Cell Tower News: 2014 PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Show recap


Welcome to this week’s edition of cell tower industry news, created by Jarad Matula and brought to you by Towercrews.net.

Just as we expected, this week’s PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Show saw the tower companies more vocal than they have been in a while. This week’s cell tower news will focus on the news and information coming out of that show, including plenty of video, so enjoy!

Tower leaders remain optimistic about future

If there’s one thing all the leaders of the major tower companies could agree on, it was the continued growth and opportunities for success the tower industry has in the coming years. This future growth will come in the form of Sprint and T-Mobile US’ LTE roll outs, and the big boys at AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless will begin/continue the densification of their networks, adding extra coverage to existing towers. Additional spectrum for wireless thanks to recent and future auctions, as well as the relaxation of the regulatory environment in Washington were also cited as reasons for growth in the tower industry. “We see a shift in the U.S. government’s part, where they recognize the value of bringing wireless services to people across the country,” said Rodney Smith, CFO of American Tower’s U.S. tower division.

ATP Towers, a private company whose CEO was once an executive at American Towers, echoed these sentiments, saying the outlook for tower companies is better right now that it has been in years:

Crown Castle CEO Ben Moreland gave an update on the status of the integration of the towers his company bought from AT&T last year, as well as why the company’s focus has been the U.S. market, not international.

DAS remains split issue

While all the tower companies attending PCIA’s event could agree on the bright future of towers, not all of the agreed on the role of distributed antenna systems in that future. It  seems like a firm split between the large companies and the smaller ones. Crown Castle is a firm believer in integrating DAS into their existing infrastructure, boasting that their small cell/DAS business is the largest in the United States with 12,000 nodes on the air. Moreland said, “It’s a complementary business to the macro sites, one that we think fits well with our model of shared infrastructure.” Conversely, Vertical Bridge Holdings and ATP Towers feel like marco-tower sites are a more worthwhile focus, primarily focusing on bulking up the four major carriers.

Increased applications, Wall Street love

One sign of the success of the tower industry is an increase in applications, not only for new new towers, but also co-locations on pre-existing towers where competitors must share the same tower. “We have seen record application volume this year,” said Moreland, who also noted that the majority of these applications are for co-location. American Tower has also seen incredible numbers of applications and growth, noting how GTP assets (bought last year for $5 billion) are seeing higher growth rates than their own older towers, remarking that they are “ahead of schedule in terms of capturing synergies,” which is fancy talk for rolling in even larger piles of cash than they thought they would be by now.

Of course where there’s billions of dollars of revenue and untold wealth there’s bound to be bankers and those white collar elites of Wall Street. Crown Castle, American Tower and SBA Communications have all had a stock price increase of at least 50% during the past three years. With this sort of success, it seems a given that a representative from the financial side of the tower industry would show up, and Jennifer Fritzsche, managing director at Wells Fargo filled that role, talking to the press about stock performance and other tower-related issues. Wells Fargo’s favorite tower industry stock? It’s American Tower, (somewhat ironic) because of their international portfolio of towers. “We do like the international growth opportunity especially in Latin America,” said Fritzsche.

Additional tower videos

Watch LMS Safety discuss the company’s involvement with the National Association of Tower Erectprs, as well as recommendations they have for the tower industry and its safety:

NATE, while not quite as vocal as the tower owners, still had a presence at PCIA. This video was released prior to the event, as a public-service announcement entitled, “Heart of a tower climber.” It’s a great video and well worth watching:

Regional/local cell tower news

About Author

Jarad Matula

Content Marking and Demand Generation Specialist
Jarad Matula is the Content Marking and Demand Generation Specialist at RCR Wireless News, TelecomCareers, and Towercrews.net. He is also responsible for the companies’ social media channels and writes a weekly news wrap-up on the tower industry, as well as occasional news stories and special event coverage, such as SxSW. A Texas native, Jarad has a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas and an MBA in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University. When he’s not working on wireless news, he’s also the associate editor for the music blog/music discovery app OurVinyl.tv.