SNL Kagan: Robust tower growth to be driven by spectrum auctions and data demand

A new study from SNL Kagan projects that cell sites will grow from 298,055 in 2014 to 451,578 in 2025. This strong growth could present good news for installers given that the SNL Kagan report also indicates there was a decline of more than 6,000 sites between 2013 and 2014.

In the report, SNL Kagan cites seven-fold mobile data growth between 2014 and 2019, as predicted by Cisco, as a reason for the increased number of towers. The firm also sees growth coming from the AWS-3 auction that concluded this year as well as the 600 MHz auction, which is expected to occur in 2016.

SNL Kagan also reported that the upcoming FirstNet auction could also prompt an increase in tower revenue because it could create a new tenant for approximately 20,000-40,000 towers nationwide.

The analyst firm also predicts a shift in the type of towers in use. The firm believes that more than three-fourths of towers in the U.S. at the end of 2014 were "pole style," but forecasts that this style of tower will decline to just above two-thirds of the total by 2015. But the firm also predicts that the percentage of rooftop systems will grow from 21 percent to 29 percent and the percentage of distributed antenna systems will grow from 1.4 percent to 3 percent.

Like a recent CTIA report, the SNL Kagan report indicated there was a decline in the number of sites in 2014, and SNL Kagan analyst John Fletcher attributes this decline to the acquisitions of MetroPCS by T-Mobile US and Leap Wireless by AT&T Mobility. In addition, certain other networks, such as Sprint's iDEN network, were shuttered.

Sprint's WiMAX network is being decommissioned in November and the legacy Cricket CDMA network, now owned by AT&T, is being shuttered this year.

In an interview with FierceInstaller, Fletcher said that on average there are two antennas per tower, as tower companies often find it economical to co-locate the antennas of different carriers on the same tower.

For more:
- see this SNL Kagan release

Related articles:
CTIA reports shrinking number of towers, but analysts are not so sure
CTIA: U.S. mobile data traffic increased 26% in 2014, but growth rate falls sharply from previous year
Analyst: Tower companies will benefit from wireless operator drive to densify networks