US operators Verizon and AT&T have agreed to lease and co-locate equipment on hundreds of new towers set to be built by Tillman Infrastructure starting early next year.
The agreement between AT&T, Verizon and Tillman includes initial construction of “hundreds” of cell towers where infrastructure is currently absent, but also allows for the potential addition of “significantly more site locations” in the future. Construction on the first towers will begin in Q1 2018. The operators said as soon as the towers go up, network engineers will be on site to install equipment and bring the towers online “quickly.”
Verizon and AT&T said the new infrastructure will fill a need for towers where they don’t exist today, but will also offer a chance for the carriers to relocate equipment from their other towers. Executives from both AT&T and Verizon billed the partnership as a way to cut costs and diversify their infrastructure supply chains.
“We need more alternatives to the traditional tower leasing model with the large incumbents. It’s not cost-effective or sustainable,” AT&T SVP of Global Supply Chain Susan Johnson said in a statement.
Interplay with other initiatives
The decision to partner up on a massive infrastructure build comes as AT&T pushes ahead with its FirstNet build and Verizon looks to slash $10 billion in costs over the next four years. Verizon has previously indicated virtualisation will by a key part of its cost-cutting initiative, but chief network officer Nicola Palmer noted in a statement the operator is also “reviewing all of our long-term contracts as they come up for renewal”.
An AT&T representative confirmed the operator is planning to build new sites for its FirstNet project, and told Mobile World Live the agreement with Tillman will make those network upgrades “even more efficient”. AT&T executives have previously said the operator is hoping to align FirstNet work with other network upgrades, including deployment of its AWS and WCS spectrum assets.
“With the plan we put forward, FirstNet will happen across all of AT&T’s LTE bands, giving public safety access to the coverage and capacity they need when and where they need it. So as we build new sites and extend the coverage of our LTE network, it will positively benefit subscribers on the FirstNet network,” the representative explained.