The Japanese telecom giant that controls Sprint this week announced a move into the cellular tower market in the U.S.
SoftBank Group and Australian property and infrastructure firm Lendlease on Tuesday introduced a joint venture, named Lendlease Towers, with $400 million allocated between the companies to acquire and restructure about 8,000 rooftop cell sites and other structures throughout the country.
The new venture, over the medium-term, also indicated plans to invest $5 billion in telecom infrastructure in the U.S., and vowed to seek additional capital partners as the effort grows.
“I am pleased to announce the establishment of an infrastructure vehicle focused on the U.S. telco sector, which continues to experience unprecedented growth in data usage as the world moves to becoming more connected,” Denis Hickey, Lendlease’s Americas CEO, said in a statement.
Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche noted that the initial agreement is centered on Sprint’s existing rooftop sites and could impact the carrier’s likely bid to merge with T-Mobile. SoftBank Group is the majority shareholder of Sprint.
Critics believe a combined company could affect wireless prices and reports suggested that Department of Justice staff are likely to oppose the effort. Fritzsche, however, wrote in a note that the tower announcement could allow the companies to tout a merger’s potential impact on innovation, job creation and, crucially, infrastructure in its arguments to antitrust regulators.
“This could be a big time clue in the message they will come with,” Fritzsche wrote.
The Wall Street Journal added that the joint venture could put additional pressure on tower companies such as American Tower, Crown Castle International and SBA Communications — particularly as companies vie to install the smaller antennas needed to support next-generation 5G networks.
Filed Under: Infrastructure