Will Pole Sharing Lead to Tower Sharing?
The FCC’s Pole Attachments Order issued April 7, reduced the timeline for telecom providers to attach communications equipment (network electronics and fiber cable) to utility poles, and also set rates for attachments by telecommunications companies at or near the rate paid by cable companies. The FCC justified this order by asserting that lowering the attachment rates and attachment timelines will assist in expanding the availability of affordable broadband as set under the National Broadband Plan.
There is no doubt that wireless carriers would appreciate faster deployment times and lower collocation rents when they attach to tower company towers. In the last year, some in the wireless carrier circles have been discussing using pole attachment rulings as legal precedent to challenge collocation rent rates that are above “market rates”. Certainly the National Broadband Plan objectives would be served by more wireless carriers deploying 4G broadband service in more locations.
With the FCC staff bandwidth being taken up by actions like the AT&T (NYSE:T) acquisition of T-Mobile, GPS interference issues from LightSquared, and new RAN share possibilities between Sprint (NYSE:S) and Clearwire, it will likely be some time before their attention turns to “Tower Attachment” topics. However, a regulatory challenge might force this issue to the forefront. If nothing else, a cash constrained wireless carrier might introduce this topic to increase leverage in negotiations with with American Tower (NYSE:AMT), Crown Castle Intl (NYSE:CCI), or SBA Communications (NASDAQ:SBAC).