Who Are The Top Cell Tower Companies?
There are over 100 cell tower companies with headquarters in the United States. They range from the largest players like the top three publicly traded tower companies. To small mom-and-pop operators. Typically the larger the cell tower company, the more sophisticated their operations.
The list below of the top 15 cell tower companies has been compiled from information obtained by publicly available sources. In some cases the tower company might not own the structure, but has lease rights and the ability to acquire the towers on the property for a set period of time. Totals shown below do not include distributed antenna systems (DAS) or small cells.
#1 American Tower Corporation | 40,000+ Sites
As of February 9, 2021, American Tower Corporation (NYSE: AMT) represented that they have over 40,000 cell tower sites in the United States. Headquartered in the Boston market, AMT is a large company with over 5,000 employees and offices in 21 countries.
American Tower Corporation made big news at the end of 2020 when they acquired the sixth largest tower company in the United States, InSite Wireless, for $3.5 Billion.
Due to the large size of the AMT portfolio, we often represent property owners in new lease negotiations, lease renewals, and sales transactions with AMT. Overall our experience with AMT is positive and we find them professional to work with.
#2 Crown Castle Corporation | 40,000+ Sites
Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) is the second largest cell tower operator in the United States. They lease land for approximately 30,000 cell towers which represents approximately 74% of their portfolio. On average they have 2.2 tenants per tower with approximately six years remaining on the lease with their tenants. Crown Castle is trying to extend their leases and when they are successful are averaging a lease extension of 43 years.
Crown Castle landlords NEED to seek expert help when dealing with Crown Castle.
#3 SBA Communication | 32,000+ Sites
SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) is the third largest cell tower company in the United States headquartered out of Boca Raton, Florida. The company owns approximately 30,000 sites total, 16,400 of which are located in the United States. SBA has offices in the United States, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and South Africa. To review our abstract of their Q4 2019 earnings calls check out our article here.
#4 US Cellular | 4,207 Cell Towers
US Cellular (NYSE: USM) is the fourth largest holders of cell towers in the United States. According to their tower locator, they have 4,207 towers. The majority of their towers are in the mid-west, north west, and the mid Atlantic region.
We have completed many lease renewals with US Cellular. It appears they have a small real estate management group, as we have worked with the same attorney at US Cellular on lease renewals many times over.
#5 Vertical Bridge | 3,000 Cell Towers
Vertical Bridge is the largest privately held cell tower company in the United States. Founded in 2014, they are headquartered out of Boca Raton, Florida. Which is also the headquarters to SBA Communications. Their website states they have 268,000 owned and managed assets, however, it is unclear what is wireless, raw land, billboards, etc.
In our interactions with Vertical Bridge they have been pleasant to work with. In our opinion, they use an AT&T lease template that has been revised to reflect their needs.
#6 PepperTree Capital | 1,000 Cell Towers
Founded in 2000, PepperTree Capital purchased 1,000 cell towers from AT&T at a transaction valued at $680 million. Headquartered in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, PepperTree Capital is a private equity firm focused on investing in communications infrastructure companies.
#7 CTI Towers | 1,000 Cell Towers
CTI Towers was formed in 2011 with an investment from Comcast Ventures. Headquartered in Cary, NC, CTI Towers has 1,000 towers under its management. In 2018, CTI Towers acquired a portfolio of 360 towers from Mediacom Communications. Around 2015 CTI sold tower assets to the sixth largest tower company in the United States, InSite Wireless.
#8 Diamond Communications, LLC | 1,000 Cell Towers
Founded in 2006, Diamond Communications, headquartered out of Short Hills, New Jersey, states that they have 1,000 tenanted sites on their website. Their executives formerly held positions at AAT Communications, acquired by American Tower Corporation, and SBA Communications.
#9 Lendlease | 1,000 Cell Towers
Founded in Europe in 1958 and expanding into the United States in 1971, Lendlease maintains a portfolio of more than 1,000 cell towers. Over the last few years we have seen Lendlease entertaining build-to-suit projects for Sprint. Their headquarters for business in the United States is in New York City.
#10 Uniti Towers | 630 Cell Towers
Uniti Towers is part of Uniti Group, Inc. a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ. Their parent Uniti Group, Inc., has subsidiaries such as Uniti Towers, Uniti Leasing, and Uniti Fiber. According to their most recent 8-K filing with the SEC, they have 630 cell towers and six million fiber strand miles.
#11 Phoenix Tower International | 630 Cell Towers
Founded in 2013 by previous leaders at Global Tower Partners, which was purchased by American Tower Corporation. Phoenix Tower International is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. Phoenix Tower states on their website that they have over 86,000 sites across 14 countries, however, it is difficult to determine how many of those are in the United States. We believe Phoenix Tower may have around 630 cell towers in the United States.
#12 Eco-Site | 600 Cell Towers
Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Morrisville, NC, Eco-Site is a build-to-suit cell tower developer. They have approximately 600 cell towers. A property owner contacted by Eco-Site needs to really watch out for the restrictive assignment language in their lease template. The last sentence of the assignment provision they propose not allowing the Landlord to assign the lease without their consent, which they can withhold in their sole discretion. This should be removed immediately.
#13 Tower Ventures | 400 Cell Towers
Founded in the 1990’s, Tower Venture started out as a family owned business that developed and marketed towers to the wireless industry. In 2007 Tower Ventures evolved from a regional tower builder to a national tower operating company by acquiring several tower portfolios. Today the company owns over 400 towers and manages another 450 third party rooftops and towers available for colocation. Tower Ventures headquarters is in Memphis, TN.
#14 Skyway Towers | 385 Cell Towers
Located out of Tampa, Florida, Skyway towers on February 1, 2020, announced they had constructed their 385th cell tower. Earlier in 2020 they announced they closed a $125M debt facility with Goldman Sachs. We may see more development from Skyway Towers going into 2021.
#15 Industrial Tower and Wireless | 100 Cell Towers
Founded in the 1974, Industrial Tower and Wireless provides tower leasing services. They own and operate over 100 tower sites throughout New England and South Florida. They state on their website that they manage 800 sites in the Midwest.
What should you do if you have been contacted by one of these cell tower companies?
Contact Airwave Advisors today for expert consultation on how to maximize your opportunity with top players in the industry!
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About Nick G. Foster
Since founding Airwave Advisors® in 2014, Mr. Foster has added value to over 400 clients ranging from the State of Nevada, City of Beverly Hills, to Habitat For Humanity. Mr. Foster focuses on cell tower lease renewals, buyouts, new lease negotiation, and cell site lease management. Prior to starting Airwave Advisors® Mr. Foster founded and led the Cell Site Services Group within nationwide commercial real estate services leader Cassidy Turley (now known as Cushman & Wakefield).