Sprint’s Questionable Addition of Clearwire Antennas

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Sprint appears to be attempting to add Clearwire to its existing rooftop sites without telling the landowner about it. This may represent a breach of the underlying lease agreement.

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.

Upon further investigation, Sprint was actually trying to sublease space on the roof to Clearwire without telling our client. They never mentioned until pushed that the maintenance actually included adding 3 microwave dishes and a cabinet on the roof. This wasn’t a impulsive decision by Sprint- when we asked they provided construction drawings and a structural analysis for the roof, both of which they had no intentions to provide to the owner.

In reviewing the lease, we found that Sprint had the right to sublease but they did not have the right to add the equipment as the agent had suggested. We immediately contacted the agent and sent a letter stating that they would be in breach of the lease agreement if they proceeded after delineating the specific reasons for our objection.
Sprint’s tone changed pretty quickly and they are now willing to negotiate an amendment.

The purpose of relating this story is that it represents a change in how Sprint and Clearwire are acting in relationship to each other. Previously, Clearwire would have directly approached the landowner to negotiate a second lease. Now, they have obviously worked out their differences and as a result are trying to add Clearwire equipment to a rooftop without telling the property owner. In these situations, it is crucial that you understand what your lease allows Sprint to do and what it doesn’t. Since these issues are primarily technical ones, you should find an attorney who understands the technical limitations of the underlying lease agreement. For more information on cell tower subleases, please see Cell Site Subleases.

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