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Sunday, Jun 23, 2024

Mobilitie’s Move

A just-completed $325 million fundraising deal for Mobilitie LLC comes as the Newport Beach-based wireless infrastructure company is gearing up for what it is calling the “largest network deployment initiative in the U.S.”

The privately held company—which began operations in 2005 as an owner of cell phone towers and has since expanded into providing a variety of wireless infrastructure systems and services—looks to be amid a hiring spree locally and across the country.

Some 200 job openings—a mix of technical, project management, finance, executive, business development, real estate and other high-level positions—are listed on the company’s website.

The new hires would nearly double the company’s estimated employee base from a year ago.

About half the company’s job openings are based in Orange County, and the remainder spread across the country, with Chicago and Atlanta being two of the larger hubs for new positions.

A bulk of the job descriptions note that Mobilitie is preparing to undertake a massive network deployment of its wireless infrastructure, although specifics of the plan have not been announced.

Company officials did not respond to inquiries on Mobilitie’s growth plans last week.

A number of telecom trade publications have reported in recent months that the company could have a deal in the works with Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint Corp. to roll out a countrywide upgrade of the wireless giant’s network, primarily through the use of small cell base station sites.

Small cells are designed to improve a wireless carrier’s network capacity in areas that have high mobile data usage, particularly in large cities where installation of traditional cell towers might not be practical.

Street lights, utility poles and other outdoor structures often are used to host the technology, with the cost of the equipment running about $40,000 per small cell, according to industry data.

Sprint is planning 70,000 small cell networks to be deployed as part of its current network densification plan, with a goal of enhancing its wireless network coverage and capacity while also preparing for the rollout of new 4G wireless technologies, according to trade publication Fierce Wireless.

Mobilitie is rumored to have landed the contract for at least 20,000 of the small cell sites, according to a July report from that publication. The deal has yet to be confirmed by Sprint or Mobilitie.

A deal of the size said to be in the works would appear to fall in line with the expansion plans now envisioned by Mobilitie.

Sprint is owned by Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp., which bought a majority stake of the company in 2013 for about $20 billion.

A number of the job listings on Mobilitie’s website cite fluency in Japanese as a requirement or preference.

A handful of open positions will be based in Sprint’s hometown of Overland Park, according to the company’s website.

Landlord Role?

Recent reports touting the possible Sprint-Mobilitie partnership suggest that Mobilitie might be funding a good portion of the small cell deployment.

Mobilitie, would in turn “monetize the small cell network by leasing space to other carriers in addition to Sprint,” a recent report in RCR Wireless News noted.

Such a plan would be similar to how Mobilitie runs its cell phone tower business, essentially acting as a landlord that rents out space at its towers to a variety of wireless tenants.

Last week’s funding announcement would appear to go a long way to kicking off funding for the first phases of the small cell project.

Debt Funding

Mobilitie last week announced that it had arranged $325 million in debt funding, in a deal led by CIT Bank NA and TD Securities (USA) LLC.

The money will be used “to fuel the exponential growth of the company’s distributed antenna systems, small cell, communication tower and Wi-Fi business investments,” the company said in a statement.

Mobilitie “is leading the effort to fund, design, and build innovative wireless solutions for even the most complex network challenges,” Christos Karmis, Mobilitie president, said in the statement. “We’re driving the country’s most important infrastructure projects, and deploying more venue infrastructure and new outdoor macro networks than any other firm.”

The $325 million debt announcement is the latest big funding deal for Mobilitie. The company has raised more than $1.2 billion in a series of funding deals since 2008. It also sold a portion of its cell phone towers portfolio to SBA Communications in 2012, raising an additional $1.1 billion.

The 2012 deal vaulted Gary Jabara, Mobilitie’s founder and chief executive, to the ranks of Orange County’s wealthiest residents. The Business Journal estimates his wealth at $375 million.

Jabara, in addition to his role at Mobilitie, also has a sizeable commercial real estate portfolio, a large portion of it in Orange County. He’s also the primary backer of Villa Real Estate, one of the area’s largest luxury home brokerages.


Mobilitie, since the 2012 cell tower deal, hasn’t been shy about reinventing itself.

It has added a number of business lines and has become a leader in the installation of distributed antenna systems, or DAS, permanent antenna systems that can be placed in a variety of indoor and outdoor venues to provide better cell phone and wireless connections for guests.

Venues using the company’s DAS technology include Churchill Downs in Kentucky, the casinos of Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International, and the Honda Center in Anaheim, among other notable locations.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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