US mobile infrastructure company SBA Communications struck a $973 million tower licensing deal with California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), opening a path to install cell sites on utility infrastructure in the state.

SBA Communications gains the right to lease out access to more than 700 of PG&E’s transmission towers to mobile operators, and includes the transfer of existing lease arrangements. It also secured the right to sub-licence and market equipment on an additional 28,000 towers, with PG&E set to receive a portion of revenue generated.

Jeff Stoops, SBA Communications president and CEO, stated the transaction “adds a significant portfolio of high-quality, exclusive locations” to its macro tower sites.

Infrastructure siting remains an ongoing challenge for US operators as 5G rollouts continue, despite efforts by regulators to cut red tape.

Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities flagged the deal as noteworthy because “transmission towers historically are located in areas where zoning is more difficult for carriers”, while investment company Raymond James noted it offers SBA Communications an opportunity to address “difficult California markets with especially high barriers to entry”.

The transaction is expected to close “early” this year.