Friday, January 29, 2016

Crown Castle Results Welcomed on Wall Street

Despite reporting mixed financial results for the fourth quarter on Wednesday, most Wall Street analysts were cautiously upbeat about Crown Castle International’s performance. As Zacks noted yesterday, Crown’s “top line beats the Zacks Consensus Estimate but the bottom line lagged the same.”

The Houston-based company reported earnings per share of $1.11, “a penny short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate. However, GAAP net income fell roughly 5.1% year over year to $130.1 million. Net revenue in the quarter increased 2.2% year over year to $945.8 million, outpacing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $932 million.” Continue Reading

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jay Brown Set To Become Crown Castle’s President, CEO June 1

After the stock market closed yesterday, Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI) reported results for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2015, and announced that the Board of Directors has approved a succession plan for its Chief Executive Officer. The Houston-based tower company said Jay Brown, 43, currently Crown Castle’s Chief Financial Officer, will become Crown Castle’s President and Chief Executive Officer effective June 1. Ben Moreland, currently Crown Castle’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will remain in an executive position as Executive Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sprint Won’t ‘Rip and Replace’ Towers

After releasing fiscal third quarter results yesterday, Sprint management acknowledged it has no plans to undo – or “rip and replace” as it is being called — its extensive network building that began in earnest in 2013. But it was also no surprise that the company is focused on a strategy to find less expensive alternatives to network improvements. The company said it would explore new, lower cost possibilities as current lease contracts unwind. Most master lease agreements with American Tower Corp., Crown Castle and SBA Communications continue through 2016. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sprint’s Future Growth Likely to Focus On Small Cells, Not Towers

While the East Coast continues to shovel out of an historic snow storm, Wall Street and the Tower Industry will be looking for Sprint to shovel out of its own special storm that hit it, and subsequently tower companies, when San Francisco-based tech news publisher Re/code printed a January 15 article that doomed Spring’s future relationship with towers companies. According to Re/code, Sprint, intended to move its “radio equipment” off commercial towers owned chiefly by American Tower Co., Crown Castle and SBA Communications and reaffix to “government-owned towers” as part of a $1 billion cost-cutting measure. Industry eyebrows immediately raised about how logical that scheme was, but the damage was done. (Sprint was never directly quoted in the Re/code article but a Sprint spokesman did tell Inside Towers “we are not commenting” on the article.) Sprint and tower company shares spent the ensuing week auguring into the earth. Sprint quickly moved up the date to release its third fiscal quarter results (7:30 am ET this morning) and its management team hosts a conference call an hour later. It’s an opportunity for the nation’s fourth largest carrier to right its ship. Continue Reading

Monday, January 25, 2016

Analyst: Tower Credit Has Been ‘Well Received’

In his latest Telecom Newsletter for investors, EvercoreISI telecom analyst Jonathan Schildkraut late Friday reported his team had taken a closer look at recent debt transactions in the towers space. “Against a backdrop of potentially rising interest rates, we find two tower debt transactions that were well received by the credit markets. American Tower Company raised $1.25B of senior unsecured notes and saw favorable interest rates,” wrote Schildkraut. “Additionally, Crown Castle International completed a new $5.5B senior unsecured credit facility to replace its existing senior secured credit facility. With the big transition to unsecured debt, Moody’s upgraded Crown Castle’s senior unsecured credit rating two notches, from Ba3 to Ba1. We view the American Tower’s pricing and Crown Castle’s upgrade as confirmation that the debt markets remain favorable for tower company credit.” Continue Reading

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tower Industry Plans, Prepares for Mid-Atlantic Snowstorm

WASHINGTON, DC — By midday yesterday, an estimated 80 million Americans along the mid-Atlantic coast from Virginia to New York were scrambling to prepare for National Weather Service-forecasted storm expected to last 36 hours over Friday and Saturday. It could dump two feet or more of snow and bring single-digit temperatures and howling winds. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was already rattled by the Wednesday evening snow “dusting” that covered city streets with an inch of ice causing hundreds of accidents, may have gotten ahead of herself by noon when she told NPR the coming snow was already “an historic storm” as her planners prepared the city. Even local electric company PEPCO robo-called customers to warn them to “prepare for the storm, report outages and stay clear of downed wires and stay clear of working repair crews.”  Continue Reading

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sweetwater, FL Residents Thrilled Over Proposed 130’ Tower

It’s not unusual for neighbors near the site of a proposed tower to get organized and get vocal about the possibility of a new structure being built near their homes. But it is a rare day when all the gusto is IN SUPPORT of erecting a 130-foot tower. “We are thrilled that the neighbors are supporting this,” said Attorney Lauralee Westine, who is representing tower builder Florida Tower Partners LLC.  In fact, she told the Orlando Sentinel it is “a unique situation” that residents of Sweetwater support the proposal.

