SBA first tower company to confirm receipt of FirstNet apps from AT&T: Wells Fargo

AT&T plans to complete the core FirstNet network by March. (Pixabay)

SBA Communications became the first tower company to confirm it has received applications from AT&T for the buildout of the FirstNet network, according to Wells Fargo Securities.

“The applications were for amendments, which stands to reason as we expect AT&T to confirm receiving applications,” wrote Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche in a research note summarizing a presentation at an investor conference from SBA CFO Brendan Cavanaugh. “SBAC has signed some of the amendments and expects more to flow in throughout the year. We look forward to formal 2018 guide when SBAC reports Q4 ’17 results sometime in late February.”

AT&T and FirstNet announced two weeks ago they had inked deals with all 50 states to provide wireless services to emergency workers using a nationwide mobile network as the Dec. 28 deadline passed, capping months of competition with rivals including Verizon and Rivada Networks. Two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have also agreed to be FirstNet customers, while three other U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands—have until March 12 to decide.

Securing the FirstNet contract was viewed as a major win for AT&T, which will get access to 20 MHz of 700 MHz low-band spectrum and $6.5 billion for designing and operating the nationwide network for federal, state and local authorities, with the right to sell excess capacity on the system. AT&T will spend roughly $40 billion over the life of the 25-year contract to deploy and maintain the network, the Department of Commerce said, integrating its network assets with FirstNet.

FirstNet has vowed to build out its core network by March and aims to complete its entire network within the next three years. And that effort is bound to lift the tower segment at large, Fritzsche wrote a few months ago.

“Talk is over, now it is go time for AT&T,” according to Fritzsche. “(I)n order for AT&T to be able to receive the government payment associated with FirstNet, it must hit specific milestones with the infrastructure build. As we have written in the past, we see this as a significant boon for the tower industry—beginning in 2018 and extending many years after. Our checks show that with this build AT&T will touch ~45K sites over a five-year period—with as many as 15K in year one.”