Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Texas Town May Sue over FCC Ruling

City officials in McAllen, Texas, are considering taking the federal government to court if a new ruling from the FCC becomes final. On October 17, the FCC adopted a Report and Order that gives the carriers an easier time of establishing service in the area. The Report and Order clarified and implemented limitations on state and local governments when reviewing infrastructure siting applications. Essentially, state and local governments can’t keep the carriers waiting for months on end while they consider a proposal. This Order will go into effect once it’s published in the Federal Register. Not everyone was too happy with this Order, and the McAllen city officials believe it will infringe on the city’s authority to regulate towers within its limits. “It ties our hands in respect to certain elements of regulating these facilities [towers],” City Attorney Kevin Pagan told The Monitor. Continue reading here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year, New Commitment

While 2014 had one less fatality than 2013, education, training, and discussing the issues will hopefully allow us to have an even better 2015. Safety has been a huge topic this year, but still there have been too many fatalities. The Occupational Health & Safety Blog explains, “Fall protection is one safety area where achieving 100 percent compliance is an ongoing challenge. Most companies have employees who follow safety regulations to the letter, but there are still some who bypass the rules or disregard the fact that their employees are endangered by ineffective training, the leading cause of injury even when proper PPE is available. Unlike simple safety precautions, such as donning a hard hat, safety glasses or gloves, fall protection is more specialized, requiring training to learn how and when to use equipment.” Continue reading here

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Radio Spectrum Assets as a REIT?

Even though House Representative Dave Camp of Michigan is looking to restrict what types of assets (like towers) can be recognized as real estate investment trusts (REITs), some are speculating whether spectrum could qualify companies for this tax exemption status. American Tower and Crown Castle currently operate as REITs, but could Verizon and AT&T apply for this status given their wireline networks and spectrum holdings? Recently, Windstream Holdings announced their plans to convert their copper, fiber, and other fixed real estate assets into a REIT, so why couldn’t the two major carriers? In a research report, Oppenheimer analyst, Tim Horan, speculated that AT&T and Verizon would spin off their spectrum assets into REIT holding companies. Continue reading here

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Can T-Mo Handle Uncarrier 8.0?

John Legere announced T-Mobile’s last move, Uncarrier 8.0, yesterday morning. This will automatically roll over customers’ unused data into a personal Data Stash that can be used for up to a year. “Can you imagine your gas station siphoning unused gas from your car each month? The US wireless industry is even worse,” said Legere. “Americans have been gamed by the carriers into buying huge data plans – all to avoid getting screwed with overage penalties. Only to find out they bought more than they need which is then confiscated by the carrier. For the consumer it’s lose, lose. That data is rightfully yours,” added Legere. “And, we’re putting an end to this appalling industry practice today. With Data Stash, when you buy additional high-speed data, there’s no need to lose what you don’t use.” Offering up all of this additional data, one might wonder if the T-Mobile network is capable of handing it. According to Mike Dano at Fierce Wireless, in a recent investor note from analysts at Macquarie Capital citing a meeting with T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, the firm wrote that “T-Mo has several years of additional capacity on existing spectrum and current growth rates.” Continue reading here

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Small Plane Clips Cell Tower

In Springfield, Missouri, a small plane clipped a cell phone tower and crashed into a vacant lot. Thankfully, all four people in the plane survived. “Our pilot did an incredible job of finding a place to land that thing with no buildings,” passenger Paul Reinert said. “While I got whipped around pretty good, I was able to stand up and walk out of the plane.” However, two passengers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, including the pilot who is recovering from a few broken bones. There was no loss of service to the tower, and public relations manager for Verizon Wireless, Brenda Hill, confirmed that the tower was Verizon’s. Continue reading here

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vodafone Re-Enters U.S.

Vodafone Americas announced their to introduce wireless services for their 400 multinational customers in the U.S., and 500 multinational customers based outside the U.S. with a strong U.S. presence. This move will take place less than a year after unloading its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion. Vodafone will re-enter the U.S. market as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) leveraging T-Mobile’s network. An MVNO is a carrier that doesn’t own the wireless network infrastructure, but rather uses another network to provide services to its customers. Continue reading here

Thursday, December 11, 2014

FAA Streamlines NOTAM System

On December 8, the Wireless Telecommunication Bureau issued an advisory regarding the FAA streamlining the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system, which identifies towers with extinguished or faulty lighting. “Under FCC rules, tower owners are generally required to notify the FAA within 30 minutes of discovering a lighting outage or malfunction, and they must take steps to repair the faulty lighting as rapidly as practicable. The planned change will enable tower owners to self-select the amount of time their NOTAMs remain active,” the advisory reads.This change will allow tower owners to self-select the repair deadline; however, every outage should be corrected as soon as possible, and the FCC and FAA will respond aggressively if they discover tower owners are abusing a system designed to protect aviation safety. Continue reading here

