Verizon Adds CBRS to Macrocell- Mischaracterizes New Antennas as Radios

Verizon’s site acquisition agent reached out to our client to propose a “swap of (9) existing radios with (9) new radios”. They suggested to the client that there should be no rent increase for these modifications as it is just replacement of existing radios which care also known as remote radio units or RRU’s. On first glance, we were thinking that this probably wouldn’t warrant our client paying us to review the equipment change as it was unlikely that we would have recommended an increase in rent for a swap out of RRUs. However, on further review of the construction drawings, we noticed that the drawings indicate that three of the “radios” were not just radios but instead a combined Radio/antenna for CBRS/ 3.5GHz.

Perhaps the Verizon agent made the same mistake we made initially and failed to review the drawings carefully. Or perhaps Verizon’s agent attempted to characterize these units as radios instead of antennas because the lease expressly forbids the addition of antennas without the payment of additional rent. Perhaps they didn’t care to let our client know that they are adding new frequencies to the rooftop- which would also require landowner approval because the client is a municipal public safety agency. This is an uncharacteristic “mistake” for Verizon whom we have found to be straightforward to deal with in most cases with the exception being when they have retained lease optimization companies like Md7 to renegotiate their leases.

First Lesson Learned: Review All Construction Drawings Carefully

Going forward, building owners and tower owners should CAREFULLY review proposed drawings from Verizon (and other carriers). If you are asked to “consent” to equipment modifications, we recommend always first asking for construction drawings. Then if the carrier indicates that they want to replace existing radios, ask them specifically for specification sheets for each remote radio and ask them if any of the “radios” are combination radios and antennas. Each lease is different, so your lease may allow the carrier to make these changes without your consent or authorization. Either way, smart building owners and tower owners should be fully aware of all equipment being added to their tower or rooftop.

Second Lesson Learned: Expect to See More CBRS Antennas Added on Rooftops and Towers

Verizon’s intentions to deploy CBRS outdoors are by no means secret.

We have observed small cell applications with 3.5GHz capable equipment included in the past. However, this is the first time that we have seen Verizon adding CBRS to a rooftop macrocell. This is a good indicator of the mainstream use of CBRS and possibly of Verizon’s intentions in the upcoming CBRS auction which the FCC still has yet to set a date for. For more on CBRS, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_Broadband_Radio_Service.

We also expect that we will be seeing more of these installations especially in urban and suburban areas as Verizon looks to CBRS to help meet the pending demands of 5G.  If you a landowner or tower owner and are unsure how to review and address these types of requests from Verizon or other carriers, see our page on Equipment Modifications and Lease Expansions for more details.  If you are an investor and want to know what impact these types of CBRS installations will have on the public tower companies (AMT, SBAC, CCI), contact us for a consultation.  If you want to see more of these types of articles, please sign up for our newsletter on the form below.

 

 

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