Friday, November 20, 2020

Big 3 TowerCo 3Q20 Scorecard

 By many measures, the U.S. Big 3 tower companies – American Tower (NYSE: AMT), Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) and SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) – are performing well after nine months into 2020 despite the pandemic. More importantly, with their carrier customers’ 5G deployments underway and a couple of major deal signings, the long-term prospects for these towercos look bright.   

AMT is a leading independent tower company worldwide. At the end of 3Q20, AMT had 179,391 towers between the U.S. and 19 other countries across Latin America, Africa, Europe, and India, its largest market with 73,499 towers. AMT ranks third overall behind Chinese state-owned China Tower that has 2,015,000 towers, and Indus Towers of India with 201,121 sites.

As the largest U.S. towerco, AMT has 40,602 towers in the U.S. or 23 percent of its total portfolio, that generates 56 percent of its overall site leasing or property revenues.

Through nine months, its U.S. property revenues were $3.3 billion, up 7 percent from $3.1 billion year-to-year. International property revenues grew 4 percent to $2.6 billion on 77 percent of the tower base. Continue Reading

Thursday, November 19, 2020

FCC Votes to Open Auto Safety Spectrum to WiFi, Despite DOT Concerns

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief In the second-to-last FCC meeting of the year, all five FCC Commissioners agreed to the plan to reallocate the 5.9 GHz auto safety band to enable WiFi use. That’s despite opposition from the Department of Transportation, which calls the planned changes dangerous. The new band plan designates the lower 45 megahertz (5.850-5.895 GHz) for unlicensed uses and the upper 30 megahertz (5.895-5.925 GHz) for enhanced automobile safety using Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.
It’s because of that opposition that Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) wrote to Pai Tuesday and asked him to delay the vote. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called the continuing disagreement between federal agencies on spectrum issues “disappointing,” though he voted for the changes.

Chairman Ajit Pai kept the agenda smaller than usual and restricted votes to bipartisan issues. House Democratic leaders recently asked Pai and the heads of 49 other federal agencies to restrict their decisions to consensus items for the remainder of the current administration’s term, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

DISH Signs Long-Term, Undisclosed Agreement With Crown

 With yesterday’s joint announcement of a long-term lease agreement by DISH and Crown Castle (CCI), analysts are viewing it as a plus not just for the participants, but the tower industry in general. DISH will lease space on up to 20,000 towers from CCI nationwide and, in turn, receive fiber transport services with the option to utilize Crown Castle for pre-construction services. No specific financial terms were given but in September, T-Mobile signed a 15-year deal with American Tower for an estimated $17 billion. 

“We view this deal as positive for CCI and for the tower sector more broadly,” said Spencer Kurn at New Street Research. “CCI accounts for 30 percent of the US tower market, which could suggest that DISH intends to install equipment on 65,000 sites if DISH’s network build is evenly distributed across the tower companies. We suspect this announcement implies that DISH will prioritize CCI towers wherever they have a choice, which could mean that CCI captures a greater share of DISH’s cell sites,” Kurn said. “Still, it seems that DISH plans to build to more than the 50,000 that we had assumed for their initial phase, so all of the towers are likely better off than we initially expected.” Continue Reading

Monday, November 16, 2020

West Virginia Lawmakers Still Want Frontier to Deliver Broadband

 In April, Frontier Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the state of West Virginia has yet to approve Frontier’s plan, reported the Weirton Daily Times. Now, Democratic lawmakers are pressuring the West Virginia Public Service Commission to hold Frontier to their original agreement of expanding broadband in the state. 

The problem with this request is that the same West Virginia Legislature tied the commission's hands when it cames to regulating internet services in the state. In 2015, a law passed unanimously by the Legislature — Senate Bill 576 — prevents the commission from forcing Frontier to improve broadband services. 