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

$1 Billion for T-Mobile

Monday night, T-Mobile registered to offer 20 million shares of mandatory convertible preferred shares at $50/share that could result in equity dilution up to 4.5%, according to Colby Synesael at Cowen and Company. The company is looking to raise $1 billion. Synesael wrote in a research note that the firm wasn’t thrilled by the raise but understood why the company made the decision. T-Mobile recently acquired bands of 700MHz spectrum and the net proceeds from the stock will go towards general corporate purposes, including capital investments, and spectrum acquisitions unrelated to the AWS-3 auction. Continue reading here

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Settlement Reached in Tower Dispute

The city of Graham, North Carolina, has settled their lawsuit with Tower Engineering Professionals out of court and agreed to allow a 150-foot cell tower to be built. Tower Engineering Professionals requested a special use permit for Granite Cellular Communications Tower to place a tower on a vacant 16-acre lot, according to the Times-News. The proposal was for a 150-foot monopole occupying a 100-by-100-foot area with a 12-foot-wide gravel drive and one parking space, surrounded by an 8-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Continue reading here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Goodbye 3G. Adios, Farewell, Sayonora.

Remember 1G? Maybe, like a vague memory you’re not sure actually exists. That’s the hope for 3G, and Verizon is working on discarding their 3G technology and replacing it all with their 4G LTE. Some carriers have kept their 3G technology, even 2G in some cases, to use for voice calling services. December 5 marked the three-year anniversary of Verizon’s launch of 4G LTE technology. Verizon Wireless now has more than 500 markets covering more than 303 million people in 50 states, or 95 percent of the U.S. population. Continue reading here

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sprinting to the Future

Sprint’s been in the news lately because of their holiday promotions, but the real news is that the carrier is working on completing their Network Vision initiative. Sprint currently covers 260 million people with its 1900 MHz LTE, and $92 million on the company’s swath of 2.5 GHz spectrum. Andrew Berg of Wireless Week, noted that Sprint CFO Joe Euteneuer gave a breakdown of the status of Sprint’s Network Vision initiative during a Bank of America investor conference on Tuesday. Euteneuer said that by year end, the carrier hopes to have fully 100 million people covered with its 800 MHz LTE deployment. Continue reading here

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spectrum Sold, Towers Possibly for Sale

According to a report this morning, nTelos Wireless, one of Sprint’s wholesale partners, is selling $56 million worth of 1900MHz spectrum to T-Mobile as they exit the eastern Virginia market. nTelos will continue to prioritize their networks in western Virginia and West Virginia. This will give T-Mobile the chance to expand their LTE network in the area. “In an effort to strengthen our retail sales performance and leverage our strategic relationship with Sprint, we are right-sizing our business and redirecting our resources on our Western Markets, which provide us the greatest opportunity for sustained, profitable growth,” nTelos Chairman Michael Huber said in a statement. Continue reading here

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

International Spending Spree Pays Off

American Tower received a lot of attention after back-to-back announcements of international acquisitions. Last week, AMT followed up its $1.2 billion purchase of 6,480 Brazilian towers from TIM Celular S.A. with a $1.05 billion purchase from Bharti Airtel Limited in Nigeria. These two purchases did wonders for the company’s stock. Market Insider reported that shares of AMT rose by 3.96% during the week November 24 and 5.87% for the past 4 weeks. The stock also reached a new 52-week high of $104.46 on November 26. “The back-to-back acquisitions will also support the company’s plan of owning more than 70,000 towers by the end of 2014, through organic or inorganic growth. Moreover, the company intends to exceed 2,000 domestic leases this year in addition to spending $110 million in land acquisitions. Continue reading here

Monday, December 1, 2014

Opportunities in Horizontal Tower Companies

Some refer to the world of fiber because horizontal tower companies as the cell towers we know and love wouldn’t function without backhaul. Zayo, a company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, provides fiber-based bandwidth infrastructure services and carrier-neutral co-location. Colby Synesael of Cowen and Company wrote in a research note that as investors become more familiar with the company, they expect the stock to undergo meaningful multiple expansion while strong secular tailwinds and additional M&A likely drive upside to estimates the next few years. Continue reading here

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Color on Tower Prices

As previously reported, American Tower made two very big international acquisitions sector over the weekend. The company agreed to purchase ~6,480 towers from TIM Celular S.A. in two transactions, as well as agreed to acquire Bharti Airtel Limited’s ~4,800 towers in Nigeria. We reached out to Caleb Stein, an analyst at Wells Fargo, for some color on the valuations. The Brazilian tower transaction was 16.0x gross margin ($75 million) with AMT paying approximately $185,000 per tower totaling $1.2 billion at current foreign exchange rates. The Nigeria towers were ~16.7x EBITDA and other financial terms were not discussed. Continue reading here

