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Crown Castle CEO says REIT Model Provides “Right Long-Term Structure”

06/16/2014 | By Sarah Borchersen-Keto

Ben Moreland, president and CEO of Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE: CCI), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview during REITWeek 2014: NAREIT’s Investor Forum, held in New York.

Crown Castle went public in 1998, but didn’t begin operating as a stock exchange-listed REIT until the beginning of 2014. Moreland was asked to comment on the decision to elect REIT status.

“We thought the REIT corporate organization was the right long-term structure for us,” Moreland said, noting that Crown Castle has thought of itself as a real estate company since inception.

Moreland also offered some perspective on the amount of infrastructure that’s needed to support the demand for mobile technology.

“It’s really staggering. Today the wireless carriers in the United States are spending in excess of $34 billion a year  improving their networks,” Moreland said.

He noted that Crown Castle owns 40,000 towers and 12,000 small cell nodes that are often in urban locations on street lights or telephone poles. “We are far and away the largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure to the wireless carriers in the U.S. and we’re working very hard to support their needs for all the data consumption that is being put on these networks,” he said.

Moreland cited figures from Cisco Systems, Inc. estimating that between now and 2018, current data consumption on networks will increase by a factor of eight.

“We feel we have a very long runway of growth as we all continue to load these networks, “ Moreland said.

Meanwhile, Moreland commented on the risks Crown Castle faces as it relates to telecom merger activity.

“To be a competitive carrier it takes a lot of scale today, and we’ve seen a significant amount of consolidation in the industry really since the beginning,” he said.

Moreland explained that wireless networks have historically outsourced towers to Crown Castle on a sale-leaseback model. “That’s a very compelling model from our perspective  and one that’s worked quite well, so we’re pretty sanguine about consolidation,” he said.