In the wireless business, land leases and tower use fees for cellular equipment are often one of the biggest costs faced by wireless carriers. Advertising, employment, financing devices, and making deals with manufacturers are all plenty expensive, to be sure, but they can all fall short in short order when compared to the kind of spending that's involved in building and maintaining network equipment and infrastructure. For AT&T, that expense may have gotten a little bit out of hand, and they have a "task force" looking into ways that AT&T can lower their infrastructure costs to levels that won't threaten to tip the balance in their books down the road.
Speaking on current business practices surrounding things like tower leasing costs and agreements with various parties, AT&T's Senior VP of Infrastructure Tom Keathley said that the carrier's current strategy "may not be sustainable" on the longer term. With analysts making good predictions for tower companies and carriers beginning to invest in the equipment it will take to roll out 5G, things look poised to only get more expensive from here, without some sort of action toward cutting costs on AT&T's part. Naturally, since the item in question is AT&T's wireless infrastructure costs, any changes to cut costs could result in a negative impact on the network, which would have its own cost in sales and customer retention. There are, of course, options out there; the carrier is far from being in a tight spot. Keathley even went as far as to say that the carrier could always simply find cheaper towers to lease out and stick their equipment on, if nothing else.
With AT&T all set to bid in the FCC's 600MHz forward auction, which should start on the 16th of August if all goes according to plan, cutting costs and acquiring capital is more important than ever before. The auction could be a real game changer for a number of smaller providers, and could even provide other carriers, like T-Mobile, with the spectrum they need to build out and fill up all of the gaps in their coverage. The CEO of Crown Castle, the largest wireless infrastructure player in the US, said that negotiations with US carriers are currently fairly satisfactory, offering a good proposition for both parties. Speaking on the matter, he said, "we just don't see that changing".