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Rescue Training Standard Sets Baseline Tower Climber Knowledge, Skill

An updated version of its Climber Rescue Training Standard (CRTS) is available from NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. The membership organization of contractors, based in Watertown, South Dakota, said that the CRTS replaces the current 4th Edition and is available in electronic format for free to NATE member companies and for purchase for stakeholders representing nonmembers.

The CRTS is intended to assist in standardizing fall protection and rescue training for climbers in the tower and communications infrastructure construction, service and maintenance industries, according to NATE. The organization said that the new, streamlined CRTS document presents a series of training topics, establishing a minimum baseline of knowledge and skill that a climber should possess.

“The NATE CRTS training topics include an evaluation, which is intended to assist an employer in designating personnel initially as authorized climbers/rescuers, and for personnel with sufficient knowledge, skills and experience, as competent climbers and rescuers,” the organization said. “The CRTS also offers guidelines to support an employer’s development and maintenance of its fall protection program to comply with the ANSI/ASSP A10.48 Standard and regulations where work is conducted.”

Kathy Stieler, NATE’s director of safety, health and compliance, said that the new CRTS resource would better facilitate and standardize climber and rescue training and ultimately improve safety in the industry.

“This new CRTS document instantly becomes the association’s signature safety resource and provides an invaluable tool in the toolbox to ensure that climbing and rescue training is consistent regardless of who is conducting the training,” she said.

John Paul Jones, the NATE board of directors member who presided over the committee that produced the new resource, said that the CRTS is a by-product of hundreds of hours of sweat equity from some of the industry’s most prominent subject matter experts.

“I would encourage all NATE member companies and industry stakeholders to obtain a copy of the CRTS today and incorporate the climbing and rescue requirements into their respective training programs,” he said.

To begin the education process, the NATE said it plans to host a CRTS update educational session at the NATE Unite 2022 Conference in Las Vegas. The session is set to take place on Feb. 22 from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Pacific time in Room 206 at the conference venue, Caesars Forum.

NATE identified the subject matter experts who contributed in helping to develop the new CRTS as John Paul Jones of Tower & Turbine Technologies; Justin Miller of EasTex Tower; Brian Bicknese of Enertech; Jeremy Darby of Deep South Safety; Josh Case of Crown Castle; and William “Troll” McCook. Tom Wood and Charley Rankin of Sprat.

Member companies can obtain copies from the member login section of the NATE website. Nonmembers can purchase the CRTS as a digital download at https://natehome.com/safety-education/safety-resources/.

Crown Castle Releases 2020 ESG Report

By Mike Harrington

Declaring a mission to become carbon neutral for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025, Crown Castle International has released its 2020 Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) report.

According to the report, Crown Castle’s carbon intensity (energy supply) is 100 times lower than the S&P 500 average, 61 percent of the communications infrastructure giant’s electricity consumption is contracted to be renewable energy starting in 2022 and 53 percent of the company’s lit towers have been converted to LED lights.

The ESG report also discloses that 32 percent of Crown Castle’s 2020 workforce were women, 30 percent of its 2020 new hires were people of color and that the company has invested about $10 billion in communications infrastructure in low-income areas. Further, the report reveals Crown Castle’s established goal to reach 16 percent in diverse supplier spend by 2026, representing the top quartile in U.S. diversity spend among 100-plus large companies.

Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle

“The focus of our ESG journey is to build on our inherently sustainable business model, as we have done this year by establishing carbon neutral and supplier diversity spending goals and by continuing to foster an inclusive culture, where a more diverse workforce, comprised of unique perspectives, can thrive,” said Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s chief executive officer. “Since the recent announcement of our goal to be carbon neutral by 2025 in Scope 1 and 2 emissions, we have contracted to source more than 60 percent of our anticipated 2022 electricity consumption with renewable energy, putting us well on our way to reaching our goal.”

With one of most expansive portfolios of communications infrastructure in the United States, Crown Castle said its energy efficient business model results in a smaller environmental footprint and a low carbon intensity. According to a company statement, “Each of our shared infrastructure assets are designed to host multiple Crown Castle customers and support their operations, reducing the need for redundant infrastructure and the impact on the environment.”

