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Reach for the sky: Comcast Ventures forms CTI Towers

Wed, 09/28/2011 - 8:40am
Mike Robuck

Comcast Ventures, the venture capital arm of Comcast, has jumped into the telecommunications towers game with the formation of CTI Towers, which comprises approximately 800 towers that were previously owned and operated by Comcast Cable subsidiaries.

Making its headquarters in Boston, CTI Towers was first launched in March, according to CTI Towers CEO Anthony Peduto. The 800 towers are spread across 39 states.

With mobile data plans proliferating, towers are an emerging business opportunity to help ease the congestion caused by mobile video consumption on 3G networks. While 4G networks are just getting off the ground, at some point the towers will also be used to relieve network bottlenecks on those advanced networks, as well.

CTI Towers is actively leasing tower space to wireless operators and other tenants, creating additional tower capacity for rapidly evolving businesses and technologies across the U.S.

"Comcast, up to this point, had not really been leasing the tower sites, and they actually got into the business by virtue of some acquisitions where towers from other companies had been leased out," Peduto said this morning. "Comcast Ventures was tasked with doing an assessment on the towers, and since CTI was formulated in March of this year, we've been leasing tower space to AT&T and all of the other carriers. They've actually been doing upgrade activity on their existing sites with Comcast."

While today's announcement focused on the mobile and wireless service providers using the towers, there's also an opportunity in play for cell backhaul with Comcast Business Services. Working with CTI Towers, Comcast Business Services' cell backhaul efforts provide mobile operators with the infrastructure to transfer the high-bandwidth data from the tower to the switching center.

Mobile backhaul market revenues are projected to top $8 billion by 2015, according to a recent report by the Dell'Oro Group.

"We work closely with Comcast Business Services," said Peduto. "As they get their contracts in place, they'll actually be able to provide cell backhaul to the carriers.

The [Comcast] backhaul piece is better served working with Comcast Business Services because they can explain how the network is run and where the agreements are in place."

Peduto previously served as the chief operating officer of Optasite, a company that engaged in the acquisition and development of telecommunications tower sites, and vice president of the West and Northeast regions of American Tower Corp., a provider of wireless and broadcast towers worldwide.

"Consumers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices and consuming high-bandwidth applications, such as streaming video, requiring a next generation of wireless communications infrastructure," said Dave Zilberman, principal at Comcast Ventures. "Newly formed CTI Towers will work with mobile operators and other service providers to improve the quality of the wireless network experience to their customers by leveraging the extensive footprint of urban and suburban towers in CTI's portfolio.

"With Tony Peduto's significant experience managing and developing towers and his deep understanding of the tower business, CTI is well positioned to aggressively support the build-out of new wireless networks."

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