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Zayo Purchased by Ganzi’s Digital Colony, EQT

Acquisition is Latest in Global Buying Spree of Small Cell, DAS, Fiber Assets


Marc Ganzi’s vision of diversification took another big step yesterday as his global investment firm Digital Colony purchased fiber optic network provider Zayo Group, with the help of EQT Infrastructure IV fund, in a transaction valued at $14.3 billion. Zayo will transition from a public company to a private company but remain headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. The deal is subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.

Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst, Wells Fargo Securities, said. “Ultimately, we believe ZAYO will be a valuable asset within the acquirers’ portfolios and create natural synergies with their other investments. Digital Colony, through its partner Digital Bridge, touches many of the converging parts of the communications infrastructure ecosystem.”

Digital Colony is a combination of Digital Bridge Holdings, which is headed by Ganzi, and Colony Capital, a real estate investment management firm. Digital Bridge is a holding company that is quite diversified, owning Vertical Bridge, Mexico Tower Partners, ExteNet Systems, Databank, Vantage Data Centers and Andean Tower Partners.

As a global investment firm, Digital Colony focuses on next generation mobile and internet infrastructure – towers, data centers, small cells, and fiber.

Ganzi said, “Zayo has a world-class digital infrastructure portfolio, including a highly-dense fiber network in some of the world’s most important metro markets. We believe the company has a unique opportunity to meet the growing demand for data associated with the connectivity and backhaul requirements of a range of customers.”

Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are serving as financial advisors to Zayo Group in connection with the transaction and Skadden Arps is serving as legal counsel. Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank are acting as financial advisors to Digital Colony and EQT Infrastructure, and Simpson Thacher is serving as legal advisor.

Spencer Kern, analyst, New Street Research,  said the transaction was bad news for Crown Castle International. First, the pricing of transaction has negative implications because the implied multiple on Zayo’s fiber is 7x lower than the multiple placed on CCI’s fiber by the market.

“We don’t see any reasons why CCI’s fiber should trade at such a high premium to Zayo’s; at the multiple implied by the Zayo transaction, we see 8 percent downside to CCI’s stock price,” Kern wrote. “Second, the new ownership of Zayo could drive greater competition in small cells, putting pressure on CCI’s small cells win-rate, pricing, or both.”

A Busy Year for Digital Colony

Since its inception, Digital Colony has aggressively moved forward on Ganzi’s vision of diversification, with a particular emphasis on the United Kingdom. Last August, Digital Colony entered the U.K. indoor DAS and small cell market with an investment in Stratto, which offers an Infrastructure-as-a-Service business model.

On April 29 of 2019, the global investment firm announced further growth of its U.K. platform through the acquisition of iWireless Solutions, a small cell provider that serves large, high profile venues in the U.K. (London Olympic Stadium, Twickenham Stadium).

Last November, Digital Colony purchased Opencell, which provides multi-operator indoor coverage and currently has more than 2,000 cells across 100 networks that are used by all four U.K. mobile network operators. Opencell was then merged with Stratto.

“Our goal from day one has been to build the leading digital infrastructure platform that delivers exceptional indoor and outdoor network solutions to the mobile network operators in the U.K.; combining Opencell’s capabilities and active networks with the Stratto platform helps us accelerate those goals,” said Ganzi, in a November 2018 press release. “We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationships with our customers as well as positioning Digital Colony’s U.K. digital infrastructure platform as the recognized leader in the small cell sector.”

Outside the United Kingdom, Digital Colony Buys Fiber, Towers

Elsewhere in the world, Digital Colony has reached out and planted it flag. Last week, Digital Colony closed on the acquisition of Toronto-based, Cogeco Peer 1, a provider of colocation, network connectivity and managed services company. Cogeco Peer 1’s fiber business, which currently encompass more than 2,050 route miles of owned, dense metro fiber in Canada’s two largest urban markets, plans to become the country’s first neutral-host provider of small cell and 5G infrastructure and enterprise and wholesale fiber connectivity.

At the end of just Digital Colony completed its acquisition of Helsinki, Finland-based Digita Oy, which owns and operates the nationwide digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting tower infrastructure network in Finland and is the largest independent owner of telecom towers in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian Investor Buys a Third of Vertical Bridge

Long‑term institutional investor Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) has acquired a 30-percent stake in Vertical Bridge Holdings, which will use investment to continue to expand its portfolio of broadband and broadcast towers, small cells, real estate and other wireless infrastructure assets ahead of 5G deployment.

