CTIA reports shrinking number of towers, but analysts are not so sure

The number of wireless towers in the U.S. is shrinking. According to the CTIA, there were 298,055 towers in December 2014, down from 304,360 in December 2013. Capital investment also dropped from $33.1 billion in 2013 to $32.1 billion in 2014, the trade group said.

But many analysts dispute CTIA's figures. BTIG Research analyst Walt Piecyk recently projected that 2,000 towers will be added over the next three years. Each tower serves roughly 2.5 tenants, Piecyk said.

In addition, in April, RBC Capital Markets analysts Jonathan Atkin and Brian Hyun wrote in a research note that they expect tower leasing to accelerate in 2016. "Although we anticipate a modest tapering in the pace of U.S. leasing from recent record levels during 2014 (due to slower leasing at AT&T), we believe reacceleration during 2016 is likely, driven primarily by Sprint," the RBC analysts said.

RBC also predict that there will be growth in tower leasing from coverage-focused overlays by T-Mobile, deployment of LTE at additional frequencies by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile; and more deployments by Sprint, but that will likely come later. Other catalysts for tower activity will include 600 MHz deployments, deployments of DISH's spectrum and the buildout of FirstNet.

For more:
- see this CTIA report

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