Just last month Inside Towers told you about another nearby tower installed at First Baptist Church of Sweetwater that greatly improved what was very poor or nonexistent wireless coverage. So this additional structure is expected to ratchet up coverage in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes, the type of neighborhood where poor cell reception is just not acceptable. But first the Seminole County Board of Adjustment has to approve the measure at its January 25 meeting. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Vertical Bridge Adds 250 Wireless Sites

Vertical Bridge will manage and market the wireless deployment sites at 250 Welltower Inc.-owned medical buildings in a deal announced yesterday. The Boca Raton, FL-based Vertical Bridge is the nation’s largest private owner and manager of wireless communication infrastructure with a portfolio of more than 42,000 owned and/or managed billboard, tower, roof, utility attachment and other type sites.

“The attractive Welltower sites offer numerous possibilities for small cells, macro sites, rooftop installations and some possible tower opportunities,” said Alex Gellman, Chief Executive Officer of Vertical Bridge. “We admire their investment and portfolio strategy, and feel fortunate to partner with them to enhance wireless communication infrastructure in the areas surrounding their properties. We continue to seek opportunities to expand our portfolio, and to help our partners leverage their assets while meeting the evolving needs of today’s mobile, digital and social media consumers.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reality Could Slow A Sprint From Towers

Sprint’s news that it could be moving radio equipment from towers owned by American Tower and Crown Castle – and SBA Communications – to less expensive structures and networks continued to percolate yesterday, spawning a variety of reactions by the industry. One telecom analyst well versed with the tower told investors that “we would need to hear more details here because we would (quickly) point out that Sprint still has multi-year contracts in place with each of these tower companies.” For instance, noted the analyst, Crown Castle has another six-to-seven years on its current master agreement with the Japanese-owned, Kansas City carrier, and American Tower Corp. has five years left. Continue Reading

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sprint To Sprint From American, Crown-Owned Towers

Tower giants American Tower and Crown Castle could be the latest victims of Sprint’s six straight years of lousy revenues if the carrier goes through with a plan to move to government-owned towers as reported Friday afternoon. San Francisco-based Re/code reported Sprint’s latest “radical overall” plans for its cellular network have been finalized and call for the nation’s fourth-largest carrier to move its radio equipment off towers owned by American Tower and Crown Castle to government-owned structures. The savings could be as much as $1 billion, reported Re/code, as tower costs are a significant portion of the carrier’s capital expenses. Sprint also pays about $1 billion annually to AT&T and Verizon to carry its customers’ wireless calls from towers to landlines, known as “backhaul” and seeks to reduce those payments. The new plan, reports Re/code, would instead use microwave technology for this purpose, an approach previously used by Clearwire, which Sprint acquired in 2012.

But the mere notion that a government-owned tower could be less expensive raised eyebrows from one Georgia-based tower owner. He told Inside Towers, “I’m not sure that’s true government towers have cheaper rent. The county here, in an effort to keep tenants off their tower, starts at $5,000 for a single bay translator.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

FCC Auction Not Enough Spectrum, Says Sprint CFO

Months ago Sprint made it clear it wasn’t going to bid in the 600MHZ spectrum auction when the FCC oversees the long-awaited sale. And last week the company reiterated its position on standing on the sidelines, according to

“This auction is at best going to give a block of 2x10MHz spectrum,” Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati said at the Citi 2016 Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference. “For a really, really high-speed network you need at least 2x20MHz of contiguous spectrum.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

FCC Chairman: Broadband Not Being Deployed Fast Enough

In a draft statement on the 2016 Broadband Progress Report, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating a draft of his own thoughts on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a “reasonable and timely fashion.” It is clear that he believes there’s room for improvement. The draft will be a talking point for the FCC’s January 28 open, public meeting and could be a starter for some fireworks.

