As Crown Castle looks to gain a larger foothold in the burgeoning small cell market it's clear that the provider will have to bolster its fiber network by purchasing other smaller fiber providers, a research firm said.
In meetings with investment analysts, executives from tower company Crown Castle reiterated their belief that top wireless carriers will continue to densify and expand their nationwide wireless networks through a combination of new spectrum, small cells and standard macro cell buildouts.
Crown Castle CEO Ben Moreland said he is going to refrain from giving detailed assessments of the buildout plans of tower and infrastructure company's carrier customers, and that he has been asked by carriers not get too specific on Crown's earnings calls.
Crown Castle beat analysts' expectations for its third-quarter earnings and also indicated that it expects more site leasing revenue next year as network spending and small cell deployments in the U.S. ramp up.
Crown Castle sees significant potential in continued small cell deployments, while American Tower is more focused on Distributed Antenna Systems and SBA Communications doesn't see small cells fitting much into its portfolio. Those were some of the key takeaways from public appearances last week by the three tower companies' CEOs.
Unite Private Networks (UPN) may be gaining momentum in the wholesale wireless backhaul market with the recent installation of its 100th cell tower with dark fiber, but the service provider's move to offer turnkey small cell services illustrates that there's value in providing more than just a large pipe.
Verizon has deployed nearly 50 small cells in the Pittsburgh area. The deployment includes 15 cells in the Pittsburgh metro area. Crown Castle is handling the majority of the deployment with some assistance from ExteNet.
Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US dominated network spending during the second quarter and boosted tower companies' sales and cell site activity. However, AT&T and Sprint are poised to increase their spending in the second half of the year and into 2016, according to analysts and tower company executives.
Deploying and maintaining small cell networks could present an interesting opportunity for tower firms. However, there is no consensus among tower firms regarding how much they should focus on small cells and there are still questions about which small cell technology to use. This uncertainty could provide an opportunity for companies looking to become small cell specialists.
Crown Castle offered a positive outlook on the U.S. tower industry, with CEO Ben Moreland predicting that "over the next several years, we believe that the current level of investment by U.S. wireless carriers will be sustained." He added that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US have been the most active carriers in 2015 in spending on their networks, but he said AT&T and Sprint are expected to increase their own spending this year as well.