Verizon taps into towers profits with Vertical Bridge deal

Silhouette, telecommunication towers with TV antennas, satellite dish in sunset

US operator Verizon has inked a towers build-out deal with Vertical Bridge that will enable it to expand its mobile networks and to make some money from the growing passive infrastructure market.

The firm has brokered a build-to-suit agreement with Vertical Bridge that will see the latter build mobile towers on its behalf to expand its 4G and 5G Ultra Wideband services.

Verizon will serve as the anchor tenant on the towers in question, which suggests they will be open to other mobile operators; it would be unusual if they weren’t, given the current push from towers companies to increase tenancy ratios on their sites.

The companies did not share how many sites the deal covers. However, we know that there will be new towers “across the US,” which perhaps suggests this is a project of reasonable size.

Further, “the new towers will add to the overall communications infrastructure in the US, and will help to fulfil the need for new locations where towers do not exist today to continue to enhance the wireless experience,” reads a statement from Verizon.

The size of the build is not the most interesting part of this announcement though.

The deal is structured in such a way that the new towers will be held in a limited liability company formed by Vertical Bridge. Verizon will have a profits interest in that company. That means that not only is the telco directing the build-out of towers where it needs them most, it also stands to cash in on the potential of the towers space.

US mobile operators sold out of towers many years earlier than their European counterparts, but this deal between Verizon and Vertical Bridge suggests that they too are now seeing some long-term money-making potential in this market. Naturally, Verizon did not have a lot to say on the subject of the profit-share, but it certainly provides an additional angle to the story.

The telco was more interested in talking up the benefits to its network rollout and its customers.

“Our new agreement with Vertical Bridge is an excellent alternative to the traditional tower leasing model,” said Lynn Cox, chief engineering officer at Verizon. “This cost-effective, sustainable and efficient model will allow us to accelerate our build programme and provide additional services to customers.”

Vertical Bridge, though, alluded to the fact that this is not how things are normally done in the US towers market.

“This new model, designed to deliver value for both parties, is a demonstration of strong collaboration and mutual benefit between a carrier and a tower company to accelerate infrastructure development in the US,” said Ron Bizick, the company’s president and CEO.

Bizick, incidentally, has been in the CEO office for a matter of days, having been appointed to the top job last week. However, he is not completely new to Vertical Bridge, having spent the past 14 months serving as its chief operating officer. He replaced former CEO and company co-founder Alex Gellman, who has moved upstairs into the executive chairman role, but will apparently continue to steer the passive infrastructure specialist’s strategy and investments.

Bizick brings a wealth of experience to his new post, his CV including a number of infrastructure companies, such as Tarpon Towers, Global Signal and SBA Communications.

Announcing a deal with Verizon, albeit likely some months in the making, is a pretty good way to get started at the helm of Vertical Bridge.


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