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

American Tower Moves into Nigeria

American Tower was busy last week. On Friday, the announced their acquisition in Brazil,  and yesterday, the company reported they had entered into a definitive agreement with Bharti Airtel International for the sale of over 4,8000 communication towers in Nigeria. Airtel will be the anchor tenant on the portfolio under a lease with a ten-year initial term. “We are pleased to announce the launch of our operations in Nigeria while expanding our relationship with Airtel, one of the leading multinational operators in the world,” said Jim Taiclet, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of American Tower. “With the largest population and economy in Africa and relatively underdeveloped wireless infrastructure, we view Nigeria as a tremendous growth opportunity. Further, we expect this investment to support our long-term objective of generating double-digit AFFO per share growth for our stockholders.” Continue reading here

Monday, November 24, 2014

American Tower Buys in Brazil

American Tower, who already owns over 6,900 towers in Brazil, is the buyer of Telecom Italia’s Brazilian unit as of Friday. This transaction is worth R$3 billion ($1.2 billion), according to Seeking Alpha. The deal, where AMT would be acquiring the 6,480 towers, was announced during Telecom Italia’s board meeting. According to Eric Johnsa at Seeking Alpha, the towers are expected to produce R$435 million/year ($171 million/year) in revenue, and R$191 million/year ($75 million/year) in gross margin. TIM has agreed to 20-year leases for the towers, and will act as their anchor tenant. “Similar to the U.S. we are seeing a very strong demand backdrop overseas especially in Brazil where we had another record quarter of commenced new business,” Tom Bartlett, EVP and CFO of American Tower said during the third quarter conference call on October 30. “Mobile data usage in Brazil is expected to grow 10 times over current levels by 2018,” Jim Taiclet, Chairman, President, and CEO said during the same conference call. Continue reading here

Friday, November 21, 2014

Crown Castle Merges With Crown Castle

Crown Castle stockholders voted to adopt the previously announced merger agreement with its wholly owned subsidiary, Crown Castle REIT. Crown Castle began operating as a REIT for tax purposes on January 1, and this proposal to complete the merger ensures the effective adoption of certain charter provisions that implement REIT-related ownership limitations and transfer restrictions related to its capital stock. The merger is expected to close no later than December 31, 2014, according to the company press release.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dish on the Auction

The FCC’s AWS-3 auction that began last week has already surpassed $16.25 billion, according to Jonathan Chaplin at New Street Research, and Dish Network has been one of the heaviest spenders so far. Chaplin explained that prices for the paired spectrum have already passed $1/MHz-POP. If the bidding intensity holds they could be through New Street Research’s target of $1.50/MHz-POP today. “This has positive implications for DISH and negative implications for the carriers, supporting our theses in both cases. Investors that have pared back on DISH in the run up to the auction because of concerns over auction prices should be encouraged by the early bidding,” Chaplin wrote in a research note. It shouldn’t be entirely surprising that Dish is scooping up spectrum, the Wall Street Journal reported two years ago that Dish Network Charlie Ergen, co-founder and current Chairman of the Board, and former President and CEO of Dish Network, started assembling that spectrum for a total of about $3 billion half a decade ago. Continue reading here

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Limited Carrier Tower Deals Left to Do

Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo, and her team had dinner with some of the partners of Media Venture Partners. MVP focuses on spectrum tower, fiber and M2M space transactions. According to a research note, the partners told the Wells Fargo team that after Verizon, who has 12,000 towers, and U.S. Cellular, who has 500 towers, there are little portfolios left of size. Continue reading here

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wireless and Telecom to Grow

Wireless industry analyst, Jeff Kagan, recently penned a column regarding AT&T and the future of the company, along with the wireless and telecom industries. “Growth will continue for AT&T and in fact the entire sector, but the path of that growth will expand within the wireless and telecom sector, and into new industries as well,” acceding to Kagan. “The kind of change I see is huge, and the kind of growth opportunity is also huge. The next several years could be very transformative for companies like AT&T, the entire telecom and wireless industry, and many other industries as well. As other industries change, they will move toward the wireless world. Continue reading here

Monday, November 17, 2014

Supreme Court Case Could Impact County Lawsuit

A lawsuit in Oconee County, Georgia, could be affected the outcome of the Supreme Court case between the city of Roswell, Georgia, and T-Mobile. Long story short, the Supreme Court is deciding what documentation is needed when a city denies a tower proposal. If you need to catch up on the court case, clickhere. While the court decides how much explanation the local governments must give when denying a proposal, there’s a lawsuit moving forward between the Oconee County and Athens Cellular. Athens Cellular maintains that the county did not provide substantial justification for its denial, according to the Oconee Enterprise. Continue reading here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Equipment Manufacturers Are Singing the Blues

After the four major carriers released their third quarter earnings reports, the stocks of telecom equipment manufacturers plummeted due to one main reason. That factor was AT&T’s announcement that they will decrease their capex next year by 14%.For example, after Cisco reported their earnings, the company’s stock rose slightly but fell 1 percent after AT&T’s decision to slow spending. “Service provider is the big challenge…that’s due to two to three U.S. service providers who have dramatically slowed the order rates with us,” Chief Executive John Chambers said on the quarterly conference call. Continue reading here

