Crown Castle Pays $461M For Tower Development Corp.

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The Houston tower giant has paid Berkshire Partners $461 million cash for the 336 towers it owns and operates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Crown Castle said Friday the towers have an average tenancy of about two carriers per tower.

The acquisition of Tower Development Corp. should add $25 million to $27 million to Crown Castle’s site rental gross margin in the first full year of ownership and be immediately accretive to Adjusted Funds from Operations per share, Crown Castle said. The buy said it funded the acquisition with available cash, including cash on hand, cash from borrowings under its revolving credit facility and cash from the sale of approximately 3.5 million net shares of common stock at an average price of $85.52 per share year-to-date.

“Our acquisition of TDC is another successful milestone in our long-term relationship with Berkshire Partners,” said Crown Castle President/CEO Ben Moreland. “The TDC acquisition represents an attractive and accretive investment opportunity that further enhances Crown Castle’s portfolio of wireless infrastructure.”

It is unclear if TDC President Ross M. Jones or any other of the current members of the management team of the privately-held tower operator will convey to Crown Castle. On its website, parent company and seller, Boston-based Berkshire Partners, said “Our investment team brings a wide range of relevant professional backgrounds to the Berkshire table. We have been general managers, consultants, turnaround artists and commercial and investment bankers. This diversity of backgrounds has been further strengthened by the knowledge gained through investing together over several business cycles.”

The company does not appear to be run by a raucous bunch. Berkshire’s corporate profile boasts a steady-as-she-goes approach to business. “The original Berkshire team—which came together in the mid-1980s—has expanded significantly as our capital base and investment scope have grown. We note proudly that, except in the case of retirement, no partner has left the firm in its three decades of operation.”

The deal was announced after the closing bell on Wall Street Friday. Shares of Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) closed up $1.28 or 1.48 percent at $88.05.

April 11, 2016 |

5G Gets Its Push

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The push is on to get 5G into consumers’ hands. Like tomorrow. But first, it has to be invented, refined and out there. The good news is that’s already happening. Just last week a pair of U.S. senators introduced, as 360Law described it, “bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing the airwaves available for next-generation wireless services and reducing barriers to broadband deployment.”

U.S. Sens. John Thune, (R-SD), and Bill Nelson, (D-FL), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, introduced the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless, or Mobile Now, Act on February 11. 360Law added the bill codifies President Barack Obama’s 2010 directive to make 500 megahertz of spectrum available for wireless broadband use.”

Just about the same time as serious business was getting done in the Senate, the news ticker clicked off the headline “AT&T Joins Verizon In Trying To Bring You Super-Fast 5G Data.” Wowie zowie, it must be happening. Verizon’s “Newsy” site said “the company (AT&T) says customers could see speeds measured in gigabits per second, instead of megabits per second. That’s really fast.” Really fast means “10-to-100 times faster than the average 4G LTE connection.” Verizon said it is working on a fifth generation network that is 3-to-50 times faster than 4G LTE. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves because “5G Smartphones aren’t ready for mass production and that will take time to rollout,” reported the news site. “And, it will take some time to rollout 5G over the United States.”

Verizon announced last year it is already working on 5G service.

How fast is “fast” you ask? Well, it’s hard to imaging but “with 1Gigabit, a TV show can be downloaded in 3 seconds,” offered the Verizon site.

February 17, 2016 |

Sprint To Sprint From American, Crown-Owned Towers

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Tower giants American Tower and Crown Castle could be the latest victims of Sprint’s six straight years of lousy revenues if the carrier goes through with a plan to move to government-owned towers as reported Friday afternoon. San Francisco-based Re/code reported Sprint’s latest “radical overall” plans for its cellular network have been finalized and call for the nation’s fourth-largest carrier to move its radio equipment off towers owned by American Tower and Crown Castle to government-owned structures. The savings could be as much as $1 billion, reported Re/code, as tower costs are a significant portion of the carrier’s capital expenses. Sprint also pays about $1 billion annually to AT&T and Verizon to carry its customers’ wireless calls from towers to landlines, known as “backhaul” and seeks to reduce those payments. The new plan, reports Re/code, would instead use microwave technology for this purpose, an approach previously used by Clearwire, which Sprint acquired in 2012.

But the mere notion that a government-owned tower could be less expensive raised eyebrows from one Georgia-based tower owner. He told Inside Towers, “I’m not sure that’s true government towers have cheaper rent. The county here, in an effort to keep tenants off their tower, starts at $5,000 for a single bay translator.”

For months, Kansas City-based Sprint has talked publicly about its overall plan to trim $2 billion from its expenses. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said he would like to make the cuts by January 30 to allow employees to take advantage of a more generous severance plan that is being ended. Re/code sources said the 117-year-old Sprint plans to make significant numbers of the cuts on January 22. But beyond axing employees mostly in its retail division, no firm whacks to its structural and physical existence have been officially announced. Re/Code said the process of moving to lesser expensive towers “could begin as soon as June or July.”

