Sprint made a major network equipment deal with Crown Castle, New Street Research analysts believe following the examination of the cell tower company's consolidated financial results for the final quarter of 2017. The Wednesday report mentions "certain long-term customer agreements" that yielded approximately $5 million in revenue over the three-month period ending December 31st, specifically stating that such deals were a boost to previously expected figures by virtue of the fact they were only signed during the fourth quarter. Crown Castle's report specifies that its additional revenue stems from a combination of new leases and extensions but doesn't mention any names, though the market research firm is relatively convinced Sprint is the major score referenced by the financials. The conclusion was drawn based on the lengths of Crown Castle International's wireless carrier contracts previously disclosed by the company.
While quick to name Sprint as the most likely candidate for Crown Castle's latest financial boost, NSR is more reluctant to speculate about the implications of any new and renewed agreements between the two. The firm's analysts only said the move may be indicative of Sprint accelerating its network deployment goals. Besides telecom towers, Crown Castle is also dealing in small cells, a field of rapidly increasing importance for Sprint. The fourth largest mobile service provider in the country recently inked a major deal with Altice USA in an effort to facilitate its small cell deployment efforts by leveraging the cable provider's existing infrastructural footprint. Earlier this month, the company announced a similar agreement with Cox Communications, signaling that more such moves are on the horizon. Given the importance of small cell deployment in the 5G race, an expanded agreement with Crown Castle wouldn't be an unconventional step for Sprint to make or have already made.
Network densification is a crucial component of Sprint's 5G plan which will largely rely on its 2.5GHz spectrum holdings and millimeter-wave bands meant to act as high-performance hotspots. Despite offering significantly improved speeds, capacities, and latencies, such frequency waves aren't suitable for traveling long distances in urban areas without assistance as they struggle with passing through buildings, foliage, and rain, which is where small cell sites come into play, being designed to bounce the signal and help disseminate it in a reliable manner. Sprint will start deploying a consumer-ready version of its 5G network by late 2019, according to the firm's previous comments.