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PCIA: We Have a Long Way to Grow

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 10:47am
Andrew Berg

ORLANDO – There’s a consistent message being communicated here at PCIA’s annual conference in Orlando: growth in the infrastructure isn’t slowing with the completion of Verizon and AT&T’s LTE networks. 

“Our entire investment is based on, ‘We have a long way to go,’” commented Ben Moreland, president and CEO of Crown Castle International, during an executive roundtable that included representation from the three major tower companies in the United States. 

Brendan Cavanaugh, executive vice president and chief financial officer, for SBA Communications, concurred, noting that his company sees growth for at least the next few years, given backlogs in existing deployments and the availability of new spectrum through the upcoming auctions. 

Cavanaugh said spectrum itself has historically driven the infrastructure market. “New technology is required with each new wave of spectrum deployment,” he said.

Rodney Smith, senior vice president and chief financial officer for American Tower, said capacity continues to plague carriers, regardless of how far along they are on their deployments. 

“Verizon has complete their rollout, but we also see Verizon’s network as a mile wide and an inch deep,” Smith said, a comment that sums up in a sentence the reason for the panel’s optimism. 

As for challenges ahead, the group said regulators are finally seeing the necessity of building out wireless infrastructure and as such are working to make it easier. 

Smith said the shift in Washington has been noticeable, but also said there are little things that can be done to further facilitate the build out of the networks. For instance, although tower companies have deployed sophisticated video monitoring equipment on their towers, they are still required by law to climb the tower on a regular basis to ensure things are in working order. 

“That’s something we hope we can do away with in the future,” Smith said. 

The move to improve the networks and add capacity is also driven by the steady stream of LTE-capable devices hitting the market. Smith noted that when the 3G networks were deployed, available handsets weren’t able to fully utilize the networks. 

“Today’s 4G handsets do have the capabilities to fully utilize these networks,” Smith said, noting that those devices put additional pressure on the networks and in turn drive the need for additional capacity and investment in the networks.

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