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

AT&T to Tighten Purse Strings

The rumor circulating for the past few months was that AT&T had cut back the spending for their wireless networks; however, this was never confirmed. Some companies saw a little pull back from AT&T, while others didn’t see any change. Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo, reported that AT&T announced they would cut spending in 2015. They will likely spend $18 billion in 2015, down from $21 billion in 2014. This bit of news might alarm the members of the tower industry, but Fritzsche and her team believe that AT&T will continue to spend on capacity and improving the overall wireless network experience for its customers.“Also keep in mind that a major part of AT&T’s future LTE strategy is the deployment of its 30MHz WCS (2.3 GHZ),” Fitzsche notes. Continue reading here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ericsson CEO Not Worried

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, isn’t worried about the future of networks in North America despite slower deployment during the third quarter. “Some operators in North America might have been optimizing their cash flow, but our position hasn’t changed,” said Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg at a conference in Stockholm. “I don’t see any change in the long-term demand in North America. It’s still the most innovative market in terms of technology. It’s still seeing the most demand. It’s the most innovative market when it comes to new phones.” Continue reading here

Thursday, November 6, 2014

SBA is Solid

Even though Crown Castle and American Tower get the majority of the attention in the tower world, SBA Communications shouldn’t be forgotten. This week, SBA reported their third quarter earnings ahead of expectations. Colby Synesael at Cowen and Company wrote in a research note, “SBAC posted solid 3Q14 results and provided a solid initial 2015 outlook that lacks the outsized ‘acquired networks’ churn that Crown expects. As such, we expect the stock to benefit from a bit of a relief rally today after trading down ~3% the last three days. Reiterate Outperform.” On the conference call yesterday morning, the tower company noted the four major wireless carriers contributed to more than 80% of incremental leasing revenue, and expects solid network build activity from Verizon and T-Mobile. Continue reading here

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

VoLTE: Coming Soon

Verizon Communications and AT&T expect to transmit wireless voice calls between the two carriers over high-speed data networks by 2015, according to Reuters. Instead of switching from 4G LTE when texting or using data to 3G to make calls, the call will be transmitted using Voice over LTE, which repackages voice calls as data and transmits them over carriers’ high-speed data networks.“Interoperability among all VoLTE providers takes connectivity to the next level with HD quality voice and additional features that customers want,” Tony Melone, chief technology officer at Verizon, said in a statement. Continue reading here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tower Growth Up, Equipment Providers Still Struggling

Last week, American Tower and Crown Castle International reported their third quarter earnings announced that revenue growth and carrier activity remained strong. Even though the tower companies seem to be doing well, Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo, wrote in a research note, “ We have gotten a lot of questions on wireless spending. While the towers have reported decent growth thus far (excluding the decommissioned contracts from CCI), the equipment providers seem to be struggling and talking somewhat bearishly regarding the outlook for North American spending. Investors are wondering when and if this will impact the tower companies’ revenue growth. Continue reading here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wireless: Full Speed Ahead

The wireless carriers seem to be moving full speed ahead with their network enhancements, build outs, and small cell deployments. This was made clear during American Tower’s third quarter earnings release last week noting their domestic and international growth was attributed to carrier network investment. “Elevated wireless CapEx spend in the U.S. led to strong growth in the quarter and wireless network initiatives by large multinational carriers in our other markets allowed us to post solid results internationally as well. As a result, we are raising our full year 2014 outlook for all of our key metrics,” Tom Bartlett, Executive Vice President and CFO at American Tower, explained. Continue reading here

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Court Call for AT&T

At first glance this might not look like it is cell tower related but when a tower becomes congested and there’s not another site nearby to offload traffic, the cell connection slows down. The Federal Trade Commission says that AT&T’s practice of slowing down the connection speeds of unlimited-data customers who tap excessive amounts of data is a failure to deliver on the promise of “unlimited.” AT&T claims these allegations are “baseless” and that they have been open about their network management policies. Continue reading here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Towers For Sale

Colby Synesael and Gregory Williams of Cowen and Company hosted an investor lunch with CFO Fran Shammo, Controller Tony Skiadas, and SVP of IR Mike Stefanski in New York City this week. Synesael commented in a research note about their discussion concerning Verizon’s potential sale of towers. “As management continues to consider the sale of its tower assets, management provided more insight into what they found particularly attractive about the AT&T tower sale to Crown, which was the impetus of Verizon’s interest,” he said.“Outside of the attractive price paid by Crown for the AT&T towers, Verizon was particularly attracted to the terms and conditions granted, more specifically mentioning the ability for AT&T to maintain control (and reserve space) on the towers. Continue reading here

