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Who owns the cellphone towers that power the flow of data to our mobile devices in the US? In most cases it isn’t the mobile providers like Verizon and AT&T. Most major carriers in the US divested from cellphone tower ownership more than a decade ago. In the US there are now three main celltower owners: American Tower, Crown Castle, and SBA.
A similar pattern of tower divestiture is now happening in Europe. European carriers are under pressure to be spending money now to invest in new 5G technology and to acquire spectrum bandwidth. European carriers are selling off, sharing, or consolidating their ownership of towers.
Telefónica, Iliad and Three have recently sold ownership of their towers. Telefónica’s recent deal with American Tower Corporation was worth $9.4 billion. Earlier this year, Cellnex acquired 10,500 towers in France used by Altice.
Iain Morris, editor at lightreading.com, commented that “service providers should worry. Consolidation means a dwindling number of firms own a large share of the region’s mobile infrastructure. With less choice, rental fees could rise in future. If there were no risk, then Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone would not look so determined to retain big ownership stakes in their mobile sites. But if charges do increase, then consumers might end up footing the bill.”