The report highlights Crown Castle’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility, with information and progress on the company’s carbon neutral goal announced earlier this quarter, an expanded workforce diversity disclosure, a new diverse supplier spending goal and details on the strength and diversity of the company’s board of directors.

“Our strategy is to provide profitable solutions to connect communities and people, and our carbon neutral goal furthers our commitment to deploy our strategy sustainably,” said Brown. “Our business model is inherently sustainable, as shared infrastructure solutions limit the proliferation of infrastructure and minimizes the use of natural resources. We are taking action to improve on our strong foundation, including proactive work to reduce our energy consumption and source renewable energy.

“We have made significant progress this year by including commitments to energy reduction initiatives and renewable energy in our credit facility and now by targeting a carbon-neutral future,” Brown said. “While we work to accomplish our goal, we will continue to work alongside many of our customers and suppliers to report and reduce emissions across our entire value chain and align our goals with the Science-Based Target initiative.”

According to the ESG report, “Since the beginning of 2020, the world has evolved, but what has remained constant is the importance of connectivity in how we live, work and interact with each other. Crown Castle’s infrastructure plays an important role in enabling the connectivity necessary for communication, remote work, online learning, virtual healthcare and many other aspects of our daily lives. Over the years, we’ve invested more than $40 billion in communications infrastructure, including approximately $10 billion in low-income areas, based on our belief that our infrastructure is essential to connectivity and creates value for our shareholders.”

The report said that as the next generation of wireless technology began to deploy on a large scale in 2021, Crown Castle has experienced record levels of tower activity and a continued need to deploy small cells for network density.

“In 2020, we announced a partnership with Dish to help build out the first open, standalone and virtualized 5G network in the United States,” the report said. “More recently in the first quarter of 2021, we signed the largest small-cell deal in our company’s history to build 15,000 new small cells to support Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Nationwide deployment.”

Crown Castle said it owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 80,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major U.S. market. The company offers more information at www.crowncastle.com. The ESG report may be viewed by clicking here.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.

SBA Communications Reports Strong Third-quarter Results

By Mike Harrington

A week after wireless infrastructure giants American Tower and Crown Castle both reported strong third-quarter results, SBA Communications, today also reported robust third-quarter numbers.

The three publicly traded REIT (real-estate investment trust) tower titans have all been profiting greatly from this year’s 5G wireless communications network building boom. Further, the three firms expect 2022 to be a banner year with the deployment of 5G wireless communications networks’ extended opportunities to create value for shareholders.

Jeffrey A. Stoops, president and CEO of SBA Communications.

“We had another good quarter, exceeding our own expectations, and we continue to see very strong levels of carrier activity,” said Jeffrey Stoops, SBA Communications president and CEO today in a public forum. “The increased level of U.S. wireless carrier activity we experienced last quarter continued in the third quarter. U.S. wireless carrier activity continued at materially higher levels compared to the beginning of the year,” said Stoops.

Highlights of SBA’ third quarter included a net income of $47.8 million or 43 cents per share; average funds from operations (AFFO) per share increased 13.9 percent over the third quarter of 2020; and total revenue of $589.3 million, a 12.7 percent growth over the prior year period.

“Domestically, we produced record services revenue, surpassing our second-quarter record, and our leasing and services backlogs reached new multi-year highs at quarter-end,” Stoops said. “While we expect some revenue recognition from third-quarter leasing activity by year-end, contributing to our increased full-year 2021 Outlook, we anticipate the substantial majority will begin to be recognized in 2022. Based on our backlogs and conversations with our customers, we expect elevated domestic leasing activities to continue through 2022 and perhaps beyond.”

SBA’s revenue in the third quarter of 2021 was $589.3 million compared to $522.9 million in the prior year period, an increase of 12.7 percent. Site leasing revenue in the third quarter of 2021 of $535.5 million was comprised of domestic site leasing revenue of $426.8 million and international site leasing revenue of $108.7 million. Domestic cash site leasing revenue in the third quarter of 2021 was $415.4 million compared to $389.6 million in the prior year period, an increase of 6.6 percent. Site development revenue in the third quarter of 2021 was $53.8 million compared to $36.2 million in the prior year period, an increase of 48.8 percent.

Brendan Cavanaugh, CFO of SBA Communications.

“SBA had another great quarter, with financial and operating results ahead of expectations, and continued strong momentum into the end of the year,” Brendan T. Cavanaugh, CFO of SBA Communications said today.

