Communications infrastructure provider Crown Castle highlighted a small cell deal agreed with Verizon this week as the largest in company history, as it revealed a hike in earnings in the closing months of 2020.

On an earnings call, Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said it secured a contract to deploy 15,000 5G small cells for Verizon over fours years. He stated the contract signalled “what we think is a big start toward” the next-generation technology.

EVP and CFO Daniel Schlanger said it doesn’t expect the Verizon deal to have a material impact on its finances in 2021: Brown explained this is because it takes approximately “two to three years from the time that we identify a location to where we’re ultimately able to build” the small cells.

In time, though, Brown predicted the US market will have “millions of small cells…and we’ll get our share of those in places where we own the fibre”.

He added the deal was “real affirmation” of its strategy, following criticism of the company’s approach by activist investor Elliott Management in 2020.

Net income of $508 million in Q4 2020 was up from $208 million in the comparable 2019 period, on revenue of $1.5 billion, up 4.6 per cent.