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 |
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