“Domestic operational leasing activity or bookings, representing new revenue placed under contract during the third quarter, was at a similar level to the second quarter, which had represented the higher quarterly level since 2014,” Cavanaugh said. “Even with this high level of execution, our domestic new lease and new amendment application backlog continued to grow during the quarter — and finished the quarter higher and at a new multiyear high. … The big four carriers of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Dish represented 96 percent of total incremental domestic leasing revenue during the quarter.”

Site leasing operating profit in SBA’s third quarter was $436.8 million, an increase of 10.9 percent over the prior year period. Site leasing contributed 97.2 percent of the SBA’s total operating profit in the third quarter. Domestic site leasing segment operating profit in the third quarter was $361.5 million, an increase of 10.6 percent over the prior year period. International site leasing segment operating profit in the third quarter was $75.3 million, an increase of 11.9 percent from the prior year period.


Jay Brown, CEO of Crown Castle

On Oct. 20, Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s CEO, revealed his company’s third-quarter results. The company said it would  increase its annualized stock dividend by approximately 11 percent. Brown also said that Crown Castle expected a 20 percent increase in core leasing activity for its towers segment for full year 2022 when compared to projected 2021 levels — approximately 50 percent higher than the trailing 5-year average for its towers business.

“The dividend increase is supported by the expected combined growth in 2021 and 2022, and represents the second consecutive year of dividend growth that meaningfully exceeds our long-term growth target of 7 to 8 percent per year,” Brown said. “We are generating this level of growth as a result of a robust tower leasing environment, which we expect will continue in 2022, consistent small-cell install volumes in 2021 and 2022 and stable fiber solutions growth, which combine to produce expected average funds from operations per share growth at the high end of our long-term target.”

Brown also said, that as of Sept. 30, Crown Castle had 40,000 towers with an average number of tenants of 2.3 per tower; and 80,000 route miles of fiber-optic cable. It reported that the market value of all of its outstanding common shares was $74.9 billion.

On Oct. 28, American Tower reported that for the third quarter of 2021, its revenue increased 21.9 percent to $2.454 billion, with property revenue increasing 19.2 percent to $2.369 billion. The company’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 19.5 percent to $1.552 billion, and its consolidated AFFO increased 13.3 percent to $1.158 billion.

Tom Bartlett, CEO of American Tower

“We saw strong demand trends across our global business in the third quarter, supported by carrier investments in network densification, new network technologies and spectrum deployments,” said Tom Bartlett, American Tower’s CEO. “As a result, we continued to help our customers deliver critical connectivity to billions of people across the world while generating double-digit growth in both AFFO per share and our common stock dividend.

“We continue to view mid-band spectrum, which includes the recently auctioned C-band and the two and a half gig band currently being deployed in the U.S., as the workhorse of the true 5G experience, and we believe to be the fundamental enabler of the immersive next-generation 5G applications and use cases that are set to emerge as coverage improves and advanced devices penetrate the market. Importantly, we continue to expect the propagation characteristics of the sub-6 gig frequencies, compared to traditionally deployed mobile spectrum to necessitate significant network densification over the long-term supporting a multiyear period of strong growth on our tower sites. We’re seeing the leading edge of this activity in the U.S.”

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.

Crown Castle Reports Third Quarter Results, Raises Dividend 11 Percent

Crown Castle asset portfolio footprint.


Crown Castle International has reported financial results for the third quarter that ended on Sept. 30. The company maintained its full year 2021 outlook and issued its full year 2022 outlook.

Jay Brown (left), president and CEO of Crown Castle International; and Dan Schlanger, the company chief financial officer.

“We delivered strong results in the third quarter and increased our annualized common stock dividend by approximately 11 percent to $5.88 per share,” said Jay Brown, Crown Castle’s CEO. “The dividend increase is supported by the expected combined growth in 2021 and 2022, and represents the second consecutive year of dividend growth that meaningfully exceeds our long-term growth target of 7 to 8 percent per year. We are generating this level of growth as a result of a robust tower leasing environment, which we expect will continue in 2022, consistent small cell install volumes in 2021 and 2022 and stable fiber solutions growth, which combine to produce expected average funds from operations (AFFO) per share growth at the high end of our long-term target. We are focused on supporting our customers as they upgrade their existing cell sites as part of the first phase of the 5G build out in the U.S., which is resulting in record tower application volumes this year and an expected 20 percent increase in core leasing activity for our towers segment for full year 2022 when compared to projected 2021 levels. This expected level of core leasing activity is approximately 50 percent higher than the trailing 5-year average for our towers business.”

