a radio frequency technology with minimum power consumption. It allows long-distance communication: in urban areas, with a 3-4 km range; in rural areas, 12 km or more. Its main applications are related to IoT systems, such as sensors and remote monitors.

LoRaWAN™ is the name given to the protocol that defines the system’s architecture and the parameters for communication with LoRa® technology. It determines the operation, security, service quality, and power adjustments details and the types of applications.

Meet American Tower

The company has more than 220 sites in 25 countries distributed across six continents, indoors and outdoors in urban and rural areas. For over 20 years, it has built and expanded connections, improved infrastructures, made custom solutions and services available according to the needs of each client and currently employs more than six thousand people. In 2020, it was considered one of the most admired companies in the world by the American magazine Fortune.

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