It has been a busy week of consolidation in the dark fiber services space with two major deals taking place: Lightower Fiber Networks buying Fibertech for $1.9 billion on Monday and on Thursday Crown Castle snapped up Quanta Fiber Services (Sunesys) for $1 billion. The big question is: What's next in the dark fiber acquisition space?
Top executives from the nation's tower companies saw lower spending form the Tier 1 wireless carriers in the first quarter, but the carriers and tower firms all expect network densification and buildout activity to ramp up as the year progresses.
Crown Castle is acquiring Quanta Fiber (called Sunesys), a subsidiary of Quanta Services, for about $1 billion in cash, a deal that will immediately bolster the wireless tower company's dark fiber capabilities for small cell backhaul services.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla.--Tower company Crown Castle said it will acquire Quanta Fiber Networks (called Sunesys) for $1 billion in cash. A wholly owned subsidiary of Quanta Services, Sunesys owns or has rights to nearly 10,000 miles of fiber in major metropolitan markets including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Silicon Valley and northern New Jersey; Crown Castle said the purchase would "further strengthen Crown Castle's leading position in small cell networks by more than doubling Crown Castle's fiber footprint available for small cell deployments."
Crown Castle is seeing a strong uptick in its business from deploying small cells. Indeed, the company said small cells now make up 7 percent of the tower company's site rental revenue.
Analysts at Wall Street financial firm New Street Research said that AT&T Mobility is preparing to begin building out a network running on its WCS spectrum licenses. The firm also said that AT&T likely will ramp up its spending on its network after several months of slower spending. Further, the firm said that Sprint is likely planning to announce a new network plan when the carrier reports its first-quarter results.
Sprint is preparing to add small cells to its network to expand the reach of its LTE service, and that effort will most likely cost the carrier around $500 million per year in labor and hardware costs, according to estimates from one Wall Street analyst firm.
Startup firm M2M Spectrum Networks (a 2014 Fierce 15 winner) has launched its network in almost all the cities it intended to by year-end, but it has not yet announced any commercial customers and is still refining its business plan. The company still aims to provide a dedicated wireless network for M2M connectivity in ways that Tier 1 carriers can't or won't provide.
Verizon Communications has hired TAP Advisors LLC to look into a sale of network assets including its cell towers, according to a Reuters report.
Verizon Communications was opened up to the possibility of selling its wireless towers because of AT&T's agreement last year to sell and lease 9,700 of its cell towers to Crown Castle in a $4.85 billion deal, according to Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo. Financial analysts think that Verizon has around 12,500 to 15,000 towers and could be looking to sell a substantial portion of those.