DISH Sweeps the “Big Three” With Master Lease Agreements

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With recent master lease agreements signed by both Crown Castle and SBA, DISH completed its sweep of the “Big Three” towercos by adding American Tower to its portfolio yesterday. DISH may lease space on up to 20,000 American Tower sites as it starts deploying its 5G network of an estimated target of 35,000 sites nationwide. Inside Towers recently reported on similar agreements with both Vertical Bridge and seven independent tower companies

DISH’s commitment to the FCC stipulates it will reach 20 percent of the U.S. population by June 14, 2022, and at least 70 percent by mid-2023. “We’re on track to the 15,000 that we committed to as a minimum buildout requirement for June 2023,” DISH’s Executive Vice-President Stephen Bye said at a recent press conference.

“If DISH utilized all of the space allotted for within their MLAs with tower companies, their network could expand to ~65K macro sites over time,” said Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research. “The sheer size of the MLAs that DISH has signed with tower companies may signal their ambition to build beyond the 50K sites that they have articulated over time.” Chaplin said he anticipates DISH will ultimately construct a network comparable in number of macro sites to those of existing carriers, which each already occupy 70-to-85,000 sites today. 

The deal represents an upside to American Tower’s guidance, according to Chaplin. “We suspect new sites from DISH could boost organic growth by ~200bps during the peak years of the network build,” he said.

Under the agreement, cash lease payments from DISH to American Tower will commence in 2022 and grow over time as DISH’s network deployment progresses. In addition, DISH may lease shared generators from American Tower on select sites and will have the ability to utilize American Tower’s zoning, permitting and other pre-construction services.

“We look forward to this agreement evolving into a long-term, mutually beneficial strategic partnership,” said Steve Vondran, American Tower’s Executive Vice President and President, U.S. Tower Division. “We believe that our nationwide portfolio of communications sites is optimally positioned to continue to serve as the backbone of today’s critical mobile broadband networks while assuring a meaningful share of new leasing activity in the marketplace.”

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