In his letter to the Commission, Sen. Randy Swartzmiller wrote, “I want Frontier to be successful, I want to see them continue to provide good-paying jobs with benefits to their employees as well as provide the dependable services that their customers expect and deserve in the 21st century.” Continue Reading

Friday, November 13, 2020

Public Safety Groups Oppose CTIA’s Request for More Time on Vertical E911

 Seven public-safety organizations banded together to oppose CTIA’s request for more time for carriers to comply with timelines laid out in the FCC’s latest update for E911 location accuracy requirements. The update concerns vertical location data transmitted to first responders during emergency calls.
CTIA told the agency that COVID has upended the anticipated timelines. “Recently adopted and evolving government restrictions and building access limitations have delayed testing necessary to determine whether any technology can be validated for compliance with the sixth R&O’s requirements,” said CTIA in its Petition for Reconsideration. Continue Reading

Thursday, November 12, 2020

FCC Nominee Confirmation Murky; Senator Threatens Block

 Much of the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC nominee Nathan Simington on Tuesday was uneventful and the full body has yet to act. He appeared with nominees for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Commerce, yet lawmakers only questioned him. Republicans asked questions meant to elicit what kind of FCC Commissioner he would be in general, while Democrats focused on a few specific topics such as 5G, rural broadband and a portion of communications law concerning social media. 

It’s the last topic that garnered the most controversial portion of the brief, one-hour hearing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently said he’d move to “clarify” legal protections for social media after President Trump in May directed the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Commission to limit legal protections for platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Trump has said on Twitter they’ve not treated him fairly.

As Acting Ranking Member during the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he’s “deeply concerned the President’s executive order is an assault on the FCC.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

WIA Asks Analyst for Post-Election Wireless Infrastructure Predictions

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Will lawmakers pass an infrastructure bill in the limited time left in this session of Congress? If so, how much would be devoted to wireless infrastructure needs? Those are some of the questions Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein asked Blair Levin Tuesday in a members-only webinar.

Levin is the former chief of staff for FCC Chairman Reed Hunt. Levin, now an equity analyst at New Street Research, discussed with Adelstein his view of the election’s outcome on Congress, the Administration, the FCC and the wireless infrastructure industry.

Adelstein noted the House passed a multi-million infrastructure package this year, but he said the future control of the Senate is unknown. He asked Levin about the bill’s potential outcomes. Levin believes it’s possible lawmakers would pass a short-term stimulus package by year-end. However he doesn’t believe anything in that legislation would include funds for wireless infrastructure. Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Cambridge Consultants “Beaming Up” The World’s “Largest Airborne Antenna”

 Cambridge Consultants announced on November 2, “a visionary program to realize the dream of superfast 5G for everyone and everything across the globe.” In collaboration with U.K. start-up Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL), Cambridge Consultants has developed what it says is a unique wireless antenna delivering affordable connectivity from a fleet of zero-emissions aircraft, reported sUAS News. The technology is poised to be the world’s largest commercial airborne communications antenna.

SPL Chief Executive Officer Richard Deakin said: “This unique antenna is at the heart of SPL’s stratospheric communications system. It was essential that we overcame significant technical challenges in the design of the antenna to enable us to deliver massive data rates in a unique environment where power was limited, where weight was critical, and where cooling in the thin, stratospheric air was difficult.”

He added, “The development and testing of the antenna has met or exceeded the design criteria, and working with such a talented team at Cambridge Consultants has been one of the highlights of the program to date.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

AT&T Closes Sale of Puerto Rico, USVI Operations for $2B in Cash

 AT&T announced yesterday that it has completed the sale of its wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Liberty Latin America (NASDAQ: LILA and LILAK). The transaction includes employees, network assets and spectrum, real estate and leases, customers, including more than one million wireless subscribers; and contracts. A search of the Inside Towers Database showed 55 towers registered to AT&T in Puerto Rico and seven in the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Justice Department recently called on the two companies to divest some fiber assets and customers to WorldNet Telecommunications to complete the deal.

Balan Nair, President and CEO of Liberty Latin America, said, “This is a great day for Liberty Latin America, the employees that will be joining us from AT&T, and most importantly the consumers and businesses in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who will realize the benefits of this transaction. By creating the leading integrated provider, we will deliver added value to customers through expanded product offerings, more resilient infrastructure, and world-class customer service levels.” Continue Reading