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Carrier-Neutral Network Operators Market Review, 4Q20 Report -

·3-min read

DUBLIN, July 27, 2021--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The "Carrier-Neutral Network Operators: 4Q20 Market Review" report has been added to's offering.

Over the last decade, the carrier-neutral network operator (CNNO) sector has evolved into a key part of the communications industry landscape. The CNNO model has helped telcos to slim down and webscalers to expand their network footprint rapidly.

The CNNO market of today is nearly 4 times the size of a decade ago. Revenues of $19.4 billion in 2011 grew at an average annual rate (CAGR) of 16.3% to reach $75.5 billion in 2020. Growth has slowed with the sector's maturity, but all three CNNO segments increased revenues in 2020. Towers and data centers were up by around 7% YoY each, while the bandwidth (fiber) segment managed about 2% growth. For the CNNO sector overall, revenues rose by 5.7% in 2020. That's far less than webscale but much stronger than the telco market.

The growth of the CNNO market continues to come from both acquisition of assets (including telco spin-offs) and organic investment. The CNNO sector's $29.3B in capex was nearly triple its $10.3B in M&A spend in 2020, but this relationship is sometimes reversed, as in 2017 when big deals from China Tower, Crown Castle, and American Tower drove M&A spend sky high. Cellnex was the most eager acquirer in 2020, with $6.5B in M&A costs on the back of deals with Iliad, Altice, Arqiva, and CK Hutch. Digital Realty and Equinix were also significant, with the former buying Interxion, and the latter purchasing Packet, GPX India, and 13 data centers from Bell Canada. The fiber/bandwidth segment had a quiet year for M&A in 2020, in part due to the privatization of Zayo, which had been an active acquirer in the past.

Both capex and acquisitions contribute to growth in CNNOs' net property, plant and equipment (net PP&E). In aggregate, net PP&E on the books for the CNNO sector is now about $215B. That's a bit more than half of the $429B in net PP&E recorded by the webscale sector of operators for 4Q20. Assets in the carrier-neutral sector at year-end 2020 included 788 data centers, nearly 2.7 million towers, and just under 800K route miles of fiber.

Employment in the sector is also growing. CNNO employees edged up from 90.7K in 2019 to 95.4K in 2020. That growth was roughly the same rate as revenues, though, leaving revenues per employee roughly flat at just under $800,000. As CNNOs scale their operations, they are searching for ways to optimize their asset management practices, and using automation when possible. Revenue per employee figures are likely to rise in the future.

Companies covered:

  • Towers: American Tower, Bharti Infratel, Cellnex, China Tower, Crown Castle, EI Towers, GTL Infrastructure, Inwit, Balitower, Inti Bangun Sejahtera, Sarana Menara Nusantara, Solusi Tunas Pratama, Tower Bersama Infrastructure, SBA Communications, Arqiva, TDF Infrastructure/Arcus, Telesites, Telxius/Telefonica

  • Data centers: CoreSite Realty, CyrusOne, Digital Realty, DuPont Fabros, Equinix, Interxion, QTS Realty, Switch, GDS Data Centers

  • Bandwidth: Chorus Limited, Cogent, Internap, Level 3, Lumos, NBN Australia, Superloop, Uniti Group, GTT Communications, and Zayo

Data series included: Revenues, Net Profit, Cash & short-term investments, Total debt, Net PP&E, Cash from operations, Capital expenditures (capex), Acquisition spending, Employees, Key ratios

Operating metrics:

  • Towers: # of towers, Number of tenants, Average tenancy per occupied tower

  • Data centers: # of datacenters, Net rentable square feet (NRSF) (Mn), NRSF per data center (K)

  • Bandwidth: Fiber route miles

For more information about this report visit

View source version on

Laura Wood, Senior Press Manager

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