Brown said that the company expects the deployment of 5G wireless communications networks will extend its opportunity to create value for its shareholders.

“We expect our ability to offer towers, small cells and fiber solutions, which are all integral components of communications networks, will be critical for our customers as they increase the density of their networks during the next deployment phase of 5G,” he said. “Our diverse portfolio of assets and customer solutions has enabled us to outperform our long-term target growth rate of 7 to 8 percent since we established the target in 2017, demonstrating how well positioned Crown Castle is to capitalize on the robust demand for connectivity in the United States. During that period, we have grown dividends per share at a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent, and we believe our strategy will allow us to deliver on our long-term dividend per share growth target.”

Dan Schlanger, Crown Castle’s chief financial officer, said that the company believes it is in a position to deliver on its long-term dividend per share growth target while at the same time making investments in its business that will generate attractive long-term returns and support future growth.

“We believe our business and balance sheet are positioned well to support consistent AFFO growth through various economic cycles, including during periods of higher inflation and interest rates,” Schlanger said. “Our cost structure is largely fixed in nature, and we have taken deliberate steps to further strengthen our balance sheet position to where we sit today with more than 90 percent fixed-rate debt, a weighted average maturity across our debt of more than nine years and a weighted average interest rate of 3.1 percent. In addition, based on the expected growth in cash flows for full year 2022, we expect to maintain a consistent dividend payout ratio and once again fund our discretionary capital budget next year with free cash flow and incremental debt capacity, consistent with our investment-grade credit profile.”

Crown Castle reported that as of Sept. 30, it had 40,000 towers with an average number of tenants of 2.3 per tower; and 80,000 route miles of fiber-optic cable. It reported that the market value of all of its outstanding common shares was $74.9 billion.

Infrastructure Giants Turn to Greener Towers

By Mike Harrington

While reaping the benefits of 5G telecom boom, three large real estate investment trusts (REITs) that are wireless communications infrastructure owners — American Tower, Crown Castle and SBA Communications — are also working to reduce their carbon footprints.

Although tower owners consume just a small fraction of the power telecom carriers and tech manufacturers do (see Sept. 9 and Sept. 14  eDigest stories), the three REITs have stepped up their green energy initiatives to help alleviate the power-hungry demands of 5G base stations, which can consume as much as three times more power than 4G and LTE equipment.

The REITs capitalized on this year’s 5G building boom, turning in stellar second-quarter 2021 results: American Tower, one of the world’s largest owners of wireless infrastructure, reported second quarter results that included revenue increasing 20.2 percent to $2.299 billion and net income increasing 66.8 percent to $748 million.

According to Crown Castle, the company owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and 80,000 route miles of fiber-optic cable supporting small cells and other facilities. The REIT said it increased its expected 2021 growth 12 percent, with reported income from operations of $333 million in the second quarter — compared with $200 million for the second quarter of 2020.

SBA Communications reported a net income of $152.7 million or $1.37 per share, average funds from operations (AFFO) per share growth of 15.3 percent for the second quarter and revenue of $575.5 million for its second quarter.

The three REITs are as quick to boast of their environmental successes as their financial success. However, it is yet another large cell tower owner that claims to be the first wireless infrastructure company to become 100 percent carbon-neutral. According to Vertical Bridge, the company owns and master-leases more than 8,000 towers, which it said makes the company the largest private owner of towers in the United States.In June 2020, the Boca Raton, Florida-based Vertical company said that it was officially certified as carbon-neutral in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol.

Last month, Vertical Bridge became part of DigitalBridge Group (for background, Digital Bridge was a company Colony Capital purchased in 2019, but now both Vertical Bridge and Colony Capital are part of DigitalBridge Group) — but the “bridged” company’s carbon-neutral green initiatives remain intact.