Since its inception in 2014, Vertical Bridge has completed more than 250 acquisitions and grown its portfolio to over 266,000 sites, including more than 16,000 owned and master-leased towers, as well as the nation’s largest and tallest private portfolio of broadcast towers.

“With this acquisition, we expand our exposure to telecommunications infrastructure by partnering with a first‑class operator that is strategically positioned in the market and brings a wealth of knowledge of the industry,” said Emmanuel Jaclot, Executive Vice‑President, Infrastructure at CDPQ. “We are delighted to work alongside the Vertical Bridge team and support the company’s next stages of development and long-term growth in an attractive wireless infrastructure sector.”

CDPQ joins a diverse group of long-term investors who have supported Vertical Bridge since its founding. The group includes Digital Bridge, The Jordan Company, Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners, Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, The Edgewater Funds, CalSTRS and Dock Square Capital LLC. The Vertical Bridge executive team also holds a significant stake in the business.

“Two key goals since the day we were founded have been to be a leader in wireless communications infrastructure and to have longevity as a private company. The commitment from CDPQ – as well our current investors’ ongoing support – will allow us to continue to meet these objectives,” said Alex Gellman, CEO and Co-Founder of Vertical Bridge. “We are thrilled to add CDPQ to our investor group and look forward to working with them as we offer an even broader range of innovative infrastructure solutions to customers in the dynamic U.S. wireless and broadcast markets.”

Digital Bridge Holdings was formed in 2013 through a partnership between Ben Jenkins of Dering Capital (and formerly of The Blackstone Group) and Marc Ganzi (former founder and CEO of Global Tower Partners).  Digital Bridge owns interest in a broad range of communications infrastructure companies, including: Mexico Tower Partners, Vertical Bridge, ExteNet, Andean Tower Partners, Databank and Vantage Data Centers.

“We are pleased to welcome CDPQ to the company’s group of investors,” said Marc Ganzi, executive chairman of Vertical Bridge and co-founder and CEO of Digital Bridge. “As the world prepares for the next generation of mobile technology, and coverage and capacity demands rise, their support and guidance will be a vital asset to the Board and to the management team as we collaborate to achieve our goals and support carriers by providing best-in-class digital infrastructure solutions.”

Change May Flow from Possible New Mobile Network Operators

By Don Bishop, Exec. Editor, Assoc. Publisher, AGL Magazine

Multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) and machine-to-machine communications stand ready to change the wireless infrastructure business in response to wireless communications carrier requirements.


Ganzi

The delivery of infrastructure today is a more complex effort than it was in the 1990s or the early part of the 2000s, according to Marc Ganzi, CEO of Digital Bridge. Compared with today’s business focus, wireless infrastructure companies used to think more about where wireless carriers wanted tower sites and how the tower companies could efficiently deploy their balance sheets to help carriers extend their networks, he said. Digital Bridge develops, owns and manages tower and rooftop antenna sites, data centers, fiber-optic cable routes and backhaul, cloud storage, small cells, distributed antenna system (DAS) networks, and Wi-Fi wireless local area networks.

In the past, Ganzi said, separate companies handled the wireless infrastructure segments of towers, DAS and fiber. For the future, Ganzi expects 5G wireless communications infrastructure requirements to transform the wireless carriers and how they spend capital.

 

 


“I challenge everyone to not think so much of being in the tower business, but to think of being in the bandwidth delivery business.”

— Marc Ganzi, CEO of Digital Bridge

Photo by Don Bishop


Preparing for 5G

“We are spending a lot of time thinking about how networks are converging, how we can be helpful and, most importantly, preparing a fairly substantial spend to make 5G work,” Ganzi said. “The industrialization of the network is really important to understand. You have to think about the network in multiple dimensions.”

In Ganzi’s view, the first dimension involves multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) communications, which at least uses multiple transmitting and receiving antennas for a given base station, and sometimes multiple transmitters and receivers that each have multiple antennas to transmit and receive more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel. The effect minimizes errors and optimizes data speed.

“With MIMO, you immediately change the dynamic of how infrastructure is built because now you’re relying on small cells, Wi-Fi, macro sites, backhaul and edge data centers, and then ultimately, the backside of a cloud-based radio access network (C-RAN) with base station hotels or carrier hotels,” Ganzi said.

