Sprint’s Really Odd Antenna Configuration Proposal

On one of our municipal client's towers, Sprint submitted a request to replace three existing antennas with new antennas that add 2.5GHz capability to their equipment.  The subject tower is in a difficult zoning jurisdiction and one where Sprint really doesn't have any other options.   Their collocation rent was on the higher side but not unreasonably so- and the three other wireless service providers were all paying the same or higher rent.  

Because the antennas were the same size or smaller, we did not recommend a rent increase for them.  However, Sprint was adding remote radio units and other equipment so we recommended a fairly nominal increase.  Rather than accept the newly proposed lease terms, Sprint instead asked whether they could replace the existing equipment on the tower with three of these antennas and get a reduction in rent. 

Sprint Proposed Canister Antennas
Possible Sprint Replacement Antennas

The proposed antennas are larger than the existing antennas, but Sprint appears to be wanting to go from 9 panels to 3 of these antennas.  (Not 3 of the canisters)  These panels will accommodate all of Sprint's spectrum bands but would seemingly limit their capacity and number of simultaneous users.   These appear more suitable for a mini-macro as opposed to a macrocell, but I would welcome any thoughts readers have regarding this topic.  

At the end of the day, we advised the client that the value of their tower is its unique location, not the specific loading that Sprint is placing or removing from the tower.   Obviously, there will be situations where a reduction in loading or equipment would justify a reduction in lease rate, but this isn't one of them.  

FL State Representative pushes Small Cell Legislation while his City Issues RFI on Leasing City Property for Macrocells

In the Florida House of Representatives, a bill is being pushed through to significantly limit the control that a local municipality can exert over small cell installations.  The bill also limits the fees that a city may charge for access to municipal poles.   

In committee hearings, Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Miami) said that the “City of Miami actually is the second worst city in connectivity—digital divide—in our state and in this country in many respects, so for me, this is a question of how can we break down this digital divide.”  While the goal of decreasing the digital divide is certainly an admirable one, one has to question how likely it is that small cells will be deployed in areas that don't already have sufficient wireless coverage.   Certainly, increasing capacity in underserved areas is beneficial.   However, the bill doesn't encourage or regulate where small cells are deployed, letting the industry decide on its own where they should go.   One has to question whether this specific bill will remedy the issues related to the digital divide, especially when considering how the wireless companies tend to deploy infrastructure in the areas where they profit most, not where lower income and disadvantaged people reside.  For an example of this, see this article about how AT&T deploys fiber differently to rich and poor areas.  

Simultaneously, Miami/Dade, the combined City/County government in which Rep. Duran resides issued an RFI for the management of City/County owned properties.   This specific RFI has been debated for years.   Various requests and meetings have been put forth to the wireless industry over that time frame with the City/County choosing not to move forward for various reasons.   We previously attended a meeting at Miami/Dade ourselves.  

Image of Miami Dade RFI Request
From Miami Dade Website
The irony here though is hard to miss.  First, in delaying this RFI/RFP process for years, Miami/Dade has missed out on a significant amount of interest in its property.  Secondly, if the Florida legislature is successful at reducing the fee structure for what municipalities can charge for access to their poles, Miami/Dade will not only get far less than it would have without such legislation but it will also reduce the effectiveness of the RFI.   Respondents will have less incentive to respond because there is less incentive for wireless companies to build macrocells on public property if they can use the ROW at virtually no cost.  Furthermore, with the fee cap, Rep. Duran's specific district and its taxpayers will generate less revenue while incurring additional incremental costs from having to manage and maintain poles that were built with taxpayer money but which are being used by private companies for profit.  

Obviously, this is a tradeoff that Rep. Duran and others could have legitimately decided was worth taking.  We aren't trying to criticize him or anyone else for making that choice- just trying to point out how complex the issues related to small cells and densification are for state legislators.   While the wireless industry has been successful at simplifying them to "you are voting against technological advancement", the issues aren't remotely that simple and there will be far-reaching but inherently local impacts for years to come.  

