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Carrier-neutrals hope to ride the GenAI wave

This brief is focused on the carrier-neutral network operator (CNNO) sector. CNNOs sell independent, carrier-neutral access to network infrastructure, including bandwidth (fiber), data center and tower/small cell assets. The biggest CNNOs by revenues are China Tower, American Tower, Equinix, Crown Castle, Level 3 (a Lumen subsidiary), Digital Realty, Cellnex, NBN Australia, Indus Towers (ex-Bharti Infratel), and Zayo. In the most recent 12 months (3Q22-2Q23), the CNNO market represented $96.7 billion in revenues (+2.7% YoY), $34.8B in capex (+9.4% YoY), $8.8B in M&A spend (-68.9% YoY), and $251.1B of net plant (+2.3% YoY). CNNOs employed about 113.7K people at the end of June 2023, up 4.8% YoY.

After a weak second half 2022 (2H22), the CNNO sector has begun to improve in 2023 with 3% and 5% revenue growth rates in the first two quarters, respectively. Higher interest rates have slowed M&A and forced CNNOs to manage debt more carefully, but capex outlays remain high at over 35% of revenues. CNNOs continue to optimize their footprint and scale...

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Matt Walker
Chief Analyst
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