Top Tower Companies Continue to Grow

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SNL Kagan recently reported the top 69 tower companies by location, explaining that the leading tower companies have grown locations at a 2.8% compound annual growth rate since 2009, driven by smartphone growth and LTE build-outs. “We estimate the top 69 tower owners ended 2014 with 124,749 active and in-development tower and distributed antenna system locations in the U.S.,” John Fletcher wrote. SNL Kagan doesn’t include small cells in this report, and they anticipate the tower growth to remain strong in the medium term as 4G densification continues. In addition, FirstNet, with its pockets full of AWS-3 cash, can now start seriously planning the nationwide rollout of its first responder wireless network. At the end of 2014, Crown Castle was the largest tower company with more than 40,000 U.S. towers, with American Tower in second with 28,996 towers, SBA at 18,237, and the next four in line being the wireless carriers: Verizon, AT&T, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile. “For six years, Crown Castle has retained its No. 1 position as the largest U.S. wireless communication tower owner. But Crown Castle’s dominance will come to an end with the closing of the American Tower/Verizon Wireless deal. American Tower’s acquisition of 11,448 Verizon Wireless towers will eventually put it just ahead of Crown Castle with a pro forma total tower count of 40,444. The deal, which had not closed as of year-end 2014, was completed on March 30,” Fletcher explained. “Of note, we added CiG Wireless to our table; the publicly traded company is relatively new and aggressively acquiring its way into the market. And TowerCo LLC, after its large 2012 exit to SBA, has also been quickly rebuilding its portfolio. It ended 2014 with more than 1,000 towers, making it the 11th-largest tower company in the U.S.”

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