Tower Operators Step Up the Pace of Their Edge Deployments

Telecommunications tower experts are accelerating edge computing deployment while laying the groundwork for greater business opportunities in the future, the tower operator’s executives said in a recent earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

With the rise of edge computing, more and more wireless companies are acquiring assets in the data center sector, preparing for the future with greater consolidation between data centers, telecom towers and antennas.

Edge computing moves data processing and services as close as possible to end users. This trend has been driven by the growing use of consumer mobile devices, particularly consumption of video and virtual reality content, and the growth of sensors as part of the Internet of Things. However, edge computing also supports low-latency B2B applications.

Tower companies such as American Tower and SBA Communications are emerging as potential major players in the cloud landscape with their ability to build, buy or partner with other edge-focused companies. The company has real estate on call tower bases around the world and has been learning the data center business to understand the components of a successful edge computing network.

The approaches taken by these key infrastructure players reflect the larger reality of edge computing’s growth, which has not kept pace with some of the early predictions of large-scale growth. However, edge-centric deployments have accelerated in the past two years. Cloud platform and content delivery experts are stepping up their investments, and tower companies are looking to become key stakeholders in this ecosystem.

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american tower

American Tower is working toward a future where its network of 43,000 telecom towers across North America act as an extension of the cloud, bringing content from large server farms to the edge of the network.

The data center will become the connective tissue in the company’s vision for edge computing. That’s why American Tower paid $10.1 billion last year to acquire data center operator CoreSite. As American Tower refines its strategy, that strategy continues to evolve.

American Tower President and CEO Tom Bartlett said, “Over the next few months, we plan to break ground on our first 1-megawatt edge facility and our own tower site based on our understanding of market demand and customer requirements.” The company is looking at how it can “design a blueprint for launching at scale as the edge ecosystem evolves and demonstrate a differentiated value proposition at American Tower and CoreSite to deliver to potential customers.”

“To date, our team has identified more than 1,000 sites within the existing U.S. tower portfolio that are considered shovel-ready candidates for mobile edge deployment based on location, subdivision space, land control, and existing fiber and power access,” said Bartlett. .”

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The CoreSite deal was a bold move for the data center business of American Tower, the world’s largest owner of wireless infrastructure. Thousands of tower sites have been actively exploring edge computing opportunities to monetize edge capacity. But American Tower has discovered that the current gateway to the edge is the heart of the network. Here, CoreSite is an experienced player.

“Now, having owned CoreSite for over three quarters, we couldn’t be happier with the performance we’re seeing across our business and the use cases driving leasing activity that we expect will be a growth catalyst in the future,” he said. Bartlett.

“Looking further ahead, we expect workloads to become much more distributed and localized,” he continued. “So, as customers look to future-proof their digital business…as enterprises move to more tailored hybrid multicloud IT environments, interconnection hubs like CoreSite are becoming increasingly important. Supporting evolving low-latency applications. .”

American Tower’s strategy is to position the company in an evolving environment where the historical boundaries between different infrastructure classes are beginning to blur.

“The mobile edge is emerging as an important area in the convergence of wireless and wired networks,” said Bartlett, and American Tower “plans to forge partnerships with cloud and enterprise technology platforms to better prepare for future network demands.” added.

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SBA Communications

Jeff Stoops, president and CEO of SBA Communications, said the company hopes to build a critical edge computing network that includes both data centers and infrastructure on a tower base.

“We’ve actually made significant progress,” said Stoops. “There are probably 30 to 40 of these facilities in operation or under construction. The primary demand for these facilities has been edge computing and fiber and cable regeneration.

“Absolutely we’ve seen a lot of growth,” Stoops said. “Of course, it’s still very small on the financial side. But we’re encouraged by what we’ve seen.”

SBA operates more than 30,000 tower sites and has acquired two data centers, the JaxNAP carrier hotel in Jacksonville and the New Continuum data center in the Chicago suburbs, forming the core of SBA’s Edge business. The company said it analyzed its network and identified approximately 8,000 potential edge sites.

“We’re really pleased with the increase in return on invested capital on these projects,” said Stoops. “They are mostly 6×12 or 10×20 ft shelters that look like the traditional wireless shelters that certain carriers have used historically. They are air conditioned and have a lot of logistics to check temperature and alarms. They are basically for equipment racks, 2 We can start with a capacity of one or three racks and grow beyond that.”

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