US-based tower company Crown Castle said it expects small cells to help drive a 20 per cent jump in new leasing activity in 2018.

According to SVP and CFO Dan Schlanger, Crown Castle expects new leasing activity around small cells to grow from $40 million in 2017 to $55 million in 2018. The boost will be supplemented by further gains from the company’s fibre assets, with new leasing activity in the sector expected to jump from $25 million to $45 million.

During the company’s Q3 earnings call on 19 October, CEO Jay Brown said: “The trend towards greater reliance on wireless network points to the need for carriers to continue to invest in a hyper dense network that powers the small cells, all connected by high capacity fibre.”

“With approximately 40,000 towers, 50,000 small cells on air under contract and more than 60,000 route miles of dense metro fibre…Crown Castle is the only infrastructure provider in the US that can provide these elements at scale,” Brown added.

The bright prediction for 2018 does not include business which could spring up as AT&T moves ahead with its FirstNet build. Brown said Crown Castle “had conversations about what that will likely look like over time”, but noted the company doesn’t yet have “enough visibility” to include those impacts in its 2018 forecast.

Brown indicated Crown Castle is working with data centre company Vapor IO to gain insight into edge computing for Cloud-RAN (C-RAN), which Brown said could develop into a new revenue stream for the company.

“I would describe mobile edge computing as one of the areas that we believe has the potential to provide upsides to our revenue cash flow growth as well as returns, and extends the runway of growth from the infrastructure over a long period of time,” Brown said.

Gains from edge computing likely won’t show up in either 2018 or 2019. Brown said: “it’s a longer dated activity that we are keeping our eye on and positioning ourselves to benefit from”.