Sprint spokesman Dave Tovar told Inside Towers the company was not commenting on the Re/code story. Inside Towers’ calls and emails to spokesman at American Tower and Crown Castle were not returned Friday. A woman at Sprint headquarters said spokesman David Tovar “is in a meeting.” At press time, none of the three companies had posted a response on their corporate websites.

January 18, 2016 |

FCC Auction Not Enough Spectrum, Says Sprint CFO

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65a0a7a4-2a5f-4675-86c2-6bc7ea2c4ec0Months ago Sprint made it clear it wasn’t going to bid in the 600MHZ spectrum auction when the FCC oversees the long-awaited sale. And last week the company reiterated its position on standing on the sidelines, according to

“This auction is at best going to give a block of 2x10MHz spectrum,” Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati said at the Citi 2016 Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference. “For a really, really high-speed network you need at least 2x20MHz of contiguous spectrum.”

Broadcasters and their strong lobbying arm, the NAB, have continued to lean on the FCC to expand its 39-month window for conversion after TV outlets sell their spectrum, pressing for up to five years. The request for more time has reached carriers as Robbiati suggested, the spectrum won’t be available for use until 2021, reported It added that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless also seem lukewarm on the 600MHz auction. All of which has led T-Mobile US Inc. ‘s CEO, John Legere, to suggest that his carrier will be a winner in the upcoming spring auction.

Robbiati also said Sprint will beef up its capacity by focusing on adding small cells, femtocells and distributed antenna systems (DAS), the CFO says.
“What we’re really working on is picking out the partners that we work with,” Robbiati says. He says that there are plenty of alternative vendors at CES that Sprint could talk to,” reported.

January 13, 2016 |

Hodge Structural Engineers, Consolidated Engineers, Inc. To Merge

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The death of veteran engineer Ernie Jones in a tower elevator October 21, 2015, has resulted in the merger of his company, Consolidated Engineers, Inc. of Lynnville, IN, with Hodge Structural engineers in Evansville, some 34 miles southwest of Lynnville. CEO Cray Hodge made the announcement on December 31, and yesterday told Inside Towers “Both entities will continue to operate under their current names. Consolidated Engineers will be an unincorporated division of Hodge Structural Engineers. We will gradually change Consolidated Engineers over to Hodge Structural Engineers.”

The merger will become effective in the near future. “Both parties have reached an agreement on the overall terms of the transaction, and the closing will be completed as soon as possible,” Hodge said, adding “the terms of the transaction will remain confidential by mutual agreement of the parties involved.”

“Ernie was an incredible man and led many of the innovations and standards within the tower industry. We are merging to continue his legacy and provide an expanded level of expertise and capabilities to tower owners and operators,” Hodge said. “Dave Davies and Keith Barnett will remain on board and we intend to have a seamless transition.”

Hodge told Inside Towers, “Consolidated had three employees, including Ernie. Hodge Structural Engineers has three licensed engineers on staff.  We hold professional engineering licensure in 48 states and our professional staff has over twenty years’ experience in the analysis and design of antenna towers. HSE also has considerable expertise in engineering for commercial and special structures.”

Jones, a highly regarded engineer and a frequent expert consultant to NATE and to NAB on engineering and safety issues, died while working on KOCO-TV/Oklahoma City, OK’s 1,500 foot tower. He died after the tower elevator began making a descent before he had unhooked his safety lanyard from the tower. Jones was alone at the time of the accident, having returned to the top apparently after discovering he was missing some important data for a report.

January 5, 2016 |

Appeals Court Backs FCC on Tower Siting

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In what could be seen as a landmark decision that could effectively speed the decision-making process for approving tower construction in America, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday agreed with the FCC’s directive to deploy wireless facilities by preventing intervention by local authorities.

Although the FCC rule had won the support of CTIA and PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association, Montgomery County, MD and other counties in March filed suit against the FCC to prevent the commission from carrying out its order and call the new tower siting rule unconstitutional, arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise illegal,” reported John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable.

The FCC, which has been an unabashed supporter of the national build-out of the wireless infrastructure, voted unanimously in October 2014 to make it easier to deploy wireless infrastructure.

Former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, now president and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said Friday following the ruling that the FCC was within its legal authority to interpret legal terms designed to streamline deployment of wireless broadband.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this case because it will promote the widespread deployment of mobile broadband in Montgomery County and other communities around the country. The wireless infrastructure industry wants to reduce or eliminate, whenever possible, unreasonable obstacles to all communities tapping into the extraordinary economic and technological potential of wireless broadband. We were proud to partner with CTIA to make this victory possible.  We look forward to our continued work with municipalities to meet their constituents’ growing demand for wireless data. PCIA has strongly supported the Infrastructure Order and its guidelines for implementation, and congratulate the FCC on this important win in its laudable efforts aimed at increasing broadband deployment.”

The CTIA was also “pleased by the court’s decision.” It added, “From Congress to the FCC to local governments, policymakers recognize the vital role that government can and should play in expediting the deployment of broadband networks.” The group said it  is “proud to have partnered with municipal representatives to educate local jurisdictions about streamlined siting processes, and to have developed a model ordinance and checklist for use by local zoning authorities.” CTIA said it believes that the court’s decision “will bring greater certainty and uniformity to broadband permitting decisions, bolstering the economic and social benefits that broadband brings to communities across the nation.”

