By Dr. Carla Pasternak
What do you get when you take an essential service and combine it with high barriers to entry? A cell tower operator.
There's only three major ones in the U.S. -- American Tower (NYSE: AMT), Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI), and SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC). These three operate 96,000 of roughly 120,000 towers in the U.S.
Wireless carriers like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) rely on these towers to hang their antennae. It's cheaper and faster than building their own. First of all, it takes years of work to secure the real estate, get zoning approvals, and jump through the red tape in the federal, state, and local regulatory processes.