As part of Vertical Bridge’s carbon-lowering efforts, it is opting for more energy-efficient and environmentally safer technologies as it upgrades HVACs, aviation lighting systems (to LED lighting) and generators. It’s also guided field operations teams to be more efficient with travel route planning by completing multiple visits and inspections in a single trip rather than several.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Crown Castle, despite having the highest percentage among its peers of suburban and urban cellular towers and small cells — which tend to consume more energy — has a relatively limited carbon footprint. About 62 percent of Crown Castle’s towers are in the top 100 cities in the United States. Although its cell tower business is booming this year, Crown Castle said it believes its small-cell market will flourish. Typically, cell towers consume less energy than small cells, which consume little power individually but have a cumulative power consumption in urban areas.

According to Crown Castle’s environmental sustainability statement, “Our infrastructure and related assets, such as ground shelters, are primarily used to host our tenants’ assets and support their operations. While Crown Castle frequently contracts with utility companies to deliver electricity to our sites, the power is predominantly consumed by our tenants to operate their equipment, such as radios. Given that our assets are primarily U.S.-based, our operations are generally supported by a reliable power grid.”

The statement continues, “Where lighting beacons are mandated by law, we have transitioned 6,119, or nearly 50 percent, to efficient LED lighting to reduce energy consumption. In addition, all new vehicles in our service fleet are assessed for fuel efficiency, and our data center teams routinely evaluate the energy use of their equipment and make updates to improve efficiency. We also seek energy efficiency in our owned and leased offices, with 18 Energy Star-certified and seven LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified. For new office spaces, we make efficiency improvements a standard practice.”

Meanwhile, American Tower owns the most U.S. cell towers — about 42,000 — and also owns about 500 distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and 1,774 DAS nodes; 407 of these DAS nodes are in the United States.

According to American Tower’s environment statement, “Managing our environmental impact is an essential element of our value proposition to our tenants and our commitment to sustainability. By deploying the latest renewable energy technologies and advanced battery storage systems and reducing energy usage as much as practicable, we can offer our tenants a more stable, resilient and efficient platform for their equipment’s power requirements. In addition, with more than 214,000 sites worldwide, we are committed to expanding connectivity in a sustainable manner by working with our local communities to ensure protection of our surrounding land and ecosystems.”

American Tower also points to its more than 1,700 solar panels on the roof of its U.S. Tower division headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts, offsetting approximately 16 percent of the building’s usage annually, adding “While our targeted diesel reduction program is our most impactful use of resources and efforts in sustainable operations, we also sponsor other programs focused on reducing, reusing and recycling under our companywide Green @American Tower initiative. We believe that weaving sustainability into our culture is essential to our success and this starts where employees work every day. We do this by investing in renewables and other energy efficiencies in our offices around the world.”

In 2018, American Tower announced its commitment to planting a million trees across the United States over the next decade. “Our Million Trees initiative is a new and creative approach to philanthropic giving that helps support our mission to connect to the communities where our teams live and work,” a statement from American Tower reads. “To implement this program, we are partnering with American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation organization. Thus far, American Tower and American Forests have planted 200,000 trees.”

Ranked third among the large U.S. wireless infrastructure REITs with more than 17,000 towers in service, SBA Communications stated that one of its core corporate goals is to “mitigate the environmental impact and carbon footprint.” However, SBA is one of many S&P 500 companies that do not disclose their carbon data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Nevertheless, SBA has implemented various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and provide green solutions for its business, including stringent energy efficiency and recycling programs.

According to the Environment chapter of SBA Communications’ 2019 Sustainability Report, “As a leader in wireless communications infrastructure, SBA also strives to be a leader in corporate sustainability. We continuously look at ways to maximize the sustainability of our operations and reduce our environmental footprint across the markets in which we operate. Our neutral-host infrastructure assets have a relatively small geographic footprint, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet per tower site. They are built to host equipment from multiple tenants, thereby reducing the overlap and duplication of towers in our communities. We have developed sustainable energy solutions that reduce carbon emissions for our customers. We support post-disaster recovery efforts following hurricanes, such as the re-building of critical telecom networks and provisioning of emergency power.”

SBA said that its environmental measures include screening tower site locations that might be located in a wilderness or wildlife preserve, mitigating any potential effect on migratory birds and their habitats, and accelerating the replacement of all lighting systems on its towers from traditional incandescent and xenon models to new energy efficient LED lighting systems.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.