Towers are a critical component of modern communications infrastructure. From wireless carriers to WISPs to companies backhauling data over microwave, people need tower space. When an organization needs to expand their network, it leases space from another company. In fact, many modern companies an in the business of tower leasing from their large portfolios.
At DPS, we make remote monitoring equipment that is frequently used at these sites. We even have a purpose-built Tower Monitoring System.
Tower operators might install our gear as a benefit for colocation lessees - or simply to comply with relevant FCC/FAA requirements for obstruction lighting. I'm proud to say that several of those listed below are DPS clients.
Based on our experience working with many different cell tower companies, I'm happy to share with you a list of some of the best tower site operators in the industry. Note that this list is limited to companies who operate in the United States - although many operate globally.
This list is also not necessarily in a particular order. You should consider each company on this list - and do further research on your own - if you're preparing for a major project involving cell sites and communications towers. Some facts may also have changed since time of writing, so you should double-check as you read.
With over 25 years of experience and $103 billion in enterprise value, Crown Castle is a major player in the industry. They have over 40,000 towers, but also about 80,000 route-miles of fiber and 80,000 small cells.
On their site, Crown Castle notes the modern reality that "being online" is now the rule rather than the exception. They see their role as enabling a more connected future for the world, including via technologies like CBRS, the 5G network, and edge computing.
(Despite their name, over 210,000 sites worldwide actually make American Tower international)
American Tower has among the most impressive tower portfolios in the world. On their website, they note that they "provide customized solutions through in-building systems, outdoor distributed antenna systems and other right-of-way options, managed rooftops and services that speed network deployment." They are also "one of the largest global Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)".
SBA is a cell tower company in the United States, Brazil, Canada, and many other countries.
In their brochure, they emphasize the value of speed in a rapidly changing world: "SBA delivers rapid turnaround on all lease transactions and offers flexible lease terms and competitive pricing."
With respect to cell tower lease industry: "SBA leases antenna space on our multi-tenant towers and other communications facilities to a variety of wireless service providers under long-term lease contracts."
On their website, US Cellular emphasizes their "local" approach to placing tower antenna infrastructure that create better cell phone coverage areas: "Being local means we understand the region and we're able to make connectivity better all throughout it. We know the dead spots, so we fix them. We know the communities, so we're good to them."
As you'll notice, this is the first company on this list who boths owns sites and operates a cellular network. This differs from the companies above, who are "independent tower operators" who focus primarily on leasing space to others.
This distinction is clear from US Cellular's website, where much of the content is focused on consumers and the phones, plans, and deals they want.
Vertical Bridge lists a portfolio of "more than 308,000 sites nationwide, including wireless and broadcast towers, rooftops, convenience stores, land parcels, utility structures and billboards."
They also focus on their charitable giving, saying, "...in 2020 alone, Vertical Bridge donated over $1.5M and provided thousands of volunteer hours to help 600 organizations achieve their missions. To date, we have given more than $6.4M and contributed nearly 6,000 volunteer hours to 501(c)(3) organizations."
I absolutely encourage you to dig deep and do your homework if you are planning to lease tower space from any company. These are long-term relationships, and your success depends greatly on your choice.
Relevant factors when choosing a tower company include:
I won't lie to you: it's possible that you don't need my gear. If you are leasing from a company that already provides great remote monitoring (perhaps even by using my equipment), you might be set.
Still, it's never a bad idea to have familiarity with remote monitoring / SCADA systems for any telecom project. You might learn something now that isn't relevant, but you can almost guarantee that it will become useful at some point in your career.
With that in mind, I'm happy to have a phone conversation with you covering how you can protect your vital equipment. We might find a good match for you, or we might discover that you're already covered.
If you prefer to continue your research online for the time being, the entirety of DPS Telecom's website is at your disposal. From RTUs that have been field proven at cell-tower sites to central management servers that bring remote-site data together on one screen, you can learn about everything you need to establish 7x24 remote site monitoring.
You can also check out other recent DPS blog posts that cover both general and highly specific topics surrounding situational awareness of remote facilities.
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck. If you ever need help, give me a call at 559-454-1600 or email me at email@example.com
Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 16 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...
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