By J. Sharpe Smith
We are always looking for the next big thing. Lately the talk has all been small cells. What I learned from this year’s Wireless Infrastructure Show was something I already knew, but it reinforced it. The next being is already here as Samsung says. Tower sites are not only not going away they are continuing to be a strong, growing component of the communications backbone.
The storyline at this year’s show was simple. Increasing wireless demand + advancing technology = growth. In short, speakers at the Wireless Infrastructure Show were bullish on towers.
On the demand side, Vish Nandlall of Ericsson North America left no doubt that wireless users’ insatiable desire for video will increase demand for bandwidth conceivably into perpetuity. Qualcomm’s Peggy Johnson painted a vivid portrait of technology’s increasing speed and how Category 10 of the standard will soon rocket us to 450 Mbps download speeds up from 2 Mbps just 10 years ago. And the pièce de résistance, AT&T’s Bill Smith forecasted adding 1,500 to 3,000 macro towers a year for the foreseeable future.
Record levels of growth, both organic and through acquisition, were on the dominant topic of the top executives from the big three tower companies as they spoke with PCIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein during “The View from the Top: An Executive Roundtable,” a plenary session. And that growth has led American Tower, in particular, to invest $7 billion into U.S. infrastructure in the last few years.
And if that doesn’t convince you, Marc Ganzi said he is not done with macro towers yet, either. He gave AGL Media Group an interview at the show where he talked about investing in Vertical Bridge, a new company founded by former-GTP colleagues Alex Gellman, Bernard Borghei and Michael Belski, that will be plumbing the same middle market macrocell opportunities as Global Tower Partners did.
Perhaps the future of towers and small cells is not to take an either/or but a both/and approach. Ganzi talked about taking a more holistic approach to wireless solutions where towers are one component, right beside backhaul, small cells, data centers and the Cloud. Now that would be a big thing.