Steel in the Air recently completed a project for an investment bank where we examined the future of the tower construction market. We found as part of this assignment that while the number of new cell sites built each year has been slightly decreasing from year to year, that the number of actual towers constructed has declined significantly. From what we hear, this trend is expected to continue for at least another two years.
AT&T and Verizon are both focused on upgrading their existing sites as compared to expanding their networks. T-Mobile is basically at a standstill waiting for the resolution to the Department of Justice lawsuit blocking its merger with AT&T. (A dangerous place to be- if the merger isn’t approved, T-Mobile will have effectively fallen further behind in the race to 4G as compared to the other carriers.) Sprint announced a significant amount of modification work on their existing sites, but there wasn’t any discussion of building new towers. Clearwire looks to be dead in the water without funding from Sprint and with too much debt to take on the money they need to continue expanding. MetroPCS is focused on their LTE upgrades and hasn’t been expanding much.
Requests to our website to help landowners with new towers have declined as well, which is anecdotal evidence that supports that new towers just aren’t being built. Thus, it isn’t a good time to be a tower developer or a tower manufacturer.