Machine-to-Machine Connections

“A second dimension addresses 5G’s potential not only for connecting 7 billion human beings on this planet, but also it is about connecting 7 trillion devices,” Ganzi said. “No longer are we building networks for people-to-people connections. We’re talking about machine-to-machine connections. Those machine-to-machine connections are going exponentially far faster than anyone can comprehend. As we think about where we’re going to be in 2030, with 7 trillion devices connected via wireless networks, that’s an exciting place to be.”

Hierarchy of Objectives

Ganzi said customers have a hierarchy of objectives, including quick, capital-efficient deployment that solves legacy lease issues while bringing down the total cost of bandwidth delivery over time. He said wireless infrastructure providers have profited greatly as deployment partners with carriers, but a fundamental shift to lighter, smaller infrastructure is mostly likely to be more rent-efficient. Trying to help customers optimize their operating expense is important, Ganzi said, along with understanding how to deliver many solutions quickly.

Future Customers

“Regarding the customers of the future, I wonder how far Charlie Ergen will go with the Dish Network internet-of-things (IoT) network,” Ganzi said. This year, Ergen, the company chairman, announced Dish Network’s plans to deploy a nationwide, narrowband IoT wireless network. “How do cable TV companies get into the business of wireless communications?” he asked. “Do the cable companies eventually own a network?”

If the No. 3 and No. 4 national wireless carriers, T-Mobile US and Sprint, merge as they have said they intend to do, Ganzi said the cable TV companies may end up entering the business as a fourth national wireless communications carrier. “We have to think a lot about what they will need for infrastructure,” he said.

Another potential new mobile network operator Ganzi identified as a future customer for wireless infrastructure could come from companies that Wall Street sometimes refers to in a group as FANG, using the first letters of their names: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

“Probably the FANGs will not build their own wireless communications networks unless there are some changes made about net neutrality,” Ganzi said. “But chances are, maybe one of them will, or they build pieces of the network, or they joint venture with the cable TV companies to build a joint network. I am optimistic about traditional content providers and companies that deliver goods and services. It benefits them to have network elements, if they can control and own them.”

Referring once to the industrialization of the wireless network as the IoT, Ganzi said it would be logical that for Amazon to deliver a flawless experience, especially with drone delivery, Amazon will need some form of a wireless network with low latency and with computational functions and applications placed at the network edge.

Aggregation Points

“You will see carrier hotels, small-cell base station hotels or C-RAN hubs, whatever you want to call them, as aggregation points where content and wireless come together to reduce latency as low as 1 millisecond,” Ganzi said. “To achieve that, we have to be 1,000 percent faster than we are today. Some of these challenges are confounding from an engineering perspective, and I believe it means we will see new wireless carrier entrants.”

In Ganzi’s view, if T-Mobile US and Sprint merge, it will be positive for the wireless infrastructure industry. He said the best result would be the emergence of a fourth mobile network operator. But whether or not the companies merge, much work will need to be done to densify mobile networks.

Network Reinvestment

“Rationalizations of networks take about seven years, depending on how long the duration of the existing macro sites is with the company that’s acquiring the other company,” Ganzi said. “Between the third and sixth years after a merger, you see a reinvestment in the network. We’ve seen that happen time and time again. I am not concerned about the short-term implications of the merger. I am more interested in its by-product, and whether it encourages cable TV companies to invest, Dish Network to invest or the FANGs to invest. Whatever happens, the number of devices that will need to be connected over the next decade is a staggering figure. To accomplish that is going to require a lot more bandwidth and a lot more infrastructure. I challenge everyone to not think so much of being in the tower business, but to think of being in the bandwidth delivery business.”

People

Ganzi emphasized the importance of focusing on work flow to reduce cycle time. He said the need to complete projects more quickly applies to all businesses. For antenna site projects, he said bringing the customer experience down from a 180-day experience to a 90-day experience represents a remarkable achievement because it pulls sites into a quarter.

“It starts with people,” Ganzi said. “It’s harder and harder today to find good people to run these businesses just because of the sheer volume of activity and not really having a great safety net for training. How do we continue to train the next generation engineers? How do we train the next professionals in wireless infrastructure to really come on board and be effective on Day One? If you don’t have the right people, you can’t create alpha in investing. Owning infrastructure assets is great. You can have the best leases; you can have the best cash flows. But people create alpha, not the assets.” In business terminology, alpha is the excess return on investment relative to a benchmark return.

