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Small cell market spotlight: New York City

ZenFi CEO estimated that New York City most likely has around 10,000 small cells

In January of this year, New York City regulators authorized a number of infrastructure providers to install small cell equipment on traffic and streetlights, bus shelters, public toilets and information kiosks in a deal that spans a ten-year period. But NYC has actually been focused on deploying small cells for nearly a decade, making it a crystal ball of sorts for future network deployments in other cities.

Specifically, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) approved network expansion agreements with Crown Castle Fiber, Crown Castle NG East, Crown Castle Solutions, CSC Wireless, ExteNet Systems (ExteNet 1), ExteNet Systems (ExteNet 2), New Cingular Wireless PCS, New York SMSA Limited Partnership, Transit Wireless and ZenFi Networks. The agreements will dramatically increase 5G infrastructure, and therefore 5G coverage, across the five boroughs.

Comparing small cell growth across major U.S. cities from 2007 to 2018

According to MoffettNathanson, whose analysts tracked small cell installations across multiple U.S. cities, Crown Castle, ExteNet, Mobilitie and ZenFi appeared to have the strongest small cell presence in NYC in 2016, with Crown Castle maintaining a lead to this day and even managing to increase revenue from a single site by adding equipment from an additional carrier to an existing site originally built for another carrier.

In 2018, NYC had almost 9,000 small cells, a nearly 5,000 lead over Houston, its closest rival, and last fall, ZenFi CEO Ray LaChance estimated that the city now most likely has around 10,000 small cells.

On its website, Crown Castle proudly makes it clear that its small cell deployments in NYC won’t be limited to Manhattan, the city’s most expensive borough. In fact, according to the company, 78% of its current nodes and 58% of its proposed nodes in the city are located in the other four boroughs.

Crown Castle’s proposed areas of small cell activity in New York City. (Courtesy of Crown Castle)

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