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NAB Fires Back at FCC

The National Association of Broadcasters isn’t too thrilled with being made the scapegoat for the FCC’s Incentive Auction delay. The FCC announced Friday, October 24, that the auction scheduled for mid-2015 would be pushed back until early 2016, citing the NAB’s recent lawsuit as part of the reason. “Given its complexity, there is good reason Congress gave the FCC 10 years to complete the proceeding. We reject suggestions that our narrowly focused lawsuit is cause for delay. We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American,” NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said in a statement. Continue reading here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FCC Delays Auction

On Friday, the FCC announced they would postpone the 2015 Incentive Auction until early 2016. This auction is meant to reallocate airwaves now used by broadcast television stations for use by mobile phone companies. The New York Times reported, “The commission attributed the delay in part to a pending lawsuit filed by the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group for the television industry, and to the need for more time to recruit television stations to participate.” This auction is likely to be the largest and most complicated sale of airwaves because it involves multiple steps where broadcasters agree to give up their airwaves or move their signals to new spots on the electromagnetic spectrum in exchange for a portion of the proceeds of their sale. Continue reading here

Monday, October 27, 2014

Keep Out

The secret cell tower snooping devices have been all over the news lately. A lot of customers want to know how they can stop this, the ACLU wants to know how the government is going to handle this situation, and carriers are doing their best to let everyone know who requests information from their towers and when. T-Mobile has been quietly upgrading their network to make it more difficult for surveillance equipment to eavesdrop on calls and texts, according to the Washington Post. “The upgrade involves switching to a new encryption standard, called A5/3, that is harder to crack than older forms of encryption,” Ashkan Soltani and Craig Timberg of the Washington Post explained. Continue reading here

Thursday, October 23, 2014

AT&T Looks to the Future and Beyond!

Anders Bylund of The Motley Fool recently noted that AT&T invests more money in future growth drivers than any other American technology business. “Over the last four reported quarters, AT&T showed $23.2 billion of capital expenses according to Capital IQ data. That’s nearly $6 billion ahead of telecom rival and No. 2 spender Verizon Communications. In fact, Intel, well known for investing heavily, came in third-place,” Bylund explained.  AT&T does have $114 billion worth of operating assets; however, the company doesn’t separate growth and maintenance capital expenses in its financial reports. “Backing out AT&T’s depreciation from its trailing capital expenses, then, leaves about $7.5 billion of growth-focused spending.  Continue reading here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MasTec Acquires WesTower

MasTec, a leading infrastructure construction company, has acquired telecommunications services firm WesTower for $199 million. WesTower’s operations have experienced significant revenue expansion, growing from approximately $100 million in annual revenues in 2010, to approximately $450 million in projected revenues in 2014. In the transaction, MasTec acquired all of the issued and outstanding equity interests of WesTower for a one-time payment of approximately $199 million in cash, subject to customary purchase price adjustments. At closing, WesTower had approximately $159 million in tangible net worth, comprised mostly of working capital of $151 million, including approximately $18 million in cash. Continue reading here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Investments Keep Climbing

Edgewater Growth Capital Partners announced their recent investment in Vertical Bridge Holdings, owner and manager of wireless communications infrastructure. Vertical Bridge is following in the footsteps of their founding partners’ predecessor, Global Tower Partners who was acquired by American Tower in 2013 for $4.8 billion. The company is acquiring cell towers and rooftop cell sites to build out their mobile communications network. Edgewater Growth Capital Partners has made an undisclosed investment in Vertical Bridge so no financial terms were disclosed. Continue reading here

Monday, October 20, 2014

FCC Adopts Infrastructure Order

On Friday, October 17, the FCC adopted an Order to promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure, which had been a multi-year effort spearheaded by PCIA. This Order aims to facilitate the building and upgrading of wireless networks by updating the federal regulatory framework, streamlining regulatory compliance, and eliminating obstacles to rights-of-way access. “The FCC’s action will ease the ‘wireless data crunch,’ accelerate the build-out of world-class wireless networks, create U.S. job and economic growth, and strengthen America’s global competitiveness,” said President and CEO of PCIA Jonathan Adelstein. Continue reading here

Friday, October 17, 2014

4G Doesn’t Play Well With Others

With the mad rush to deploy 4G LTE networks, carriers might not have thought of the repercussions this technology could have on the existing equipment. While co-locating has often been a relief for tower companies looking to enhance service in the market without constructing a brand new tower, it might be causing problems. Michael LeClair of Radio World explained that 4G equipment and FM radio equipment aren’t working well together, and the cellular companies are complaining that their signals are experiencing interference. For the past few years, cellular and radio equipment have existed on the same towers in harmony. “That’s why it’s a bit disconcerting to hear about cell companies suddenly telling FM stations they were causing destructive interference to the latest 4G technology, and even requesting these stations be issued a Notice of Violation and fines. Continue reading here