Regulations

Although the wireless infrastructure business continuously faces a challenge from regulations, Ganzi said, the challenge brings opportunity. If it becomes easy to perform a site make-ready, to build a tower or to pull a building permit, wireless infrastructure specialists will become less useful to wireless carriers. He said wireless infrastructure specialists have the skills to perform the hard work and provide a strategic value-add to wireless carriers. A value-add becomes quantified as the difference between the revenue received for a product or service and the cost required to produce it.

Ganzi said the Wireless Industry Association, under its previous name PCIA, did a good job with regulation in bringing the wireless infrastructure industry and municipal governments together to offer the collocation of wireless equipment on existing sites as a matter of right. “How the industry responds and how the FCC responds will largely dictate how easy it will be or how difficult it will be to deploy next-generation networks,” he said.


Marc Ganzi spoke at the Connectivity Expo conducted by the Wireless Infrastructure Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, in May.The next Connectivity Expo is set for May 20–23, 2019, in Orlando, Florida.

5G Infrastructure Opportunities Go Far Beyond Towers — Ganzi

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Ganzi

5G will be a transformative moment for the wireless industry as operators provide the new, expansive services made possible by multi-gigabit speeds and minimal latency, Marc Ganzi, Digital Bridge CEO, told an audience at last week’s Wireless West Conference, held in Los Angeles. The wireless infrastructure industry will have to transform, too, through technological convergence to provide an estimated 1.2 million small cells, miles of fiber optics and computing pushed to the edge of the networks.

Digital Bridge itself is a prime example of convergence, with ownership of companies across multiple platforms, including macrotowers, small cells, wholesale data center solutions, enterprise-class data centers, neutral-host distributed network systems and fiber optics.

Ganzi challenged the audience members to think bigger and expand beyond towers to serve the operators’ needs. “How do you stay relevant?” he said. “We should be in the business of delivering networks. We are not in silos anymore. Convergence is now. It is not something ethereal or happening in the distant future.”

The 5G buildout will be a complicated build that will take place over the span of seven to eight years, Ganzi forecasted. “It will involve a lot of the pieces of the ecosystem – fiber optics, data centers and small cells — that the wireless industry, the tower industry in particular, hasn’t always been a part. These are complex things that have to all fit within an ecosystem that works harmoniously together,” he said.

Fiber optics will be a critical component of 5G because it is the “connective tissue” of the network, whether it linking a Wi-Fi node, a small cell, an indoor DAS system, an outdoor macrosite or mini-macro. “We are beginning to see companies like Zayo and Crown Castle International where the lines are blurring. They are building both the small cells and the fiber to backhaul them,” Ganzi said.

On the backend, software will define 5G networks and will serve as the catalyst that helps the carriers make money. “SDN allows the operator to deliver the most efficient user experience across the network,” Ganzi said. “That’s really, really hard. It will demand a lot of engineering.”

Also at the backend of the network, and just as important, are the data centers. Ganzi sees a lot of opportunity there. Digital Bridge has been investing a good deal of capital in them, finding the business model to be similar to the tower industry. “The data center industry is where towers were 10 years ago when 80 percent of the towers were owned by the carriers, very fragmented,” Ganzi said. “Currently, 70 percent of data centers are owned by enterprises.”

The wireless infrastructure industry must seek to understand how operators’ needs are changing with the advent of 5G and learn how to meet them. “If you want to be a critical partner, you have to change how you think about MLAs, leases, new sites,” he said. “Speed and accuracy are paramount. Owning and building the different elements of the network is critical if you expect your phone to ring.”


J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.  Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: ssmith@aglmediagroup.com.

Digital Bridge Profile: Coloring Outside the Wireless Lines

By J. Sharpe Smith

Marc Ganzi and the team at Digital Bridge do not spend time thinking about how the mobile infrastructure business was conducted in the past. And, they suggest that you shouldn’t, either.

Ganzi

In 2013, Marc Ganzi stood at a crossroads. His company Global Tower Partners had sold its towers to American Tower. Although he could have continued to specialize in cell tower development, an area in which he had been immensely successful, Ganzi instead opted to diversify and invest in the entire communications infrastructure (“comm-infra,” as he calls it) ecosystem.

“There has to be an understanding of your customer, and there has to be a belief that the way we have done things in the past does not necessarily predicate how we will do business in the future,” Ganzi told AGL Magazine in an interview during a tour of the company’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.

He cofounded Digital Bridge Holdings, and since then, the company has made good on that vision by investing in distributed network systems, small cells, fiber optics, data centers and interconnection services, along with macro cells, both domestically and internationally.

Tower Industry at a Crossroads

Now, it is the tower industry that stands at a crossroads. In serving wireless carriers, the industry must embrace change to remain relevant to its customers, according to Ganzi.

“The winners in the successful ownership and management of wireless infrastructure in the next 10 years will be the ones that understand what the customer wants from a deployment partner,” Ganzi said.

Today, smartphones have become an essential hub of people’s lives, from executing banking and other business transactions, such as reading work emails, to listening to music, watching videos, and communicating with peers through social media. Advancing consumer needs for data puts a lot of pressure on the hardware (or mobile device) to perform, Ganzi said.


“Stop looking in the rearview mirror to see how it was always done in the past. What we need to do is start looking out the windshield to see what’s ahead of us in our profession.”

 — Jeff Tobe, author of Coloring Outside the Lines


To remain relevant, the tower industry needs to take a more holistic view of the carriers’ wireless infrastructure connectivity needs, Ganzi said. Delivering this needed bandwidth requires new investment. The industry will need to cross five different points of presence: macro sites, small cells, distributed network systems, fiber and highly secure radio access points (or data centers).

“As it becomes more in focus, it is less about the towers and more about the fiber-fed infrastructure and how you connect the various points of presence and ultimately to the radio access room to the content and where you tie into the cloud,” Ganzi said.

Beyond Towers

Along with investing in macro towers through Vertical Bridge, Mexico Tower Partners and Andean Tower Partners, Digital Bridge has moved in a number of different directions. In the fall of 2015, Digital Bridge entered the business of designing, building, owning and operating distributed fiber-fed networks for use by wireless carriers and venue owners by leading a $1.4 billion recapitalization of ExteNet Systems. It quickly followed up that deal with a bolt-on to ExteNet when it purchased Telecommunications Properties in May of 2016. The company designs, builds and operates distributed antenna system and small cell networks inside high-profile venues. As of June 2017, the business owned and operated more than 350 networks, 16,300 nodes and 3,200 miles of proprietary fiber.

Digital Bridge then completed the convergence cycle when it entered the enterprise-class data center business by acquiring DataBank in July 2016. DataBank then quickly made two acquisitions, buying select 365 Data Center assets in Pittsburgh and Cleveland and picking up Utah-based C7, which owns and operates three facilities in Salt Lake City. With new facilities under construction in Atlanta and a third asset in Dallas, DataBank will have 13 properties nationwide. Not done there, Digital Bridge decided to enter the hyperscale cloud storage data center business, buying one of the largest providers of wholesale enterprise data centers: Santa Clara, California-based Vantage, from SilverLake Partners. Today, Digital Bridge owns and operates more than 16 data centers, with five assets under development and construction across the United States. Digital bridge has invested nearly $2 billion in the sector.

Vertical Market Opportunities

Digital Bridge’s investment in ExteNet increased its access to the verticals (customers with specialized needs) across enterprise wireless, which includes enhancing coverage in key sports and entertainment venues, medical, higher education, hospitality and commercial office buildings.

“We approach each of those verticals differently,” Ganzi said. “Sports/entertainment was a huge strength at Telecommunications Properties, and we continue to book victories there with an integrated approach under the ExteNet flag. In medical, we are just scratching the surface. We’ve had a couple of universities — University of Texas, Auburn and University of Michigan. Those are tough networks to build because the carriers have not taken them yet, but in time, they will. The need is just too compelling from a consumer, research and higher-education need.”

The Next Frontier

Digital Bridge’s companies have deployed in more than 200 commercial office buildings and hotels. The goal is to continue to find cost-effective solutions for the smaller indoor venues. “Hospitality is fertile ground, and we continue to invest there,” Ganzi said. “Finding solutions for hotels with fewer than 400 keys is critical, just as it is for office assets sub-500,000 square feet. Then, the next frontier or pain point in the network will be solutions for hotels with fewer than 150 rooms and office space less than 100,000 square feet.”

