December 3, 2015 — CTI Towers’ experience in working with the cable industry’s towers paid off in a tower deal mid-November. The wireless tower company, which is majority-owned by Comcast Ventures, acquired 120 communication towers from Vyve Broadband, which serves rural areas with cable, broadband and fiber optics. The deal expands the tower company’s presence into Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Wyoming.
CTI Towers was formed by Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast, in 2011 with a management contract for 800 towers that were previously owned and operated by Comcast Cable subsidiaries. The Vyve deal is the fourth and largest tower acquisition for CTI Tower since it sold its portfolio of 294 towers to InSite Wireless Group.
Working closely with Vyve for the past two years, consulting on tower leasing earned a level of trust for CTI Towers, which assisted with placing tenants on the towers from the Big Four national wireless carriers, as well as broadcasters, utility companies and governmental entities.
“[Vyve Broadband] knows that we understand that the cable company has to be protected at the tower at all costs,” Tony Peduto, CEO of CTI Towers told AGL Link in a phone interview. “After four years working with Comcast, we take the precautions so the cable operations are protected, first and foremost. Coordinating the tower crews with the cable company is standard operating procedure for working with Comcast.”
So why do cable companies own communications towers? Each cable company must have a tower to get the off-air television reception. As the industry has consolidated, a growing number of towers are going unused by the cable companies. Because it is not part of the cable company’s core business to maintain these towers to FCC specs and to lease them up, some of them have been sold to tower aggregators, such as CTI Towers.
There are also synergies between the tower companies and the broadband entities. If CTI Towers gets a request for fiber backhaul from a carrier, it will give Vyve first crack at it.
While there may possibly be competing cell towers nearby, the cable companies’ towers are always strategically located. The cable companies were franchised by the local municipalities, which wanted to have the best signal and gave them zoning variances for height.
“In some cases, these towers could not be built today, especially one that was placed in a corner lot of a residential neighborhood,” Peduto said.
More cable towers may be acquired by cell tower companies in the future. There are around 50 cable companies across the country, many of which have towers that may be suitable for aggregation.
“Because of our relationship with Comcast and its tower portfolio, we are the natural player for the cable companies,” Peduto said. “Vyve has the confidence in us to pull the trigger on this transaction, which just validates our operating procedures.”