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American Tower Starts Program to Support Data Center Business

American Tower has launched a data center channel partner program in what the company said is an effort to expand its market reach for collocation and carrier-neutral data centers.

The program offers channel partners exclusive access to the American Tower Metro and Edge data centers for a distributed network architecture, which the company said supports improved network elasticity and provides infrastructure ready for 5G and advanced applications.

American Tower began offering data center services in 2019, beginning with one Metro Data Center in Atlanta. Six additional edge data centers were added in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; Denver; Jacksonville, Florida; and Pittsburgh. Using real estate at the bases of the towers, additional sites can be developed quickly and at a large scale, based on market needs, according to American Tower.

With the introduction of the American Tower channel partner program, the company said it is building new strategic relationships to support channel organizations. According to American Tower, the program offers channel partners the benefits of new business opportunities, increased revenue, and dedicated resources and support.


Infrastructure Giants Turn to Greener Towers

By Mike Harrington

While reaping the benefits of 5G telecom boom, three large real estate investment trusts (REITs) that are wireless communications infrastructure owners — American Tower, Crown Castle and SBA Communications — are also working to reduce their carbon footprints.

Although tower owners consume just a small fraction of the power telecom carriers and tech manufacturers do (see Sept. 9 and Sept. 14  eDigest stories), the three REITs have stepped up their green energy initiatives to help alleviate the power-hungry demands of 5G base stations, which can consume as much as three times more power than 4G and LTE equipment.

The REITs capitalized on this year’s 5G building boom, turning in stellar second-quarter 2021 results: American Tower, one of the world’s largest owners of wireless infrastructure, reported second quarter results that included revenue increasing 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion and net income increasing 66.8 percent to $748 million.

According to Crown Castle, the company owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and 80,000 route miles of fiber-optic cable supporting small cells and other facilities. The REIT said it increased its expected 2021 growth 12 percent, with reported income from operations of $333 million in the second quarter — compared with $200 million for the second quarter of 2020.

SBA Communications reported a net income of $152.7 million or $1.37 per share, average funds from operations (AFFO) per share growth of 15.3 percent for the second quarter and revenue of $575.5 million for its second quarter.

The three REITs are as quick to boast of their environmental successes as their financial success. However, it is yet another large cell tower owner that claims to be the first wireless infrastructure company to become 100 percent carbon-neutral. According to Vertical Bridge, the company owns and master-leases more than 8,000 towers, which it said makes the company the largest private owner of towers in the United States.In June 2020, the Boca Raton, Florida-based Vertical company said that it was officially certified as carbon-neutral in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

Last month, Vertical Bridge became part of DigitalBridge Group (for background, Digital Bridge was a company Colony Capital purchased in 2019, but now both Vertical Bridge and Colony Capital are part of DigitalBridge Group) — but the “bridged” company’s carbon-neutral green initiatives remain intact.

As part of Vertical Bridge’s carbon-lowering efforts, it is opting for more energy-efficient and environmentally safer technologies as it upgrades HVACs, aviation lighting systems (to LED lighting) and generators. It’s also guided field operations teams to be more efficient with travel route planning by completing multiple visits and inspections in a single trip rather than several.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Crown Castle, despite having the highest percentage among its peers of suburban and urban cellular towers and small cells — which tend to consume more energy — has a relatively limited carbon footprint. About 62 percent of Crown Castle’s towers are in the top 100 cities in the United States. Although its cell tower business is booming this year, Crown Castle said it believes its small-cell market will flourish. Typically, cell towers consume less energy than small cells, which consume little power individually but have a cumulative power consumption in urban areas.

According to Crown Castle’s environmental sustainability statement, “Our infrastructure and related assets, such as ground shelters, are primarily used to host our tenants’ assets and support their operations. While Crown Castle frequently contracts with utility companies to deliver electricity to our sites, the power is predominantly consumed by our tenants to operate their equipment, such as radios. Given that our assets are primarily U.S.-based, our operations are generally supported by a reliable power grid.”

