Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

A unit of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has formed a separate company dedicated to managing hundreds of cell towers and leasing space to wireless service providers.

Comcast Ventures , the company's venture capital arm, has created CTI Towers Inc. , a unit headquartered in Franklin, Mass., that's getting off the ground with about 800 towers in 39 states that were previously owned by other Comcast Cable subsidiaries.

CTI's website notes that it is already leasing space to several wireless service providers, including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US Inc. , MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP), alongside some unnamed broadcasters (Comcast owns NBCUniversal LLC ), municipalities and utility companies.

Comcast has tapped Anthony Peduto, late of Optasite Inc. and American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT), as CTI Towers's CEO.

Comcast isn't disclosing CTI Towers's current revenue run rate or how many people it employs, but the site lists two other execs: SVP of Sales Sonny Peterman, a former Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and American Tower exec; and General Counsel Carrie Larson. It's also hiring.

Why this matters
Comcast is consolidating its tower business as wireless carriers ratchet up their Long Term Evolution (LTE) network buildout plans in anticipation of increasing use of streaming video and other high-bandwidth apps on mobile devices.

The new company will also consolidate the ownership and operations of cell towers that have previously been handled by Comcast's individual cable systems. Putting all of that under the CTI Towers and having a team dedicated to managing those assets should improve the operational efficiencies of the towers.

The creation of CTI Towers also puts Comcast squarely into a large cell tower market. But it's clearly a mid-tier player. According to Wireless Estimator , Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI) leads in the U.S. with more than 22,251 towers, followed by American Tower (21,644), AT&T Towers (10,312), and SBA Communications (9,290).

For more
Read more about cable's recent wireless activities.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 4:52:23 PM
re: Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

As these were associated with Comcast systems, there's likely friendly fiber nearby. These towers take lots of traffic; any word on the backhaul technology associated with them?

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:52:22 PM
re: Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

This new Comcast unit is going to manage these assets, but looks like Mediacom, TW Cable and Charter are taking a much different approach -- they're relying on KGI Wireless for the marketing and licensing of their respective towers... and some of Verizon Wireless's towers, too. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:52:22 PM
re: Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

I don't know how the majority of those are wired up, but based on what we're hearing about Sprint's plan (more to come very soon), I'm guessing that a good portion of them are indeed fiberlicious.  JB

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:52:19 PM
re: Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

For the most part, cable operators are using dedicated fiber Ethernet lines to handle cell backhaul traffic. They try to touch the existing HFC plant as little as possible. In the best cases, existing dark fiber can be lit up for a cell tower connection. Other options are available. I haven't heard if newer PON or other fiber technologies are coming into play yet -- maybe someone in the field can tell us more?     

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:52:16 PM
re: Comcast Creates Cell Tower Business

I also heard that many of these towers are sitting on top of cable headends, so I imagine that fiber connectivity is not an issue and should position Comcast pretty well  in terms of providing the backhaul out of those sites.  JB




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