ExteNet is heavily involved in the commercial office building segment and has exclusive access rights to more than 180 office properties. Networks will be deployed within those buildings where there is sufficient carrier demand. Where the economics don’t support deployment in an office building, the solution may be to connect multiple buildings at once. Digital Bridge has been working on creating these wide-area, in-building networks in multiple commercial office buildings.

“If you can build a significant collocation facility in one building and connect it over fiber to five other buildings, it can make the economics work,” Ganzi said. “You can provide the ‘meet me rooms’ for all the fiber companies to get access to those buildings, provide enterprise-based wireless solutions for the tenants in the buildings, mobile connectivity for the major carriers, then you layer in Wi-Fi and public safety and you have created a really unique network that achieves the objectives of all constituents involved and saves everyone cost — this is the true shared telecom infrastructure model. It is something we are spending a lot of time on.”

One-stop Infrastructure Shop

The original business plan for Digital Bridge was to provide multiple ways to serve its carrier relationships in the mobile infrastructure space by having separate platforms to invest in the distinct components that make networks function at a high level, while also making use of all of the businesses to work in concert to deploy integrated solutions for customers. But at this time, carriers are not looking for a one-stop shop for all their infrastructure needs.

“I don’t think the carriers wake up every day and think about how to converge their networks,” Ganzi said. “Carriers do not see infrastructure as a holistic real estate cost — yet. I want to emphasize that word ‘yet’ because I believe they are beginning to. U.S. mobile carriers — AT&T, for example — now look at what portion of their costs are related to delivering the customer experience as a total cost per byte. The real question for us as a supplier to AT&T is, ‘How can we deliver a good value proposition that is seamless and easy for the carrier, while lowering their total cost of bandwidth delivery?’”

Digital Bridge does business with AT&T across multiple platforms, including macro sites, small cells and data centers. “We continue to probe them about how else we can help them — where we can reduce costs and speed up velocity,” Ganzi said.

Being diversified helps Digital Bridge command a more senior audience at the carriers, Ganzi said. Its portfolio of 6,800 towers, 18,000 nodes and 3,200 miles of owned fiber can fulfill the carriers’ needs in a number of ways.

“We can be a relevant partner to carriers,” Ganzi said. “We can help them achieve their objectives, which are inevitably: densification, capacity, coverage and cost synergies across the entire mosaic of our infrastructure.”

The 5G Future

With carriers attempting historically unheard-of data speeds and low-latency parameters, the pressure will be on wireless infrastructure to do things differently than it has in the past — or it won’t happen.

“I am the eternal optimist, and I see a lot of promise in the future of network deployments,” Ganzi said. “The promise of 5G will only be met if we as an industry can answer the bell on infrastructure in a way that is cost-effective, where the customer receives good value and the network gets delivered on time, and it performs well.”

The next generation of wireless networks will need many types of communications assets, from macro cells, small cells and DAS to fiber optics, centralized radio access networks (C-RANs) and data centers. Digital Bridge is intent on amassing a variety of assets to serve all carriers’ needs, as well as cloud and content players. It shares space in its airy, understated offices in Boca Raton with Vertical Bridge, which has accumulated assets in buildings, rooftops, utility attachments and macro cells, all as part of a turnkey real-estate communications solution.

“I take it personally when people call us a tower company,” said Bernard Borghei, senior vice president of operations and a cofounder of Vertical Bridge. “We are no longer a tower company. We are a real-estate solution provider. We have all these different types of assets to meet the demands of today’s advanced technology leading into 5G and beyond.”

Even the real estate under suburban towers may come in handy as locations for micro data centers as wireless providers push their data centers closer to the edge of the network, according to Alex Gellman, CEO and a cofounder of Vertical Bridge. “If C-RAN is to be located at specific sites, we look at marketing the land under our sites for a C-RAN hub,” he said.

Outside the lines

During its short history, Digital Bridge has made six investments, including two in data centers, giving it $6.8 billion in assets under management. Ganzi seems to relish taking his formula of “fast, flexible and friendly” and pushing it outside the border of the tower industry and beyond the border of the United States.

“We have come a long way in our 24 years of doing this, but by no means have we perfected anything,” Ganzi said. “We are still learning. That is the fun part. We believe if you have a great market opportunity, great management teams and you seed them with the requisite capital, infrastructure, back office and discipline, it will accrete to a good investment and return for our investors.”


J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.