Comcast affiliate snaps up towers; wireless plans come under renewed scrutiny

25 Nov 2015

CTI Towers, a wireless tower operating company majority-owned by Comcast Corporation’s venture capital unit Comcast Ventures, has acquired 120 communication towers from Vyve Broadband. The deal, which is expected to close by year-end, is believed to be CTI’s fourth and largest tower acquisition of the year. Tenants include the four national wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US and Sprint Corp, as well as a number of broadcasters, utility companies and governmental entities. Industry insiders have interpreted the tower transaction as a sign of Comcast’s growing interest in the mobile sector, and the deal suggests that the cableco’s interests may not be restricted to the MVNO market (see below).

Late last month US cable giant Comcast revealed plans to activate a dormant MVNO deal signed with Verizon Wireless back in 2011. Speaking during the cableco’s third-quarter earnings call, CEO Brian Roberts acknowledged that an MVNO business model is in the pipeline, saying: ‘We’re going to trial some things and test some things after we activate’. Roberts added that it will take about six months to trigger the agreement. In December 2011 Verizon announced that it had acquired a total of 122 AWS spectrum licences from SpectrumCo, a joint venture between Comcast, Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks. Under that agreement the three cable operators secured the rights to resell Verizon’s wireless services at a later date.