Crown Castle to deploy 10,000 small cell nodes this year: CEO


Crown Castle expects to deploy approximately 10,000 small cell nodes in 2020, the company’s CEO Jay Brown said during a conference call with investors.

“2019 was a terrific year, as we’ve successfully deployed approximately 10,000 small cell nodes,  making it the highest year of production in our company’s history,” Brown said.

“We finished 2019 with more than 40,000 small cells on air and another approximately 30,000 in our construction pipeline, as we remain the leading U.S. small cell provider in terms of scale and capabilities,” he added.

The executive also noted that it currently takes between 18 and 36 months to get these small cell nodes on air, chiefly due to negotiations with municipalities and utilities.

Brown also highlighted that the company sees growing business opportunities in the 5G field.

“I believe recent industry developments will help to accelerate the deployment of 5G in the U.S.,” he said. “We believe the new T-Mobile, along with AT&T and Verizon, are in a great position to leverage their scale and valuable spectrum assets, ultimately promoting more investment across the industry.  Adding to the opportunity, this is the first time in more than a decade that we have had visibility into a potential new customer entering the wireless market at scale with Dish Network looking to deploy nearly 100 megahertz of spectrum over the next several years in order to compete with the established operators and meet significant build-out requirement.”

“We are excited about the growth opportunity going forward as 5G deployments are just beginning and are expected to drive significant demand for our tower and fiber infrastructure. Currently, we are seeing the benefits from the investments our customers are making in wireless networks to keep pace with increasing data demand,” said Crown Castle’s CFO  Daniel Schlanger.

“Uncertainty around the outcome of the pending merger between T-Mobile and Sprint led to lower activity levels in the fourth quarter of 2019 that we believe will continue through the first quarter of 2020.   However, we expect activity levels across the industry to increase throughout the year and potentially beyond as we believe our customers will accelerate their investments in 5G,” Schlanger added.

Crown Castle also confirmed that it will continue to invest in the country’s 25 top markets.

“We’ve been pretty clear that we’ve been capturing about 50% of the total activity in the market for small cells,” Brown said. “We’re not going to build fiber in every location in the U.S. in order to continue to keep pace with it. And I think from the carrier comments, that they are going to build small cells well beyond the top 100 markets in the U.S. in terms of total number of nodes that will ultimately get built. We may not follow them to all of those markets. The vast majority of our capital has been invested in the top 25 markets and particularly in the top 10 markets in the U.S. And I think over time, the driver of our revenues and continued investment is more likely to be biased towards those top markets in the U.S.,” Brown added.

Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 80,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major U.S. market.

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