American Tower has begun deploying a network of small modular data centers at its telecom tower properties, commencing a new phase in the giant telecom infrastructure company’s expansion into edge computing.
The move comes a year after American Tower acquired colocation provider Colo Atl as a way to evaluate the edge market and understand the interconnection business. This week the company unveiled its American Tower Edge offering featuring data modules at the base of cell towers in six cities – Atlanta, Jacksonville, Denver, Boulder, Austin and Pittsburgh.
“Now is the optimal time to invest and pave the way for enabling the next generation network and computing architectures,” adds Whitney Pesot, Product Manager, U.S. Innovation for American Tower. “American Tower is committed to innovation and supporting the needs of our customers now and in the future.”
The expansion highlights the growing activity in the edge sector by the three large public tower companies. SBA Communications recently created a branded SBA Edge offering around a Chicago data center it acquired last year, while Crown Castle partnered on a $90 million funding that will allow edge specialist Vapor IO to build a national network.
Tower REITs Survey Edge Opportunities
Edge computing moves data processing and services as close to the end user as possible. The trend is driven by the increased use of consumer mobile devices, especially consumption of video and virtual reality content and the growth of sensors as part of the Internet of Things.
As real estate investment trusts (REITs) focused on digital infrastructure, American Tower and the other major tower companies have the potential to be major players in edge computing. They are optimized for acquiring properties, and can finance growth through many means, including securitized loans that can provide a low cost of capital.
American Tower is the world’s largest owner of wireless infrastructure with more than 170,000 sites and $7 billion in annual revenue. It has been actively exploring opportunities in edge computing that would allow it to monetize edge capacity at its thousands of tower sites.
The new American Tower Edge facilities allow customers to “work with a single, trusted and established company for both tower and edge data colocation to simplify network deployment,” the company said in a press release. “Utilizing the ground space of our existing towers, where connectivity already occurs, we create an improved network architecture closer to key operators.”
Interconnection Ecosystem in Atlanta
On Tuesday American Tower announced the deployment of an edge data center in the Atlanta suburb of Ben Hill, with dark fiber connecting back to the Colo Atl colocation facility at 55 Marietta Street in Downtown Atlanta.
The Edge Data Center – Atlanta is a 360-square foot, 100 kW facility that can house eight customer cabinets for colocation and interconnection services. American Tower says the purpose-built module is configured for N+1 operation, with a UPS system, a generator, and DX wall-mount air conditioners. The colo capacity is being offered as three full cabinets and 20 quarter-cabinet lockers.
“American Tower’s new edge data center, strategically located in close proximity to our Colo Atl facility, enables us to extend the Colo Atl ecosystem with a reliable solution promoting increased flexibility for existing and future customers,” said John Ghirardelli, General Manager for Colo Atl and Director, US Innovation for American Tower.
In addition to the Atlanta facility, the American Tower Edge web site says the company has deployed six edge modules, including both the 100 kW units and a smaller, 160-square foot form factor that offers 80 kW of capacity and four customer cabinets.
Edge computing is highlighting the growing overlap between the data center and wireless worlds, a trend we first noted in our 2018 forecast (8 Trends That Will Shape the Data Center Industry in 2018). In addition to the three tower REITs, companies like EdgeConneX and Colony Capital have wireless experience and have added data centers as a core element of their business