Tillman Infrastructure, a privately-held independent tower company in the United States, focuses on developing build-to-suit (BTS) tower sites for wireless carriers. Presently, the company has 1,059 sites constructed and, in the near-term, can potentially reach 1,709 sites throughout the U.S.
Tillman Infrastructure – Tower Portfolio
Tillman Infrastructure’s constructed tower portfolio spans 32 states, primarily in the Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest of the United States. Additionally, the company has been granted permission to build towers in a further 9 states but has not yet constructed these towers.
Per the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tillman Infrastructure currently has a total of 1,059 sites which are constructed and 650 sites which are granted, but not constructed. Therefore, in Tillman’s 41 total states of operation, the company has 1,709 potential sites, which includes both constructed and granted towers.
Tower Portfolio by U.S. Region
Geographically, Tillman Infrastructure’s top five states by constructed sites are Texas (286 sites), Alabama (89 sites), Kentucky (83 sites), Mississippi (70 sites), and Ohio (70 sites). Collectively, these five markets comprise ~600 towers, equivalent to 56% of the company’s constructed sites. Also, Tillman Infrastructure has meaningful potential to grow in the states of Missouri (70 granted sites) and Oklahoma (51 granted sites).
Top 10 States by Total Sites (i.e., Constructed and Granted)
As shown above, Texas is a key market for Tillman Infrastructure, with 25% of the company’s constructed and granted towers residing in the state. Interestingly, Texas is also a market where barriers to entry for tower construction are lower than in other states – particularly as it relates to zoning and permitting (see below).
Finally, 80%+ of Tillman’s portfolio across the United States is located in rural markets, as opposed to suburban and urban locations. These lower population density rural locations often result in lower rents for tower operators than urban locations.
Tillman Infrastructure primarily serves the United States’ largest wireless carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Additionally, in February 2021, DISH Network signed an agreement with Tillman Infrastructure for the use of its towers as part of its 5G network build-out.
Tillman Infrastructure – United States Tower Market Context
Overall, the United States has ~155k towers, with a 2.3x tenancy ratio, equating to 356k tenants on these towers. Therefore, Tillman Infrastructure’s 1,059 sites represents <1% of the total U.S. market. While the company’s 1,709 potential sites (including granted towers) would bring Tillman’s market share to 1.1%.
Tillman Infrastructure’s U.S. tower count of 1,059 positions it as one of the largest independent tower companies in the United States. Indeed, in the U.S., the company competes with the domestic infrastructure of American Tower (42.8k sites), Crown Castle (40.1k sites), SBA Communications (17.3k sites), Vertical Bridge (8.0k+ sites), and Diamond Communications (3.0k+ sites).
As compared to its larger tower company peers, Tillman Infrastructure often competes to win wireless carrier customers by being a lower-cost alternative. For example, this could take the form of reduced new lease rates, lower annual rental escalators, or waiving amendment fees.
Overbuilding is a particular strategy of Tillman Infrastructure as it seeks to develop build-to-suit (BTS) towers for wireless carriers. Indeed, in November 2017, via a joint press release with Verizon and AT&T, the companies noted that Tillman would provide “opportunities for the carriers to relocate equipment from current towers”.
Limited local zoning and permitting restrictions, in certain jurisdictions, enable Tillman Infrastructure to construct competing towers within close proximity of an existing tower asset. Specifically, the company will often compete with infrastructure owned by American Tower, Crown Castle, or SBA Communications. In turn, Tillman aims to transition high rent sites of wireless carriers (e.g., Verizon) to its own tower infrastructure.
As a reference point, Tillman Infrastructure is building new towers at a pacing of ~200 sites per year, of which ~50% are overbuild towers.
Tillman Infrastructure – Ownership
In July 2018, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), a Canadian pension fund, and AMP Capital , an Australian infrastructure investment manager, committed up to $1bn to finance Tillman Infrastructure’s construction of new telecommunications towers across the United States. Subsequently, in October 2020, UBS Asset Management, on behalf of a U.S. pension plan, acquired a minority stake in the company.