Tillman Infrastructure (TI), a privately held New York, NY-based tower company, constructed its 1,000th macro tower in the U.S at the end of 2020, starting with its first tower build in May 2017. Founded in 2016, TI believes it reached this milestone faster than any other towerco in the country.
In an exclusive interview with Inside Towers, Suruchi Ahuja, TI President and CFO and Alexander Schwartz, TI Vice President, Business Development talked about the company’s progress to date and its outlook for the next several years.
Ahuja attributes the company’s success to several factors. “Our ‘carrier first’ approach allows us to partner with the mobile network operators in ways that our goals align with their goals. Our team has extensive wireless carrier experience and understands carriers’ operational needs. Carriers are leveraging existing infrastructure but 5G needs a lot of new infrastructure. We install new tower infrastructure on their schedules,” says Ahuja.
“We are fair and transparent with them, and work to provide operational excellence while helping them to lower their operating costs. More important, we take a multi-decade long view to working with our carrier partners. We aim to support them for a long time.”
TI is a subsidiary of Tillman Global Holdings which since its 2008 founding by Sanjiv Ahuja has capital expenditures of more than $6.5 billion and operates roughly 500,000 infrastructure assets in more than 20 countries around the world.
TGH saw the U.S. market as dynamic and growing and recognized carriers needed infrastructure partners that could respond to their expanding needs. Today, TI has 80 employees in Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and the New York-New Jersey area.
TI is a pure marco tower play with sites in 35 states, mainly in the midwest, south and southeast but is expanding into the northeast and western states. The towers are situated on a mix of owned and leased land with a multi-decade commitment. TI is well capitalized with $1 billion available for new construction.
Where the customer needs dictate, TI brings in TGH’s expertise in small cells and distributed antenna systems, and Tillman Digital Cities’ capabilities for in-building wireless and neutral host infrastructure.
TI’s “fairness and transparency” approach creates a long-term sustainable business with its carrier customer partnerships.
“This is the foundation for building a network over the next 20-30 years,” Ahuja added. “The carriers are facing top line pressures even as their tower expense continues to escalate. Rents are doubling every 10 years. We can help them with that.”
Organic growth sets TI apart. With 1,000 towers built in the last three years, the company believes it is the second largest private tower company to have made that many new builds in that short time.
TI says its growth is accelerating. With its current booking pipeline, the company expects to double its base again in the next 18-24 months and to double that again in the following 24 months.
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are TI’s primary customers. Nonetheless, the company is positioning to handle new builds in regional and rural markets as regulators push for greater broadband access in underserved and unserved areas. TI has strategic partnerships with Competitive Carriers Association and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, both of whom represent wireless service provider members that operate in regional and rural markets across the country.
Ahuja acknowledged that TI is a “disruptor” in the U.S. tower business. That is certainly how TI was perceived when it entered the market offering MNOs a lower cost relocation alternative to the Big 3 towercos.
Despite the perception, Schwartz added that the company today is focused on a holistic approach, offering coverage and capacity solutions to meet their customer needs. “We look closely at each carrier’s needs. TI as a business has a focus on solving our customer’s problems. We are nimble and creative in our operations and provide sustainable solutions to our customers’ infrastructure needs over the long-term. We will consider selective acquisitions, but we have been fortunate to be able to grow purely through organic channels.”
To support its tower construction, TI’s sister company, Tillman Networks, offers a complete portfolio of services: site development, design and engineering, implementation, and maintenance of network infrastructure. TN strives to provide high quality, turnkey solutions that put its customers first.
In the end, TI says their business model is all about fairness and transparency. Bill Hague, TI CEO says, “We treat everybody the same way with creativity and problem solving for whatever their unique needs may be. Our offering is not unique to one type of customer. We want to make it easy to business with us over the long term.”
By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor