With carriers making progress by leaps and bounds in LTE deployment, are the good times are about to come to an end? That was one of the questions Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO, PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association, posed to the tower executive panel at the association’s annual conference, Oct. 9 in Hollywood, Fla.
“We have seen the coverage maps … and you see them getting filled out and people are kind of wondering where are we in the 4G build out?” Adelstein asked The View From the Top – A Tower CEO Roundtable panel.
SBA Communications is busy and expects to be for some time, according to Jeff Stoops, president and CEO, because it is early in the LTE deployment.
“We’re still getting to full coverage. We’re not there yet. And we’re just beginning to crack the capacity stage and the ultimate full build out and tweaking of the networks,” Stoops said. “So, I’m very optimistic that the strong trends that we’re currently involved with will continue for some period of time.”
Ben Moreland, president and CEO, Crown Castle International, said his company is seeing a return to collocations this year as Verizon Wireless and AT&T get further along into their LTE builds.
Amendments peaked in the fourth quarter of 2012 at historically high levels at SBA Communications and now the trend is moving toward collocations, according to Stoops.
“When you think about how carriers deploy their networks, it is all about speed and efficiency, which is the amendment process,” he said. “And then what has followed in past cycles and I don’t see this one as any different is the in-fill stage where they test the holes and the demand. And that’s really satisfied by brand new tenancies.”
Steven Marshall, executive vice president, American Tower, said the company is seeing somewhat of a swing back to collocations but is still experiencing a great deal of amendment activity.
The tower CEOs discussed what might be the next carrier to enter the wireless industry and which spectrum it might use. Dish Network was held by to be the most likely to get into the ring by Moreland and Stoops
“Dish Network is very public about their need and desire to have a wireless product. They’ve been obviously very aggressive in acquiring spectrum and have made no bones about their interest in either acquiring or partnering with a wireless carrier to get out and build a wireless product,” Moreland said.
DISH controls enough spectrum and has a plan to deploy on a network-sharing basis, according to Stoops.
While Marshall had no prediction on the next carrier entrant, he said that the Dish spectrum will ultimately get deployed and drive additional demand for infrastructure.
“Maybe other people, maybe Charlie Ergen [Dish chairman of the board], will ultimately land on a particular strategy that drives a lot more infrastructure investment for us. But one thing’s for sure, this is a fantastic industry that’s got fantastic runway and great growth potential. Other carriers will continue to invest in their platforms and other people will come in to provide that need.”