By J. Sharpe Smith —
The industry saw a drop in tower leasing this year, with lease equivalents falling from 21,100 in 2014 to an estimated 16,200 in 2015, according to RBC Capital Markets. It was the lowest RBC has recorded since 2012 (16,800). Verizon and T-Mobile served as the principal drivers of activity in the last 12 months.
“Verizon has been the most active contributor to tower leasing, with approximately 1,500 site additions during 1H15. LTE deployments in the AWS [Advanced Wireless Service] band continue, with refarming efforts in the PCS [Personal Communications Service] band in the initial phases,” Jonathan Atkin, RBC managing director, wrote. “LTE 700 MHz coverage and overlay sites were a focus for 2015 [for T-Mobile] (400 new sites added during 1H15) along with spectrum refarming. We expect MetroPCS CDMA decommissioning to be largely complete by the end of 2015.”
AT&T is emphasizing spectrum refarming, with 400 additions during 1H15, while Sprint is focusing on LTE second-carrier deployments at 1,900 MHz, carrier aggregation at 2.5 GHz and 800 MHz overlays along with metro-specific efforts, including Chicago, Kansas City and Washington D.C., according to RBC.
RBC expects leasing will bounce back in 2016 (more about that in the next issue).