American Tower acquires data center in Georgia

American Tower has acquired the Atlanta, Georgia-based ColoATL data center. It’s the company’s first acquisition in the data center market and a further signal that tower operators are interested in expanding to support edge computing.

American Tower is the world’s largest wireless infrastructure owner. It operates more than 170,000 tower sites across 17 countries, including some 57,000 in the United States, and has been actively investing in edge computing technologies.

ColoATL operates about 26,000 square feet of colocation space in Atlanta. It offers carrier-neutral colocation and interconnection services. The company has signed half a dozen deals with telecom operators and technology companies for interconnection services in 2019 alone.  

Steve Vondran, EVP and president of American Tower’s U.S. tower division, said the acquisition will help support the company’s innovation initiative. “ColoATL is a small, strategically located data center with sufficient space and power to enable us to work with the wider ecosystem as we drive our innovation efforts,” Vondran told FierceWireless in a statement. But, he added that the acquisition “does not represent a wider strategic shift for American Tower.”

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Vondran said the company plans to test the linkages between wireless connectivity, integrated edge computing and edge caching at the ColoATL data center.

Speaking at the company’s quarterly earnings event in October 2018, American Tower chairman, CEO and president James Taiclet said the company has an “ongoing evaluation of edge compute solutions at our tower sites,” according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

“We are currently engaged in discussions with players in numerous industries that may ultimately be edge compute tenants and expect to further explore the potential long-term opportunity going,” Taiclet said, adding that the tower sites can act as convergence points for the wireless access network, cloud services, the Internet of Things and enterprise networks.

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The deal is the latest in a string of developments indicating that tower companies are looking to expand to edge computing. Tower infrastructure owners believe they have the power supply and fiber needed to support edge computing.

Tower owner SBA Communications struck a deal with edge computing company Packet last year enabling Packet to build its first Boston-area edge computing data center at the base of one of SBA’s cell towers. Crown Castle, another major tower company in the U.S., was an early backer in edge computing startup Vapor IO; and Vertical Bridge, the largest private owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure in the U.S., signed a deal with data center company DataBank to “develop micro data centers at the base of communication towers that will enable edge computing.”