December 21, 2015 |

New 150’ Tower May Be Coming Down In East Hampton, NY

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The tower behind a firehouse in the swanky neighborhood of famous writers on Long Island, NY, just went up last spring. Not all the equipment has been installed, but now it may have to come down. The Springs Fire District’s cell phone tower permit was revoked last week by the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals by a vote of 4 to 1.The zoning board said Elite Towers, the company that leased the land for the 150-foot tower, misled the SFD commissioners in suggesting the district was exempt from local zoning review, said the East Hampton Star.

The members who voted to revoke the permit, made it clear that they were not opposed to the pole per se, but wanted it reviewed through the proper channels. The tower was put up in April, but the communications equipment intended to go on it has not been installed. Objections to the tower were widespread when it went up, leading to an appeal of a building permit issued by the Building Department.

Inside Towers told you about the October 6 appeal hearing when Pat Glennon, chairman of the board of fire commissioners, told the East Hampton Star that in addition to the tower’s use for cell phone communications, it was essential that new equipment be installed for the fire department, because there are numerous dead spots where volunteers’ pagers don’t work. He also said the commissioners had inquired with the town Planning Department, as well as its legal team and had been given a verbal okay to put up the tower based on a 2004 determination involving the Amagansett Fire Department. The zoning board found that state case law cites fire districts and fire companies as, generally speaking, being under the purview of local zoning laws. “I think they were led awry,” a zoning board member said of the fire commissioners.

December 8, 2015 |

Spectrum Incentive Auction Gets Wings Today

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Officially it’s called the House Subcommittee of Communications and Technology and chaired by former broadcast owner Rep. Greg Walden (R-WA) and it’s set to markup bipartisan legislation that aims to promote increased wireless broadband build out. H.R. 1641 was introduced March 26 and gives the FCC the gusto to move ahead with the planned March 26, 2016, airwaves auction and repurpose their commercial use. The 13-page bill also establishes in the Treasury a Federal Spectrum Incentive Fund to be administered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in consultation with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“We commend the bipartisan leadership of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology for moving expeditiously in marking up a legislative package that is so integral to America’s economic and technological future,” said the PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon. “Consumer demand for wireless mobile data continues to escalate – with no end in sight. This nation cannot meet that demand and continue to compete in the global marketplace unless we site and deploy greater wireless infrastructure and allocate additional spectrum for wireless communications.”

“PCIA and the wireless infrastructure industry will continue working closely with Subcommittee Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo (D-CA), and other members of the subcommittee and their staffs in shaping legislation that will spur job creation in every region of the country and keep America at the forefront of technological innovation.”

December 2, 2015 |

Done Deal, Phoenix Closes on 600 T-Mobile Tower Sites

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06fed6cPhoenix Tower International CEO Dagan T. Kasavana said the Boca Raton, FL company has closed on its deal to acquire 600 T-Mobile tower sites and notes TD Securities served as merger and acquisition advisor and provided financing for the transaction, but he won’t budge on financial details like what it cost Phoenix to buy the towers.

“The closing of this credit facility with Toronto Dominion was crucial to the acquisition of the sites with T-Mobile.  Furthermore, TD’s facility provides additional financing for development and acquisition opportunities in the United States where we want to continue to build momentum after our transaction with T-Mobile.  TD is a market leader in tower financing and we are excited to work with them in our continued expansion in the United States,” Kasavana said.

According to the Phoenix website, Mr. Kasavana graduated from Fairfield University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant. His past work includes Ernst & Young, LLP, both in the area of auditing (1998-2004) and in the area of transaction advisory services (2004-2006). He specialized in providing services to clients in the areas of technology, wireless infrastructure, manufacturing and telecommunications.

Photo courtesy of linkedIn.

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November 17, 2015 |

Man Dies While Working on KOCO-TV Tower

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KOCO-TVTOWEROklahoma City, OK TV affiliate KOCO confirms that “a man died Wednesday (October 21) while working on KOCO’s transmission tower.” A posting on the broadcaster’s website said “the independent contractor was performing a routine inspection at the time. KOCO is working with authorities as they continue their investigation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

News Director Rebecca Gaylord told Inside Towers she had no additional information and could not confirm the man’s name but unconfirmed reports identified him as Ernest “Ernie” Jones, described as an “industry icon” who helped form and advance structural and safety standards. The actual event that lead to his death was described as “an elevator-related accident.”

A posting on the KOCO Facebook page late Wednesday by Lacie Lowery “ Prayers this man is okay. An engineer for KOCO is passed out in the elevator 1300 feet up their tv transmission tower on Britton Rd in OKC.”

Jones was president of Consolidated Engineering in Lynnville, IN. He was a member of the TR14-7 Committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Assocaition since 1986.  The committee writes and approves the technical standards which is the American National Standard for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures.

Jones was reportedly actively involved with engineering activities and planning at the National Association of Broadcasters.

Inside Towers’ calls to Consolidated Engineering were not returned Thursday night. Please subscribe to our daily newsletter for a follow up story Monday morning.

October 23, 2015 |
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