Women in Towers: Asia

Part I: featuring executives from edotco Group, OCK Group Berhad and Protelindo

TowerXchange is committed to encouraging and enabling diversity across the telecommunications infrastructure industry. As part of our ongoing work in the tower community, we are pleased to profile some of the most senior women in Asian towers. Women in Towers is a live project and we will be updating it regularly, as well as adding content for the other regions we serve. We have been delighted with the industry response to this project and hope to together inspire the next generation of female leaders! If you’d like to be considered for this feature, or to nominate a colleague, please email me at cliu@towerxchange.com

edotco Group: Rema Devi Nair, Regulatory Advisor to CEO (Malaysia)

Please tell us about your background and current role within your company

A 28-year participant of the telecoms industry, my career in this exciting industry started in corporate planning and strategy at Telekom Malaysia and my specialisation evolved over time to regulation and public policy. After eight years, I joined the newly established Malaysian convergence regulator (the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) in 1998, focussing primarily on economic regulation.

After a four-year stint as a regulator, I accepted an invitation in 2003, to set up and head the regulatory management function at TM International, a regional role that involved managing regulatory risk and public policy advocacy across selected markets in the South East Asia and South Asia region. This role seamlessly transitioned to that of Head, Group Regulatory Affairs at Axiata Group, following the demerger of TM’s domestic and international businesses. This was a position that I held for nine years until 2012, key highlights of which included a four-term stint on the Chief Regulatory Officer’s Group of the GSMA and frequent speaking engagements on regulatory issues at regional and global fora.

After a short career break, I embarked on my current position as Regulatory Advisor to the CEO at edotco Group in mid-2014, an advisory role which involves providing guidance and oversight to the Group’s regulatory team. I am also a Board Member of selected national towercos within the edotco Group.

How did you enter the telecom infrastructure industry? And how have things changed since then?

As mentioned, my entry into the telecom infrastructure industry came through earlier roles in the fixed and mobile parts of the business, as well as specialisation in the regulatory management function. In fact, I would say that I have spent virtually my entire career in the telecoms infrastructure industry, given how key infrastructure is as the backbone of the telecom industry. However, it is only in the last four years that my regulatory focus has been on network facilities and infrastructure, primarily in relation to towers and passive infrastructure.

Four developments come to mind when I consider how things have changed in the telecom infrastructure industry over time:

  • First is the emergence of independent telecom tower companies, which have grown in a short span of 20 years to become a new infrastructure asset class of its own, estimated at some US$300bn (TowerXchange estimate).
  • Secondly, traditional infrastructure players aside, major internet players have begun investing heavily in connectivity infrastructure in core, radio access and even the last mile. Examples are Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project, Google’s Google Fiber, Cloud and Loon, and Microsoft’s MAREA.
  • Thirdly, passive infrastructure is becoming increasingly important for capacity purposes rather than coverage, especially given the need for high speed broadband delivery. Correspondingly, telecom infrastructure in the tower space is evolving from traditional ground-based structures to smaller, more innovative structures that can be more densely placed but are capable of delivering high speeds.
  • Fourthly, regulatory regimes in most markets have evolved so as to enable the licensing of pure-play facilities and infrastructure players. Accordingly, regulatory policies on infrastructure sharing have moved from being mobile operator-centric to being infrastructure-focussed, emphasising access to towers on commercial basis and minimising duplication.

What has been the greatest achievement in your career so far?

By its very nature, much of regulatory management is undertaken through the purview of written submissions and direct engagement with regulators.

Against this background, I believe the greatest achievement in my career thus far has been bringing fact and evidence-based approaches to the regulatory management function, as well as advocating exemplar and best practice approaches across emerging markets. The infrastructure industry in particular, warrants light touch regulation, which is the position edotco advocates across our markets.

And looking ahead, what is your greatest professional ambition?

I believe that I am at that point in my career where I am well placed to use my knowledge and experience to bring value through membership on company boards, especially in highly regulated industries. Whether from the perspective of strategy, risk assessment, compliance or governance, I believe a role either as independent or non-independent director would be my professional direction looking ahead.

This is an excerpt of Women in Towers: Asia interview. To view full interview, click here.