With New Hampshire reversing its decision to opt out, every state governor opted in for the FirstNet proposed Radio Access Network buildout plan as the 90-day decision period came to an end Dec. 28. The end of the arduous process set the stage for the long anticipated build out of a broadband public safety network in the 700 MHz.
Joe Mullin: Looking forward to 2018. I think we have tremendous opportunities. FirstNet is going to be a big driver. We have a presence in the rural, less populated areas. There is going to be a need for FirstNet coverage that we can help provide.
Ron Bizick: We have seen some activity in markets where we own towers, which appears to be for a FirstNet, AWS and WCS joint rollout. That is consistent with the one-truck roll approach mantra of AT&T for some time now. We aren’t a big tower company, so I’m fairly certain if we are seeing activity the public tower companies and the other privates are as well
I don’t think there were many folks surprised when all the states and territories opting in. The Opt-out path for a state was a long, costly and difficult one. Recalling a conference I sat through over a year ago focused on FirstNet, I remember saying to myself, this opt out process is a death by 1,000 cuts. In the end, having all the states opt-in is good for towers if for no other reason than timing. Opt out states could have been delayed in building out the first responder network by as much as a little over a year given the process and approvals along the way.
Tony Peduto: Another big story in 2017 was the lack of mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. tower market. Companies with towers to sell are waiting for FirstNet to build out and for the carriers to increase their capex. As a result, their towers will be leased up more and their exit price will be higher. There are a lot of single-tenant towers out there. It’s a good opportunity to hold until you can get that second or third tenant.