Crown Castle CEO: Small cells revenue could soon equal that of towers

small cells (Crown Castle)
Image: Crown Castle

Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown sees that small cells, despite the obstacles still to overcome, could one day present a revenue opportunity equal to that of towers.

According to RCR Wireless, Brown told an audience of Wireless Infrastructure Association members in Houston that, even though Crown Castle’s small cell and fiber business currently generates $400 million in annual revenue, in the years ahead it could grow to meet the $3 billion in annual revenue his company sees from its tower business.

Brown added that the opportunity with small cells will likely expand out from the top 10 markets and into the top 100, probably following the same pattern seen so far in major markets where deployments start in denser urban areas and branch out from there toward less densely populated regions.

During Crown Castle’s latest earnings call last month, Brown offered a clearer example of that deployment expansion his company has seen in markets such as Chicago. Brown said that in 2013, Crown Castle in Chicago had about 300 tenant nodes on air on approximately 100 miles of fiber, with about 90 percent of the nodes focused in the downtown area, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. Today, he said the company has approximately 1,100 nodes on air and has 250 miles of fiber under construction, with the tenant nodes density at approximately 5 tenant nodes per mile.

“Importantly, more than half of these nodes are situated outside of the central business district, which demonstrates both the expansion beyond the central business district and at the same time, the densification in the central business district that has occurred over that time,” Brown said. “The expansion beyond the central business district into the surrounding Chicago suburbs is an example of why we believe the total addressable market for small cells will be so significant. Chicago is representative of what we are seeing throughout major U.S. metro markets, which is why we remain so bullish on the opportunities we see in small cells.”