The statement continues, “Where lighting beacons are mandated by law, we have transitioned 6,119, or nearly 50 percent, to efficient LED lighting to reduce energy consumption. In addition, all new vehicles in our service fleet are assessed for fuel efficiency, and our data center teams routinely evaluate the energy use of their equipment and make updates to improve efficiency. We also seek energy efficiency in our owned and leased offices, with 18 Energy Star-certified and seven LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified. For new office spaces, we make efficiency improvements a standard practice.”

Meanwhile, American Tower owns the most U.S. cell towers — about 42,000 — and also owns about 500 distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and 1,774 DAS nodes; 407 of these DAS nodes are in the United States.

According to American Tower’s environment statement, “Managing our environmental impact is an essential element of our value proposition to our tenants and our commitment to sustainability. By deploying the latest renewable energy technologies and advanced battery storage systems and reducing energy usage as much as practicable, we can offer our tenants a more stable, resilient and efficient platform for their equipment’s power requirements. In addition, with more than 214,000 sites worldwide, we are committed to expanding connectivity in a sustainable manner by working with our local communities to ensure protection of our surrounding land and ecosystems.”

American Tower also points to its more than 1,700 solar panels on the roof of its U.S. Tower division headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts, offsetting approximately 16 percent of the building’s usage annually, adding “While our targeted diesel reduction program is our most impactful use of resources and efforts in sustainable operations, we also sponsor other programs focused on reducing, reusing and recycling under our companywide Green @American Tower initiative. We believe that weaving sustainability into our culture is essential to our success and this starts where employees work every day. We do this by investing in renewables and other energy efficiencies in our offices around the world.”

In 2018, American Tower announced its commitment to planting a million trees across the United States over the next decade. “Our Million Trees initiative is a new and creative approach to philanthropic giving that helps support our mission to connect to the communities where our teams live and work,” a statement from American Tower reads. “To implement this program, we are partnering with American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation organization. Thus far, American Tower and American Forests have planted 200,000 trees.”

Ranked third among the large U.S. wireless infrastructure REITs with more than 17,000 towers in service, SBA Communications stated that one of its core corporate goals is to “mitigate the environmental impact and carbon footprint.” However, SBA is one of many S&P 500 companies that do not disclose their carbon data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Nevertheless, SBA has implemented various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and provide green solutions for its business, including stringent energy efficiency and recycling programs.

According to the Environment chapter of SBA Communications’ 2019 Sustainability Report, “As a leader in wireless communications infrastructure, SBA also strives to be a leader in corporate sustainability. We continuously look at ways to maximize the sustainability of our operations and reduce our environmental footprint across the markets in which we operate. Our neutral-host infrastructure assets have a relatively small geographic footprint, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet per tower site. They are built to host equipment from multiple tenants, thereby reducing the overlap and duplication of towers in our communities. We have developed sustainable energy solutions that reduce carbon emissions for our customers. We support post-disaster recovery efforts following hurricanes, such as the re-building of critical telecom networks and provisioning of emergency power.”

SBA said that its environmental measures include screening tower site locations that might be located in a wilderness or wildlife preserve, mitigating any potential effect on migratory birds and their habitats, and accelerating the replacement of all lighting systems on its towers from traditional incandescent and xenon models to new energy efficient LED lighting systems.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.

Towers Dwarf Small Cells in 5G Building Boom

By Mike Harrington

Update: At press time today, American Tower reported financial results for the quarter ended June 30. The company’s revenue increased 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion; property revenue increased 17.9 percent to $2.233 billion; net income increased 66.8 percent to $748 million; adjusted EBITDA increased 21.8 percent to $1.476 billion; and consolidated AFFO increased 18.7 percent to $1.097 billion.


Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle

Tom Bartlett, CEO of American Tower

The wireless building boom ignited by the 5G rollout has been a big boon for the nation’s two largest owners of wireless infrastructure — American Tower and Crown Castle — but, so far this year, tower building is overshadowing small cell construction.

On July 27, Crown Castle International said it had revised its previous expectations to roll out 10,000 small cells in both 2021 and 2022 — halving the number to 5,000 small cells for both years. The company attributed its revision to a combination of factors, including carriers’ desire to use macro sites for near-term 5G deployments.

