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Charter sells 546 cell towers to Everest, TowerCo

Charter Communications will sell 546 cell towers to Everest Infrastructure Partners and TowerCo. In exchange, 'Charter will receive existing and future tower-use rights' if it needs them.

Mike Dano

December 8, 2023

4 Min Read
 5G cell tower stands in front of a Ferris wheel at Oktoberfest grounds
(Source: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo)

Cable company Charter Communications will sell 546 of its cell towers to Everest Infrastructure Partners and TowerCo, the two companies announced.

"The wireless tower assets included in this transaction are located in 37 states throughout the US and collectively represent one of the largest portfolio transactions of tower assets in the US during the past 10 years," Everest and TowerCo wrote in a press release announcing the deal.

A Charter official declined to provide any more details about the transaction. However, it's a relatively minor one for the cable giant; Charter did not file any documents related to the transaction with the SEC.

Additionally, the move isn't a total surprise. Charter in 2000 inked a deal with KGI to sell space on its 1,200 "cable towers" around the country to companies in the wireless industry.

Regardless, a Charter sale of cell towers is interesting both for the cell tower industry and for Charter itself.

Movement among the towers

The cell tower industry in the US has been the scene of plenty of activity of late. For example, CTI Towers last year bought towers from both SCI Towers and Uniti Group, while Boldyn Networks bought some towers from Mobilitie the prior year. And earlier this year Everest Infrastructure Partners announced a purchase of cell towers from Communications Tower Group across 10 US states.

And there are more such sales likely in the future. For example, UScellular recently put its 4,356 cell towers up for sale. The financial analysts at Raymond James valued those towers at $2.6 billion. Separately, Shentel said it too plans to sell its 220 cell towers. The financial analysts at B. Riley Securities calculated that the company can expect around $200 million from the sale of its towers.

One estimate counted a total of 142,000 cell towers in the US at the end of 2022.

But perhaps the most interesting recent development in the US cell tower industry happened this week when Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said he will depart the company. The move follows a pressure campaign by Elliott Investment Management, an activist investor firm. Now all eyes are on Crown Castle to see if the company also puts its fiber business up for sale, as requested by Elliott.

Charter's wireless efforts

For Charter though, a sale of its cell towers is interesting considering the cable company has been teasing a broader entry into the US wireless industry. 

Indeed, Charter added another 594,000 mobile lines in the third quarter, up from 396,000 in the year-ago quarter, for a total of 7.22 million mobile lines. The figures put the company on a path to pass Dish Network as the nation's largest MVNO.

But Charter may not be content just renting wholesale access to Verizon's network for its Spectrum Mobile MVNO offering. The company was one of the big winners in the 2020 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum auction, coming away with more than 210 licenses for about $464.25 million. The operator has said it plans to use the spectrum to build its own small-scale 5G network to help reduce its MVNO payments to Verizon.

That kind of network buildout could potentially use the cell towers that Charter recently sold. But that's not a problem because "Charter will receive existing and future tower-use rights across the nationwide tower portfolios of Everest and TowerCo," the companies announced.

Further, Charter executives have said that the operator's MVNO deal with Verizon is so attractive that Charter doesn't feel the need to deploy its CBRS spectrum rapidly.

"Both Everest and TowerCo are incredibly pleased to have been selected by Charter for this transaction," said Mike Mackey, Everest's president, in a release. "We believe these tower assets are high-quality complements to our existing portfolios and we look forward to expanding the network coverage of our customers with increased leasing activities in the future." 

Everest owns more than 2,500 tower sites across the US, Australia, New Zealand and Portugal. TowerCo, meanwhile, counts over 1,300 owned and managed towers.

Peppertree Capital Management, a private equity firm focused on investments in communication infrastructure companies, backed Everest and TowerCo's transaction with Charter.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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