By J. Sharpe Smith
Marc Ganzi may have cashed in on his Global Tower Partners assets, but he is not getting out of telecom investing. After selling the towers, he saw a window of opportunity to have a discussion with investors about the broad spectrum of potential investments in communications infrastructure.
“It was not just about towers. It was about looking at the wireless ecosystem more broadly. How networks are built and deployed, the components that are needed to make a network in the digital era,” he told AGL Media Group at last week’s Wireless Infrastructure Show in Orlando, Florida. Those components could be small cells and fiber-optic backhaul or even the Cloud and data centers.
Teaming with Ben Jenkins, former chairman of GTP, Ganzi formed Digital Bridge Holdings, a private equity firm with an eye toward investing in the wireless telecom space.
Digital Bridge has made three investments so far. It formed a joint venture with Macquarie Mexico to develop towers in that country. Vertical Bridge was formed to carry on the GTP business plan. It is now in the process of buying towers, building towers and acquiring rooftop sites. Additionally, the equity firm has made a small investment in a Chinese tower company.
Ganzi is bullish on the U.S. tower market and is looking at different rights of way and other forms of infrastructure where networks will go in the future.
“We think the best days of the U.S. tower business are still ahead of us. We saw meteoric growth in 2013, and, if you look at the demand for macrosites, our belief is there are another 60,000 to 80,000 macrosites that will be built in the next five years,” he said.
But Ganzi doesn’t just see opportunities to stick more steel in the ground. With a majority of new towers needing fiber backhaul, he is looking at combining fiber laterals and towers into an integrated solution that will meet carriers’ connectivity needs.
“Anyone can build a tower or trench fiber, but how do you bring together that connectivity? It would be interesting to bring that together,” he said. “What if you could approach AT&T and say we are not only going to provide you with the tower but we are also going to provide you with the connectivity? Now you have really solved the problem.”
Digital Bridge has not set a game plan yet. Among the possibilities are building backhaul facilities and become a CLEC in some states or forming a joint venture with a fiber provider. It is currently in discussions with potential partners in the fiber laterals space.
“What is clear to me is that those two components of new builds – backhaul and towers – have not connected yet. I think there is an opportunity there. This is definitely a Vertical Bridge opportunity,” Ganzi said.