T-Mobile Sued for Alleged Unauthorized Attachment to High Tension Electric Tower

Utility pole cell tower

A few times a year, we are contacted by someone that believes that a wireless company attached equipment to an electric tower (not a small wood utility pole) on their property but that isn't getting compensation for it.  We just came across this news story where T-Mobile has a cell site attached to a utility pole and the landowners are not receiving any rent for the access to their property.  They are suing T-Mobile alleging that T-Mobile does not have the legal right to use the pole.  In the mid-2000's, there were a number of lawsuits, some class action, on this same issue.   In some, the landowners won and in others, the wireless carrier won.  

The key to whether a landowner should be compensated is based upon the language in the underlying utility easement for the electric towers.  The more specific the language is regarding what the easement is for, the better it is for the landowner.    If the easement language includes the right to provide telecommunication services or communication services, in many cases, that means that the utility company is within its rights to grant access to the wireless company without paying rent or getting landowner consent.   If the easement is specifically for the transmission of power, the wireless carrier may need your approval to be on the property which may mean additional rent.  

If you believe that the wireless carrier who has equipment on one of the electric towers on your property is improperly doing so, go to the clerk of court for your county or city and ask to see a copy of the utility easement across your property.   They are normally very helpful.   Get a copy and reach out to us.  While we cannot provide a legal interpretation of the easement language, we can advise whether you should spend the time and money to visit a local attorney.   If the attorney believes you should be compensated, we can help determine the appropriate amount for the lease or consent.   

Sprint Enters the Lease Renegotiation Game Again

A landowner client of ours received this email from LCC, a company allegedly acting on behalf of Sprint where they claim that if the landowner doesn't agree to concessions, that Lendlease will consider relocating the Sprint site.  

Screen shot of email from Sprint
Email from Sprint Representative to Landowner

If you receive a similar request from Sprint, LCC, or Lendlease or another cell tower lease optimization company, please contact us.  We can help you evaluate the proposal and determine whether it is probable that Sprint would move in the event you choose not to accept their proposed rent reduction.

Rooftop Small Cell in Syracuse, NY (Ken’s Hometown)

Despite living here for over a year now, I just came across my first small cell in the City of Syracuse.   The site and equipment are located on and adjacent to the rooftop of Rosie’s Bar & Grill just west of Syracuse.

Small Cell Location

Below is a photo showing the rooftop small cell- which includes a small antenna mount along with an omni type antenna.  Based on what we have seen in proposed Verizon rooftop small cell plans for other clients- this appears to be a Verizon installation.

Small Cell Photo
Rooftop Verizon Small Cell

The Verizon small cell connects to an approximately 4′ tall equipment cabinet mounted on a steel platform on the side of the building.    Verizon has likely entered into a small cell lease agreement with Rosie’s for the placement of the equipment.  They typically offer $250/month to $300/mo. for this type of lease although like anything that is negotiable.   If Verizon or another small cell provider contacts you for a similar proposal- give us a call at (877) 428-6937 or contact us.

Small Cell EquipmentSmall Cell Equipment

 

 

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…]

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…]

Cell Site Lease Offers from the Carriers: Average Lease Rate Examined

Which carrier pays the most for their leases on a general basis? To answer this question, Steel in the Air turned to our cell site lease database with more than 8,000 records of cell site lease information.  We found every instance in the database where a carrier was a party to the lease and where lease rate data existed.  We took the average lease rate for each of the larger carriers across all leases. Here’s what we found they pay relative to one another: [Read more…]

AT&T-T-Mobile Merger Impact on Tower Companies 2

A follow up story by the Wall Street Journal mentioned reports from American Tower and SBA who confirmed the number of leases impacted:

  • American Tower has 3,100 towers where AT&T and T-Mobile are both on the tower out of 36,000 sites or 8.6% overlap.   American Tower’s lease agreements with T-Mobile have between 5 and 6 years remaining on them.
  • SBA has 1,533 of the company’s 9,260 towers with duplication between T-Mobile and AT&T or 16.5% overlap.   The average lease has 3 years remaining on it.
  • Crown has 4,000 of the company’s  22,000 towers with duplication.   The average AT&T lease has 12 years remaining while T-Mobile has 7 years remaining.

[Read more…]

Municipal Lease Negotiations- When Cities Undervalue Their Assets


There are times when I come across a news story and am saddened when I read about a municipal landowner who has negotiated an undervalued lease. This particular story is about a town in the Chicago, IL area that negotiated its own agreements with Verizon, US Cellular, Clearwire, and T-Mobile for the use of a water tower on school district property. The lease rate negotiated was less than the average of what the typical tower company charges for a collocation lease. [Read more…]

Impact of CPI Based Escalation

One of the recent questions we have been getting quite frequently is whether it makes sense to modify an existing lease to a Consumer Price Index (CPI) based escalation rate. This is because a few of the tower companies, including Crown Castle are actively looking to change their existing leases to a CPI based escalation due to changes in how they are required to report expenses over time related to a lease. [Read more…]