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Corvex Tells CCI to Hold Off on Verizon Tower Buy

Corvex Management recently wrote a public letter to Crown Castle proposing to change the company’s capital allocation strategy to reduce cost of capital and improve valuation. The management firm told CCI they should put off possibly purchasing Verizon’s tower network for $6 billion until it changes its capital allocation to improve shareholder value. “We are optimistic that many of you share our view that Crown Castle is a great business with exceptional growth opportunities in the years ahead,” Keith Meister, managing partner at Corvex wrote. “However, we also believe many of you share our frustration over the company’s stock price underperformance relative to peers and the market over the past 18 months, and the company’s persistent market discount relative to its peers and its own intrinsic value.”  Continue reading here

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crown Castle Potential Buyer for Verizon Towers

Recently, we reported that American Tower was the likely buyer for Verizon’s 12,000 cell towers; although, it’s possible that Crown Castle may make a bid for the carrier’s assets, according to the Houston Chronicle. Crown Castle is already the largest cell tower operator in the U.S. and they hope to keep that position with this potential purchase. The Houston Chronicle reported, “Speculation continued Monday on who would buy the towers, after discussions that began at industry conferences in September. Crown Castle said Monday it was still interested in Verizon’s towers.” Read more stories like this here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Au Revoir T-Mobile

Yesterday, Illiad announced that it has dropped plans to acquire a controlling stake in T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom AG, The Wall Street Journal reported. This ends the four-month pursuit that would have brought the French telecommunications company into the North American market. Illiad’s first offer for 56.6% of T-Mobile, paying $33 per share, was rejected in July as it didn’t interest executives over at Deutsche Telekom. Illiad’s latest offer values T-Mobile shares at $36 apiece, including cash and part of the future value creation, which still didn’t appeal to Deutsche Telekom execs. T-Mobile has really turned the company around under CEO John Legere, but the company’s growth will plateau without the spectrum and scale that a merger would allow. Continue reading here

Monday, October 13, 2014

American Tower Likely Buyer of Verizon’s Towers

Seeking Alpha reported that American Tower is considering purchasing Verizon’s tower portfolio, which could net $6 billion for Verizon. This purchase would help American Tower’s scale and increase its exposure to Verizon as an anchor tenant. Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo, and her team spent the past week travelling with Tom Bartlett, CFO of AMT, and Igor Khislavsky, Investor Relations of AMT. She noted, “No surprise, management was asked about its desire to do more M&A. Bartlett indicated the first place it wants to do M&A is in the markets it is already in. The gorilla in the room was clearly AMT’s interest in the VZ tower portfolio (~13K towers). While management would not offer many specifics, they did indicate the company could be interested in the portfolio at the right terms and price but it would come down to math and terms of a potential deal. In our view, there is no question that the addition of this portfolio, which is one of the last carrier portfolios of size left, would add significant scale to AMT’s already large U.S. portfolio. Continue reading here

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kentucky Advocates for Public Policy Encouraging Infrastructure Investment

It’s not every day that you hear about agencies lobbying in support of wireless infrastructure. Our Zoning & Moaning section is filled with municipalities and residents who vehemently oppose the construction of towers. However, the Chamber Lea­dership Initiatives for Northwestern Ken­tucky, the West Kentucky Regional Chamber Alliance and the Southern Penny­rile Chamber Alliance are advocating for strong public policy that encourages infrastructure investment. The chambers of commerce in dozen of Kentucky communities recognize that this infrastructure allows for economic growth. The Eagle Post explained, “Just as important as an interstate, the broadband highway is critical to our region’s growth. Broadband technology is rapidly changing every segment of our society and affecting the way we all live and work; therefore, we must move quickly to make broadband capability improvements. Continue reading here

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Telecom CAPEX to Grow 3% in 2014

In a recently published carrier economics report conducted by the Dell’Oro Group, it was found that telecom CAPEX will grow around 3% in 2014, but it’s expected to decline $6 billion in 2015. “While we maintain our view that worldwideCAPEX will grow around 3% in 2014, we believe multiple factors will contribute to a decline in CAPEX during 2015,” said Stefan Pongratz, Dell’Oro Group’s Carrier Economics analyst. “Higher device penetration, decelerating mobile data growth rates, lack of new revenue streams, and increased competition in both the developing and developed markets have caused worldwide revenue growth to decelerate in the last couple of years. Continue reading here

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

“Willful” or “Act of God”?

