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Nearly Half A Million Cell Sites Are Cropping Up In The U.S.


According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), there are over 418,000 cell sites across the US. The industry’s regulatory issues were highlighted in CTIA’s annual survey.

The report shows that the nationwide rollout of 5G is happening twice as fast as the 4G, “providing the physical foundation for our 5G economy,” CTIA wrote.

As federal infrastructure siting reforms continue to pay off by easing barriers, more wireless infrastructure is a significant part of the successful launch. In 2021, 418,887 cell sites were operational across the country. This figure does not include the new 5G base stations that are added to existing cell sites.

Closing the Digital Divide

The wireless industry built almost 70,000 new cell sites between 2019 and 2021, up from the 42,000 sites built from 2016 to 2018, the association said. The nearly 70% increase was the result of relaxed state and federal guidelines governing cell site construction.

More cell site towers wil help close the digital divide, improve coverage and encourage adoption by improving coverage, CTIA said.

Regulations Bring Growth

At the federal and state level, network operators, cell tower owners, and network equipment vendors across the US wireless industry have celebrated recent regulations that make both large, macro cell towers and small cells faster and easier to build out. They firmly believe that regulations of this kind are important to continue expanding the US wireless sector as well as the broader US economy. According to CTIA, US wireless providers invested $35 billion in 2021 in growing, improving, and operating their networks – spending that has a positive impact on the economy as a whole.

Growing, but Still Behind

The US cell site sector has been surpassed by those in other, bigger markets. For example, one estimate puts China’s 5G base stations at 1.43 million. China has around 1.4 billion individuals living across its 3.7 million square miles, which is much more than the 330 million people living across the US’s 3.7 million square miles.

Local Governments Push Back

Some local governments across the nation have opposed the easing of rules by the feds, saying that local regulators ought to have more control over the conditions and terms of cell site construction. However, all efforts at gaining control at the local level have been unsuccessful.

Despite this, some large players in the market continue to struggle with the regulations and permits required to build new cell sites. Crown Castle CFO Dan Schlanger, for example, recently said that the company’s small cell business is often slowed down by “the time it takes to get all of the things in place, mainly permitting, zoning, and utilities in order to build that small cell.”

Regardless of support of opposition, tower companies are quickly ushering in the 5G era. Crown Castle manages over 40,000 macro cell towers and 115,000 operational small cells . SBA Communications operates around 30,000 cell towers throughout North and South America, while American Tower operates over 43,000 cell towers in the United States.

Vertical Bridge and Harmoni Towers are two of the biggest cell tower owners in the United States. Such firms invest in cell towers, which they refer to as vertical real estate, and then lease space on them to companies like Dish Network, AT&T, Verizon, and others.

It is clear that the wireless industry is growing rapidly in the United States. As tower companies continue to invest in infrastructure and close the digital divide, the need to have an expert on your side is growing, too. Vertical Consultants is the nation’s leading cell tower consulting firm. We fight not only to get you more money, but the best cell tower lease terms possible. Don’t accept less than you deserve. Contact us today online or by calling us at 877-456-7552  for your free consultation and lease review.