updated 02:46 pm EDT, Fri September 28, 2012
Deal lasts 28 years, costs $2.4 billion
T-Mobile has signed an agreement with Crown Castle to lease 7,200 wireless towers. The carrier will hand the towers to Crown Castle for a period of 28 years, in exchange for a $2.4 billion rental fee. The proceeds of the deal will go some way towards paying off debts accumulated by T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom.
After the weighted average term of 28 years, Crown Castle will have the option to purchase the towers for around $2.4 billion. Until that time, Crown Castle plans to allow another carrier to use its newly leased network of towers at the same time as T-Mobile, which has committed to maintain its own equipment on the towers for at least a decade.
After the transaction is completed, Crown Castle will remain as the largest wireless infrastructure operator in the US, with approxomately 30,000 towers in 50 markets. At present, T-Mobile's network consists of 51,000 cell sites, most of which are leased from third parties, such as Crown Castle. The practice of site renting is relatively common throughout the telecoms industry, due to the costs involved in maintaining a tower.
Despite the leasing of the towers, T-Mobile will continue to focus on its network modernization schemes, including its LTE launch in 2013.