That’s the debate between the FCC and Steckline Communications. Steckline Communications, owner and operator of radio stations, had been cited by the FCC for $5,600 for “willfully” violating the Commission’s fencing rules. The fencing structure around KIUL-AM in Garden City, Kansas, was in disrepair both times FCC agents inspected the site. However, Steckline Communications is contesting that they did this willfully; rather it was an “act of God.”Radio+Television Business Report (RBR) explained, “The fence is said to have gone down initially in April 2012. Steckline made temporary repairs the next month, but when the FCC inspected in July, parts were still down. Steckline said this was due to further wind storms in the interim. The FCC said the word willful refers to either a deliberate act ‘or omission’ that is associated with a violation. In this case, omission applies – Steckline failed to promptly fix the problem, hence the fine is both valid and willful. The FCC did reduce the fine from $7K to $5.6K based on Steckline’s prior history of compliance with FCC rules and regs.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Aiken Technical College Receives $2.45M to Expand Tower Training Program

Aiken Technical College received a $2.45 million grant from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training competitive grant program to expand its tower-installation training program. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the funding last week as part of $450 million in grants awarded nationwide to train Americans and connect them with businesses looking for skilled workers. The tower training program launched in November 2013, and prepares students for entry-level jobs in the wireless communications industry. The program was the first of its kind offering an indoor training facility, and now has over 70 graduates. Continue reading here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

1 in 10 Tower Sites Violates Federal Radio Frequency Rules

With the mobile data demand increasing at a steady rate, the towers that facilitate this technology are being thrust into the limelight more often. The Wall Street Journal reported that the antennas atop these towers are challenging federal safety rules regarding RF emissions because the rules were put in place when signals largely radiated from remote towers off-limits to the public. Now these antennas are everywhere: on rooftops, in parks, and placed throughout stadiums. Even though the federal rules require carriers to use barricades, post signs, and train their employees properly, the men and women who work on these sites can be at risk. According to The Wall Street Journal, “One in 10 sites violates the rules, according to six engineers who examined more than 5,000 sites during safety audits for carriers and local municipalities, underscoring a safety lapse in the network that makes cell phones hum, at a time when the health effects of antennas are being debated world-wide. Continue reading here

Friday, October 3, 2014

Crown Castle Doing Well as a REIT

Crown Castle is considered a newcomer to the REIT world, since they only began operating as such at the beginning of 2014, but analysts regard them as a heavyweight in the sector citing a good long-term outlook. “The secular growth trends in the tower industry are very impressive compared to most traditional types of real estate,” says Jim Sullivan, a managing director at real estate research firm Green Street Advisors. “The demand story for cell towers is as good a story as there is in the real estate business.” (Source: REIT.com) September 2013, Crown Castle decided to covert to REIT status following American Towers’ conversion in 2012. Continue reading here

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Michigan Researchers Develop Robot to Restore Power at Cell Sites

No matter how prepared we are when a disaster strikes, there’s always a chance that our plan could go awry. Even when carriers bring in COWs and other temporary technology in case a tower site loses power, it’s still difficult for everyone in the community including the workers who need to get power back to the site. Researchers at Michigan Technological University are developing a team of robots that will be able to restore power to towers and other communication sites.  Continue reading here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DoL Awards Virginia State University $3.25M to Create Wireless Workforce

The Department of Labor has awarded Virginia State University a $3.25 million grant to help develop a training program for the wireless workforce, which will focus on educating veterans, displaced workers, and others for careers working with wireless networks. PCIA has commended the DoL on this career training initiative and worked with VSU to develop and submit the grant application.  As part of the award, the DoL approved $750,000 which is specified in the application for PCIA to help create nationally recognized competencies and credentials in the field of wireless infrastructure deployment. “The American educational system has not kept pace with the fast growth of the wireless industry. This grant is part of our effort to jumpstart the academic community, with VSU in the lead, to develop training programs and curricula that will produce graduates that have the precise preparation we need to meet our burgeoning workforce needs. Continue reading here

Friday, September 26, 2014

nTelos and Sprint Upgrade Cell Sites Across the Country

In May 2014, Sprint and nTelos announced they would extend their Strategic Network Alliance (SNA) through 2020. Sprint customers gained access to nTelos’s recently launched 4G LTE network and nTelos has accessed Sprint’s 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum. Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst at Wells Fargo, and her team hosted nTelos CFO, Steb Chandor, and SVP Finance, Craig Highland. Fritzsche reported that, “NTLS noted it will be building tri-band LTE (800MHz/1.9GHz/2.5GHz) in its Strategic Network Alliance (SNA) footprint, but not on every cell tower. Continue reading here

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Verizon Hires TAP Advisors to Help With Tower Sale

Recently, Verizon announced that they would be interested in selling their towers in a deal similar to AT&T’s with Crown Castle. Interest has turned into action as the company has hired TAP Advisors, a New York boutique investment bank, to work on a tower sale and leasing agreement, according to Bloomberg. While Crown Castle, American Tower, and SBA Communications have all been acquiring towers at a steady pace, Eric Jhonsa at Seeking Alpha believes that the rising debt loads produced by these purchases could make one or more of those companies respond cautiously to Verizon’s move. It’s been reported that selling their assets could bring in about $6 billion for Verizon, based on the price per tower that AT&T got in their deal last year. Continue reading here

Monday, September 22, 2014

Town Officials Ask Maine Federal Judge to Dismiss Verizon Lawsuit

Cape Elizabeth, Maine, town officials have asked a federal judge to dismiss part of a lawsuit brought by Verizon after the company was denied permission to add cellular equipment to an existing water tower. Verizon sued the town in the U.S. District Court in Portland after their request was opposed by residents and denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The town claims that Verizon should have filed part of its claim in federal court and the other in state court, according to the Bangor Daily News. Continue reading here

Friday, September 19, 2014

U.S. Spent $6.5 Million on Unused Afghan Broadcast Towers

As of June 30, 2013, the United States had appropriated approximately $104 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002, and these funds have been used to build the Afghan National Security Forces, promote good government, conduct development assistance, and build infrastructure. Tom Engelhardt wrote in the Huffington Post, “U.S. military spent billions of taxpayer dollars in both Afghanistan and Iraq on nation-building infrastructural efforts of all sorts, and the Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG) repeatedly reported on the failures, disasters, and boondoggles that resulted.” One of the “failures” recently reported by Reuters explained that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that $6.5 million U.S. taxpayer funds were used to construct six communication towers that were never used. Continue reading here

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Verizon Open to Divesting Cell Tower Assets

Verizon Communications is open to divesting their network’s assets including their cell towers according, to Reuters. The company’s CFO Fran Shammo said they were inspired by rival AT&T’s $4.85 billion sale of some of its towers to tower operator Crown Castle last year, a deal which preserved AT&T’s right to lease and operate the towers for about 28 years. Continue reading here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

America Movil Seeks U.S. Carrier Bids

Carlos Slim of America Movil has contacted AT&T and SoftBank to see if they have any interest in purchasing the Mexican telecom company’s assets that could be worth up to $17.5 billion, Bloomberg reported. The sale would include America Movil infrastructure in a strip of states from north to south along Mexico’s eastern coast. America Movil has not yet asked for bids as the information given did not provide enough details for a company to make an offer, Bloomberg explained.  Continue reading here

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oregon Tower Up in Flames

In Thurston, Oregon, a cell phone tower near Thurston High School caught fire Saturday afternoon, sending smoke above the Colt’s sports fields. According to KVAL.com, firefighters got the fire under control and put out in about 45 minutes after flames were reported. There is no word from officials on what caused the fire. “It is contained and basically under control, but we have to wait until Springfield Utility Board gets here to get the power completely shut off to finish extinguishing it,” said Battalion Chief Marcus Lay that afternoon. Read more stories like this here

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tower Companies May Be Disqualified as REITs

Within the few last years, many companies have reorganized as real estate investment trusts (REITs) for federal income tax purposes. American Tower Corporation began operating as a REIT at the beginning of 2012 and Crown Castle followed suit in January 2014. However, the Boston Globe recently reported, “A Republican leader in the House of Representatives wants to block the rush to form REITs. With the surge in real estate trusts costing the U.S. government billions in lost tax payments, Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, has drafted a massive tax reform bill that would reverse past IRS rulings and outlaw many REIT conversions.” Continue reading here

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mayhem in the Mobile Market

So much has happened in the past 48 hours between Sprint, T-Mobile, and Iliad, leaving industry professionals trying to determine what it all means. Sprint has officially bowed out of their agreement with T-Mobile and the FCC is thrilled. “Four national wireless providers are good for American consumers. Sprint now has an opportunity to focus their efforts on robust competition,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. With Sprint waving goodbye, T-Mobile is taking a second look at Iliad’s offer. People familiar with the matter said, “The offer looks better than it did yesterday. The offer is still there, and it is good,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Continue reading here

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Masayoshi Son Sprints Away from T-Mobile

Every tower owner can let out a huge sigh of relief because The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Sprint is ending its pursuit of T-Mobile. People familiar with the matter said the company and its parent, SoftBank, decided it would be too difficult to win approval from regulators. The Wall Street Journal also announced that Sprint is expected to replace CEO Dan Hesse and Re/code has reported that the company plans to name Marcelo Claure, one of its board members and head of wireless distributor Brightstar, as its new CEO. Japan’s Softbank acquired a majority stake in Brightstar last year, where Claure, the founder of Brightstar, owns the remainder of the company, which controls billions of dollars in cellular gear purchases each year, according to Re/code. Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research feels that Sprint abandoning T-Mobile is a step in the right direction, “We believe this is a step in the right direction. Masa and the new mgmt. team can now focus on turning Sprint’s business around. The companies can revisit this deal in a year or two, when the regulatory environment should be more hospitable. The near-term will be rough; we wouldn’t be surprised to see Sprint hit our standalone valuation target of $4. VZ, T, and TMUS may all face pressure tomorrow; however, TMUS is best positioned among them. Positive for Towers.” With T-Mobile saying “no” to Iliad and Masayoshi Son giving up on changing the U.S. wireless industry market it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.