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Cell Tower Companies in 2024

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Cell tower companies, also known as cell tower leasing companies or cell phone tower companies, are entities that own and operate cell towers. Tower companies either build or acquire towers from other tower companies or wireless providers. These companies develop and operate towers to lease space on the towers to wireless providers.  Leases between a tower company and a wireless provider are known as collocation or tenant leases.  The tower company pays for expenses to construct and operate the tower and, in return, collects rent of $1,000/mo. to $5,000/mo. for each collocation.  The average cell tower owned by the three largest tower companies in the United States has approximately 2.1 to 2.2 wireless collocations on it.

How Many Cell Towers Are There In The Us?

In 2024, the U.S. cell tower industry is pretty concentrated at the top, where the top three tower companies will own 100,000 of the estimated 200,000 cell towers in the country.  From there, it starts to get highly fragmented, with 58% of cell tower companies owning between 1 and 10 towers and another 25% owning between 11 and 100 towers. Below is a chart with our estimates on the number of assets owned by each of the three largest public tower companies.  We also show approximate numbers of non-cell tower assets each company owns or controls.

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    US Towers Rooftops under Management Active Rooftops (ones with wireless tenants) Small Cells/DAS Nodes Wireless Leases (no structure included)
    43,000
    19,000
    2,000
    800
    2,600
    40,000
    70,000
    2,300
    17,478
    4,800
    500

    What Other Assets Do Tower Companies Own?

    Besides owning towers, cell tower companies also manage rooftops on buildings owned by others.  Some of the top cell tower companies have also purchased portfolios of leases from lease buyout companies. Lease buyout companies like Unison Site Management, Communications Capital Group, and Wireless Capital Partners no longer exist after selling their portfolio of leases that they bought from landowners and building owners.  Some tower companies (notably Crown Castle) have aggressively pursued ownership of small cells and fiber optic networks. 

     US TowersRooftops under ManagementActive Rooftops (ones with wireless tenants)Small Cells/DAS NodesWireless Leases (no structure included)
    American Tower (AMT)43,00019,0002,0008002,600
    Crown Castle (CCI)40,000  70,0002,300
    SBA Communications (SBAC)16,4794,800500  

    Do Wireless Carriers Own Many Towers?

    Not anymore.  Historically, wireless carriers once owned towers, with some carriers even operating their own tower companies (T-Mobile Towers, AT&T Towers, and US Cellular Towers). However, over the last 15 years, tower companies have bought towers from wireless carriers.  The carriers saw the towers as extra non-critical assets that could be exchanged for capital.   Some of the largest tower acquisitions include:

    1. Verizon sold 11,324 towers to American Tower in 2015 
    2. AT&T sold 9,100 towers to Crown Castle in 2013
    3. T-Mobile sold 7,200 towers to Crown Castle in 2012
    4. in 2005, Sprint sold 6,600 towers to Global Signal, which was later acquired by Crown Castle.

    We estimate that there are approximately 10,000 towers in the US in 2024 that are still owned by the wireless carriers.  (4,700 owned by US Cellular alone) 

    Top 25 Cell Tower Companies In the US

    Below is a list of tower companies listed by the number of towers owned as estimated by Steel in the Air.  Some of these tower companies have more “sites” in their inventory which include properties or structures (like billboards or signs) that they manage for the entity that owns the structures.  The list below only includes owned towers, not managed sites. If you believe the list is incorrect, please contact us with the number of owned towers in your portfolio. 

    Tower DeveloperNumber of Towers
    American Tower43,000
    Crown Castle40,000
    SBA Communications

    17,478

    Vertical Bridge9,000
    Harmoni Towers1,682

    Tillman Infrastructure

    1,500
    CTI1,000
    Diamond Towers1,000
    TowerCo1,000
    Phoenix Tower International950
    Octagon Towers525
    Tarpon Towers500
    K2 Towers409
    Horvath Towers400
    Subcarrier400
    Skyway Towers385
    TowerCom370
    APC Towers250
    Parallel Infrastructure200
    Milestone Towers155
    Branch Towers150
    Cityswitch150
    Industrial Tower West125
    Sun State Towers120
    Tower Ventures100

    Peppertree purchased 1023 towers from AT&T under the name Octagon Towers, but they also have investments in other tower companies including TowerCo, Blue Sky Towers, Branch Towers, Horvath Towers, Clearview Tower Company, AW Towers, K2 Towers, Pegasus Tower Development.

    How Does Steel In The Air Help Regarding Cell Phone Tower Companies?

    Steel in the Air assists landowners who have ground leases under the towers or rooftop leases on sites managed by the cell tower companies. We also assist governmentsappraisersinvestors and “mom and pop” cell tower owners with valuation services.  

    WHAT IS A CELL TOWER LEASE

    Insider tips

    1. Cell towers were originally built with a certain capacity in mind. Some are built to house singular carriers, while others are built to support multiple carriers. As such, their value varies a great deal.
    2. Cell tower ;easing companies hire 3rd party “lease optimizers” like Black Dot and Md7 to help them renegotiate their land leases with landowners. Most of these requests to renegotiate are not worth considering.
    3. Wireless carriers and tower companies often send notices to their lessors (e.g., landowners, building owners, and structure owners) stating that the lessor must consent to certain equipment modifications. This is not necessarily true. In many cases, you can negotiate better terms or receive some form of compensation in exchange for your “consent.”
    4. Finding the sweet spot in lease negotiations requires knowledge of industry dynamics and company-specific deployment plans. Relocating cell sites is expensive; however, if their gears are already moving, companies might eat the costs, especially when they’re dealing with property owners who are difficult or too demanding.
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