Crown Castle still believes its small cell market will flourish. “The fundamental need for small cells continues and the unit economics remain in line with our expectation,” said Crown Castle president and CEO Jay Brown during the firm’s second-quarter earnings call last week. “There has been a reprioritization of the capital spend here in calendar year 2021 of moving toward getting those macros upgraded for 5G and re-prioritizing in the near term some of those small cells,” Brown said. “We think it’s just timing… that they’re pushing out to the right, and obviously, when you look at our results and our outlook, we’re seeing the push on that going toward towers.”

Crown Castle’s tower building activity is booming, increasing its expected 2021 growth 12 percent, with reported income from operations of $333 million in the second quarter of 2021 — compared with $200 million for the second quarter of 2020.  Customers are prioritizing their 5G deployments toward macro sites rather than small cells, and that’s shifting expectations in that realm. Factors affecting the company’s small-cell business include the cancellation of Sprint small cell orders and zoning and permitting challenges.

“We are seeing the highest level of tower activity in our history as our customers are focusing on utilizing towers in the first phase of deploying their 5G networks nationwide,” Brown said. “This initial focus on towers has led to delays in some of our small cell deployments that impact the timing of when we expect to complete the nearly 30,000 small cells currently in our backlog. We continue to believe the deployment of 5G in the United States will extend our opportunity to create value for our shareholders as our ability to offer towers, small cells and fiber solutions, which are all integral components of communications networks, will be critical as our customers densify their networks to deliver 5G.”

On June 9, speaking at Crown Castle International’s (CCI) Management Presents at Nareit’s REITweek 2021 Virtual Investor Conference, Dan Schlanger, Crown Castle chief financial officer and executive vice president, said his company has invested heavily in fiber-optic cable and small cells, but that Crown Castle and his carrier customers would continue to focus on towers as the best and most economic and efficient way to deploy communications to large populations in large geographic areas.

Last week, during Crown Castle’s second-quarter earnings call, Schlanger said that the company is taking steps to complement its total return opportunity with a lower risk profile, which includes allocating capital to opportunities in the United States and extends to how the company manages its balance sheet. “To that point, we were able to opportunistically access the bond market and extend the maturity on our credit facility during the second quarter, extending our debt maturity profile and reducing our overall cost of capital,” Schlanger said.

Meanwhile, American Tower’s stock rose 32 percent for the first six months 2021 — and is up more than 70 percent since bottoming in March 2020. American Tower remains the world’s largest owner of wireless infrastructure, with an $86 billion market value, compared to Crown Castle’s $53 billion market value. The company maintains a multitenant real-estate portfolio of 214,000 communications sites. SBA Communications, valued at $23 billion, is the third-largest owner of wireless infrastructure. All three firms are structured as REITs (real estate investment trust) companies.

At press time today, American Tower released its second-quarter results for 2021, revealing the company’s revenue increased 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion.

American Tower CEO Tom Bartlett said, “In Q2, secular growth trends in mobile continued to support meaningful carrier capital investment and wireless network technology advancements throughout our footprint. In addition to delivering double-digit growth in AFFO per Share and 15 percent dividend growth, we added nearly 27,000 sites through our Telxius Towers acquisition in the quarter, augmenting American Tower’s position as a leading independent provider of communications real estate in Europe.

“Looking forward, we expect to leverage the competitive advantage provided by our scaled, diversified portfolio of more than 214,000 communications sites to drive sustainable long-term growth and attractive returns, capitalize on new opportunities associated with 5G and execute our vision of making wireless communication possible everywhere.”

Like Crown Castle’s Jay Brown, Bartlett says that American Tower’s strategy also fits the small-cell market. At the REITweek conference in June, Bartlett said, “What we have found is that, given our complement of markets that we are in and the over 200,000 sites that we have, the better place for us to be able to drive value creation or return on investment is just replicating the model that we’ve built in as many as markets has made sense. And as 5G evolves, we’ll see the need for densification and small cells, which will play a major role, particularly in very dense urban markets — New York, Boston, Philadelphia — where you can’t put a large site into a very dense urban market.”

American Tower’s $3.5 billion acquisition of InSite Wireless last December has bolstered the company’s small-cell business. InSite’s distributed antenna system (DAS) and small cell division specializes in the design, installation, operation and maintenance of shared wireless infrastructure solutions that enhance the quality and capacity of wireless voice and data services in public facilities and complex environments, according to American Tower.


Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.

American Tower Reports Second Quarter 2021 Financial Results

Tom Bartlett, CEO of American Tower

American Tower today reported financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2021, revealing that the company’s total revenue increased 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion.

Tom Bartlett, American Tower’s chief executive officer, stated “In Q2, secular growth trends in mobile continued to support meaningful carrier capital investment and wireless network technology advancements throughout our footprint. In addition to delivering double-digit growth in AFFO per share and 15 percent dividend growth, we added nearly 27,000 sites through our Telxius Towers acquisition in the quarter, augmenting American Tower’s position as a leading independent provider of communications real estate in Europe.

“Looking forward, we expect to leverage the competitive advantage provided by our scaled, diversified portfolio of more than 214,000 communications sites to drive sustainable long-term growth and attractive returns, capitalize on new opportunities associated with 5G and execute our vision of making wireless communication possible everywhere.”

American Tower, second quarter 2021:

Total revenue increased 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion

Property revenue increased 17.9 percent to $2.233 billion

Net income increased 66.8 percent to $748 million

Adjusted EBITDA increased 21.8 percent to $1.476 billion

Consolidated AFFO increased 18.7 percent to $1.097 billion

Source: American Tower

Disguised Cell Towers Pose for Photographic Artist in Fauxliage

By Don Bishop

Click to play video.

The book Fauxliage by Annette LeMay Burke contains 60 color photographs of disguised cell phone towers of the American West. Burke, a photographic artist, captured images of often-whimsical tower disguises during six years of travel. The photographs also are available in 17×22 and 30×44 prints, with individual commissions for larger sizes.

“I live in Silicon Valley,” Burke said, in an interview with AGL Magazine. “I used to work in tech, so I’m used to having a lot of technology around me. I first noticed these disguised trees in the early 2000s. Even in Silicon Valley, they stood out as a little odd. They amused me. Eventually, I started a photo project.”

Writing in her book, Burke said that the more she photographed the towers, the more disconcerted she felt about technology clandestinely modifying the environment.

A palm tree cell tower in Henderson, Nevada, with the Las Vegas Strip in the background. © Annette LeMay Burke

“Would our children soon accept these towers as normal?” she asked. “I began to explore how this manufactured nature had imposed a contrived aesthetic in our neighborhoods. My photographs expose the towers’ idiosyncratic disguises, highlight the variety of forms and show how ubiquitous they are in our daily lives.” Because the towers are mostly fake trees, Burke called the photo series Fauxliage.

Some of Burke’s search for towers to photograph simply involved a lot of driving around.

“It’s much easier when you’re the passenger, just to look around,” she said. “Many times, I would take scouting shots with my cell phone just to get the GPS and then go back later. I would ask people who live in the area where good ones are. Also, the internet is just a great research tool.”

Burke said she has a degree in geology, and she is interested in the natural world and how people interact with it.

Three saguaros in Phoenix. © Annette LeMay Burke

“I’m used to looking at the landscape,” she said. “I’m interested in artifacts that we leave behind. This could be something that technology has left behind, these cell towers.”

Despite the quirky disguises that can be entertaining to look at, Burke wrote in her book, the towers present privacy and environmental concerns. “The often-farcical pole disguises belie the equipment’s covert ability to collect all the personal data transmitted from our cell phones,” the book reads. “Our social media interactions, advertising clicks, location tracking pings, audio recordings by the always-listening Siri and Alexis, are all commoditized, sold and stored by Big Tech and the government. Surveillance capitalism, especially perfecting the algorithms that can predict our behavior to advertisers, is big business in the 21st century.”

Commenting about the cell towers disguised as saguaro cacti, Burke said, “They are my favorite. The ones I photographed are in the Phoenix area. They are very well disguised, I think, because they can be shorter. It helps them to fit in a little better. The designers go to great detail. The little cactus spines are all airbrushed individually. They have re-created the little birds’ nest burrows in there. They are really great.

Burke maintains a website at www.atelierlemay.com, where it is possible to obtain signed copies of the book. Daylight Books publishes Fauxliage by Annette LeMay Burke; visit www. daylightbooks.org/products/fauxliage.


Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.