AT&T updated a long-term lease with infrastructure provider Crown Castle, as part of an effort to accelerate deployment of its 5G and public safety networks.
The new agreement streamlines leasing management and operations, giving AT&T more flexibility to deploy new technologies and increase network capacity. Both macro sites and small cells are covered by the deal, AT&T said.
An operator representative told Mobile World Live the agreement addresses “multiple thousands” of existing cell site locations and new co-location sites AT&T plans to launch in the near future.
All told, Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers. Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche noted AT&T accounted for 22 per cent of Crown Castle’s site rental revenue as of the end of 2017.
The revision to the pair’s lease agreement comes as AT&T speeds toward deployment of a mobile 5G network later this year and rolls out a dedicated network for emergency responders, known as FirstNet.
Last month, AT&T launched a dedicated FirstNet network core and revealed plans to light up 700MHz FirstNet spectrum on a third of its tower locations this year.
The move is also the latest in a series of strategic deals as AT&T tries to shift away from the traditional tower lease model.
In 2016, the operator expressed frustration with the rental model used by tower companies and said it was looking into other setups. In late 2017, AT&T turned the sentiment into action, signing a deal with Verizon and Tillman to lease and co-locate hundreds of new towers.