DISH Network today announced it has signed 7 new 5G tower agreements with Harmoni Towers, Mobilite, Parallel Infrastructure, Phoenix Tower International, Tillman Infrastructure, Tower Ventures, and Vogue Towers. Indeed, these agreements, in aggregate, provide DISH Network with access to more than 4.0k towers and wireless infrastructure assets across the United States. Additionally, these tower companies will provide services to help accelerate DISH’s installation of 5G radios on their tower infrastructure.
Overall, DISH Network is constructing the nation’s first cloud-native, Open RAN-based 5G wireless network. Therefore, securing strong tower partners is a key component of its network expansion, and is tremendously important for DISH’s rapid roll-out of a new, nationwide 5G network.
DISH Network’s 5G Tower Partnerships
Prior to today’s announcement, DISH Network had already signed two key long-term lease agreements with Crown Castle and Vertical Bridge. Firstly, in November 2020, DISH Network signed a 15-year lease agreement with Crown Castle to lease space on up to 20k of its tower sites, across the United States. Secondly, in February 2021, DISH Network signed a long-term lease agreement with Vertical Bridge for access to its portfolio of towers, rooftops, utility transmission structures, billboards, convenience stores and other sites used for wireless infrastructure deployment.
Today’s agreements add 7 new partners to DISH Network’s 5G tower infrastructure build-out. Specifically, these companies include Harmoni Towers, Mobilite, Parallel Infrastructure, Phoenix Tower International, Tillman Infrastructure, Tower Ventures, and Vogue Towers.
The company’s investors include digital infrastructure private equity firm Melody Investment Advisors. Specifically, Harmoni Towers owns 1,650 towers across the United States. Indeed, Harmoni Towers was formed through the $226m acquisition of Uniti Towers from Uniti Group and the acquisition of CTI Towers from Comcast Ventures.
The company’s investors include Los Angeles-based private equity firm Shamrock Capital Advisors. Specifically, Mobilite owns a portfolio of over 150 towers across the United States. Additionally, Mobilitie funds build-to-suit towers for all wireless carriers, which is important for the purposes of DISH Network’s 5G deployments.
The company’s investors include global private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Specifically, Parallel Infrastructure owns a portfolio of 500 towers across the United States. Indeed, the company is a build-to-suit tower operator with several hundred more towers currently under development.
Parallel Infrastructure has all major United States wireless carriers as customers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. These wireless carriers lease space on the company’s towers under long-term contracts.
Phoenix Tower International
The company’s investors include Blackstone Tactical Opportunities and John Hancock Life Insurance. Specifically, Phoenix Tower owns a portfolio of over 700 towers across the United States.
Globally, Phoenix Tower owns and operates over 12.5k towers and 610 route miles of fiber. Indeed, this portfolio spans across 16 countries including the United States, Europe, and Latin America.
The company’s investors include Canadian pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and infrastructure fund AMP Capital. Specifically, Tillman Infrastructure owns a portfolio of over 860 towers across the United States. Overall, Tillman Infrastructure’s portfolio of towers is predominantly in rural areas of the United States.
Additionally, the company has a further build-to-suit pipeline with more than 460 towers. In turn, this brings Tillman Infrastructure’s near-term portfolio to 1.3k towers in the United States.
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The company’s investors include the private equity division of Brown Brothers Harriman. Specifically, Tower Ventures owns a portfolio of over 400 towers across the United States. Tower Ventures’ current customers include wireless carriers Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Additionally, the company serves non-traditional carriers, such as Wireless and Satellite ISPs, radio stations, data companies, and emergency service providers.
The company’s investors include its founder and Chief Executive Officer Pat Troxell-Tant. Specifically, Vogue Towers owns a portfolio of over 250 towers across the United States. Collectively, the company’s team has built and acquired over 5.0k towers throughout the United States and secured 15.0k carrier leases through their careers.
Where is American Tower and SBA Communications?
Notably absent from DISH Network’s 5G tower partnerships to-date are any formal Master Lease Agreements (MLAs) with the largest tower company in the U.S., American Tower, and the third largest tower company in the U.S., SBA Communications. Indeed, DISH Network instead is relying on long-term agreements with Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge, and today’s 7 additional tower companies.
Importantly, DISH Network has been working with American Tower, on a site-specific basis, but not under any formal Master Lease Agreement (MLA). Specifically, DISH Network is preparing to deploy 5G radios on a significant number of American Tower’s locations, but not at the scale to warrant a wholistic partnership.
Rationale for DISH Network’s Tower Build-Out
DISH Network requires deployments on 15k towers to meet its build-out commitments for a 5G network that covers 70% of the United States population by June 2023. Therefore, DISH Network is leveraging its large commitment to tower leasing to extract pricing concessions from its tower infrastructure providers. Indeed, DISH Network is not paying market rate for the new leases it has signed through its tower partnerships to-date.
Typically, tower companies like American Tower and SBA Communications command colocation rates per site of $2.5k to $3.5k per month. Whereas DISH Network is negotiating this cost down to colocation rates per site of $1.5k per month, a steep discount. Therefore, American Tower and SBA Communications were likely unwilling to offer their entire tower portfolios at this level of pricing, hence resulting in no Master Lease Agreement (MLA) being signed with DISH Network.
In turn, DISH Network has sought out smaller private tower companies that are more amenable to pricing concessions. These companies have the benefit of securing large volume commitments from DISH Network’s 5G build-out. Indeed, today’s 7 new tower agreements demonstrates DISH Network was able to find additional infrastructure partners willing to accept colocation rates per site of $1.5k per month or lower.