March 5, 2015

CellTower“The real reason behind AT&T halting its network infrastructure roll-out is because it spent, or plans to spend, too much money on acquisitions.”–Steel in the Air


The BOC was taken aback at their last meeting when representatives from AT&T told them the plan for Jasper County has changed. David Walker with AT&T wireless said, “AT&T has not forgotten the plan, but will do things as capital becomes available. May it will be next year or next, but it is on the capital plan.” Watch video:


In essence folks, we have a bunch of ugly towers standing around the county and absolutely no cell service on them. AT&T has reneged on its agreement after having towers built. The company has pulled back on its plans to aggressively build out rural areas with new towers. (See article below)

There is some hope. American Tower, the company that built and owns the towers, can put other carriers on the towers, but only if they pay a penalty ($1000 per tower) for being out of compliance and ask for a variance of the ordinance which requires AT&T to locate on the tower first. It was stated that AT&T would NOT be locating on these towers any time in the next several years.

The BOC also has the authority to fine AT&T up to $350 per day per tower for being out of compliance. The BOC declined to do so because they said they wanted cell service on these towers. Sherry Braley, Planning & Zoning director, said T-Mobile was interested in locating on the towers. Renewal of the permits, at a cost of $1000 per tower, will have to be paid every 6 months until the towers are activated and in service.

Six towers are built and two are not. No one could answer why the proposed tower on Clay Tillman Rd. had not been built. The proposed tower on Palato Rd. is being held up because the site has some historic significance.

At the end of the 35 minute discussion, Comm. Trammell had more of his usual interesting comments. He said, “It is what it is. Let AT&T pay the fee and get on with it. We are well positioned to get new carriers now because of the towers. AT&T will get here when it gets here.” Comm. Salmon had a better comment, much more to the point, “AT&T has changed their mind after the agreement was made. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

Have you ever tried to get out of a cell phone agreement with AT&T? It will cost you a bundle, and they show no mercy. Our BOC was almost too gracious by allowing the AT&T rep tell them how much they cared for Jasper County while sticking the knife in deep and twisting it.

The following article probably accounts for the delay in getting the towers up and running in Jasper County. TWG received this on January 30th after we put out a blog on the delay on these towers (BOC APPROVES 8 CELL TOWERS WITH MOST REQUIRED PAPER WORK MISSING and DID YOU KNOW? ….That AT&T is out of compliance because they don’t have the new cell towers operating yet? )

 AT&T Slow Down  

From “Steel in the Air”

In the first 4-5 months of 2014, SITA received approximately an equal amount of inquiries from landowners who had received cell site lease proposals from AT&T and Verizon.  In that same time frame, we saw almost no inquiries from landowners who were approached by Sprint or T-Mobile.  Then in late second quarter, landowners who had been approached by AT&T for new towers were being told that their projects had been put on hold.  Simultaneously, AT&T announced a two-month freeze on capital expenditures (CapEx) which later turned into a significant reduction throughout the end of 2014.

Why the slowdown?  AT&T suggested that it would not invest money in new infrastructure while the FCC pondered whether to characterize AT&T as a utility, thereby subjecting AT&T to a possible “net neutrality” policy.  Steel in the Air believes that is just a smoke screen.  The real reason behind AT&T halting its network infrastructure roll-out is because it spent, or plans to spend, too much money on acquisitions.  In March 2014, AT&T purchased Leap Wireless for $1.2 billion.  AT&T announced plans in May 2014 to buy DirectTV, which will cost $48.5 billion, but will give the company access to more than 38 million video subscribers in the U.S. and Latin America.  In November, AT&T also announced plans to buy Mexican Telecom Iusacell for $1.7 billion.  While it does seem that the company’s divestitures are broadening (particularly into video), the near term result is clear that the company pulled back on its plans to aggressively build out rural areas with new towers.

So what can the cell site lease sector realistically expect from AT&T in 2015?  More of what we saw in 2014 – fewer new site builds and a renewed focus on site upgrades and fiber backhaul to existing sites.  While the slowdown won’t impact existing site owners, it will delay new AT&T installs on existing towers and reduce the number of landowners who receive proposals for new AT&T ground leases.



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