Towers and Tenant Collocation Rent Trends: 2016-Beyond

In their article “Tower Rents May See Pressure from Carriers”, AGL Magazine cites three sources to justify their overreaching conclusion that cell tower collocation rents may soon see downward pressure. Incorporating statements from Ron Bizick II of Tarpon Towers, Jennifer Fritzche of Wells Fargo Securities, and Alex Gellman of Vertical Bridge, AGL surmises that the traditional tower development business model is transforming. Following is SITA’s response to that assertion. [Read more…]

Sprint’s Network Overhaul- Radical Impact on AMT, CCI, and SBAC?

The website Re/code posted an unconfirmed article on Friday re: Sprint’s Next Generation Network which stated “sources familiar with the initiative said Sprint plans to cut its network costs by relocating its radio equipment from tower space it has leased from Crown Castle and American Tower to spots on government owned properties which costs much less.” [Read more…]

Our Complimentary Website: Cell Tower Info Has Been Revamped

Cell Tower Info was created in 2005 and has recently been updated with a new skin, new features and more information for clients and cell tower landlords.

If you’re interested in the cell tower leasing process – from acquisition to deployment and leasing, please take a look!
At Cell Tower Info, you can learn tips about: [Read more…]

Good news for rural landowners: more cell sites

Sprint adds 15 rural carriers to its Rural Roaming Network, an initiative that originally launched during the first half of 2014 with 12 regional wireless providers.  Currently, Sprint has expanded its LTE footprint across 565,000 square miles in 27 states.  Sprint is also involved in a Small Market Alliance with NetAmerica, which will provide rural carriers with access to Sprint’s Spark Network using 800 Mhz and 1.9 GHz spectrum through reciprocal roaming agreements.  In fact, Sprint’s Chairman, Masayoshi Son has offered financial assistance to regional carriers who seek to build-out their rural LTE coverage during this year’s CCA event.  Of interest is the fact that 83% of the U.S. population resides in suburban or rural areas, which are almost exclusively served by tower-based macro sites.  All in all, this is good news for rural landowners who are currently party to cellular leases (as well as those who are not but would like to be), since we expect to see significant cell-site builds and collocation opportunities in rural markets as demand continues to skyrocket.

How COAS Can Benefit from Cell Site Leases

In the United States, there are over 300,000 cell sites, encompassing those that are located on cell towers, other structures (like telephone poles and water towers), and rooftops.  Ken Schmidt, President of Steel in the Air, estimates that in Florida, there are between 500 – 750 cellular leases tied to rooftops located on condominium buildings. [Read more…]

Afraid of Rocking the Boat: When to Build Your Own Tower

Rocking the Boat.

A gentleman called us two days ago. He had been approached by a local tower company to build a cell tower on his property. We had an initial discussion, and he seemed intrigued by our services. The initial offer from the tower company was pretty decent, better than an initial offer should have been for this area. I suggested this to him and also suggested that typically when a tower company makes an offer like this, it is because the property is unique. This gentleman owned a significant amount of acres along a difficult-to-cover corridor. The tower company had no other choice but to use his property. [Read more…]

Sprint’s Questionable Addition of Clearwire Antennas

A client we represent had a Sprint construction crew show up at their doorstep to perform what they called “standard maintenance”. It was a sizeable construction crew and they never notified the landowner prior to showing up. Our client wisely prevented the crew from entering the site at that time- stating that they had the right to do regular maintenance but not modifcation of the existing cell site. The Sprint agent tried to tell the client that they were legally entitled to the modifications. [Read more…]

Sprint’s Attempt to Sublease their Sites

Sprint has been contacting landowners recently with existing Sprint sites and asking to modify the current antenna installation. They propose adding 2 parabolic antennas to the site. When asked, they suggest that the additional equipment is used in “support of” their 4th generation WiMAX technology. Yet a careful review of the proposed lease amendment shows that they want to modify the current lease agreements so that Sprint “OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATED ENTITIES, SUBLESSEES, ASSIGNS OR CUSTOMERS” can use the Site for installing equipment, antennas and microwave dishes, air conditioned shelters, ect. [Read more…]