“While the nation continues to make progress in broadband deployment, advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans,” Wheeler concludes. He said approximately 34 million Americans still have access to fixed broadband at the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps for downloads, 3 Mbps for uploads. Continue Reading

Monday, January 11, 2016

Equity Player Forges J5 Out of Cortel, TowerCom Technologies

Ridgemont Equity Partners, a Dallas-based middle market buyout and growth equity player, has created J5 Infrastructure Partners, a new telecommunications infrastructure service company by combining Cortel Inc and TowerCom Technologies LLC. The latter two wireless deployment operations were among industry leaders in the western United States. The newly formed company will be headquartered in Orange County, CA. and led by industry veteran, Jerry Elliott, as CEO.

Operating as J5, the new entity expects to perform site acquisition, leasing, permitting, zoning, structural engineering, utility coordination and equipment installation services directly to all four of the top wireless carriers in the U.S. as well as tower and other infrastructure owners and state and local governments, the company said. Continue Reading

Friday, January 8, 2016

AT&T Rings In New Year With New Towers

New cell sites in Delray Beach and Wellington, FL are improving AT&T service in South Florida. AT&T announced the completion of the installations on Wednesday. The locations are among four the carrier AT&T built in December between Broward and Palm Beach counties. The sites were built with the intention of boosting performance high-density areas, the Palm Beach Post reported.

In Delray Beach, the site is near business park areas and the Boca Country Club. In Wellington, the site was installed at the intersection of Greenview Shores Boulevard and Wellington Trace. Continue Reading

Thursday, January 7, 2016

T-Mobile Soars in 2015

Anytime reality beats upbeat expectations, things are better.  And so it was yesterday as T-Mobile reported that it had added even more postpaid subscribers in 2015  — 4.5 million by December 31 – than the 3.8-4.2 million the self-described un-carrier had predicted earlier. The No. 3 carrier enjoyed a gain of 8.3 million new customers over the full year.

“In 2015 we AGAIN saw 8.3 million customers come to T-Mobile, and 2.1 million in Q4 – marking 11 consecutive quarters of over 1 million net adds and 3 quarters in a row with more than 2 million total nets for the Un-carrier,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “That means we added 23,000 customers per day, EVERY DAY for the last two years, so trust me when I say we have NO plans to stop disrupting the status quo in wireless!”  
T-Mobile said phone churn was 1.46% in the fourth quarter, down 27 basis points year-over-year, “marking the best churn improvement of the year.” Sequentially, churn was stable instead of the typical seasonal increase. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Acadia National Park Gets 125’ Cell Tree

Coast 2 Coast Telcom crews were busy over the holidays preparing a new AT&T Mobility tower near Otter Creek, ME. When completed, the 125-foot monopine will resemble an Eastern White Pine and will be near the boundary of Acadia National Park. The 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hodge Structural Engineers, Consolidated Engineers, Inc. To Merge

The death of veteran engineer Ernie Jones in a tower elevator October 21, 2015, has resulted in the merger of his company, Consolidated Engineers, Inc. of Lynnville, IN, with Hodge Structural engineers in Evansville, some 34 miles southwest of Lynnville. CEO Cray Hodge made the announcement on December 31, and yesterday told Inside Towers “Both entities will continue to operate under their current names. Consolidated Engineers will be an unincorporated division of Hodge Structural Engineers. We will gradually change Consolidated Engineers over to Hodge Structural Engineers.”

The merger will become effective in the near future. “Both parties have reached an agreement on the overall terms of the transaction, and the closing will be completed as soon as possible,” Hodge said, adding “the terms of the transaction will remain confidential by mutual agreement of the parties involved.” Continue Reading

Monday, January 4, 2016

Spectrum Auction to Spark Crew Shortage

As the late-March FCC-orchestrated spectrum auction approaches, speculation grows that too-few tower crews will be available to make broadcasters’ TV transitions smoothly and within the three-year window prescribed by the Commission. In November, the NAB released a study it commissioned Digital Tech Consulting to perform titled “Broadcast Spectrum Repacking Timeline, Resource and Cost Analysis Study.” The 60-page report detailed possible obstructions, key of which was lack of human resources to do the heavy lifting.

While no one knows for sure exactly how many broadcasters will move or sell their spectrum, as many as 1,200 could and that would immediately initiate a huge demand for tower teams. During the holiday break, Tom Silliman, president and CEO at antenna manufacturer ERI (and a tower rigger himself), told TV Technology the number of qualified crews is about the same as it was prior to the DTV transition in 2009. Continue Reading