Since 2004, Steel in the Air has helped over 4,000 private landowners, commercial property owners, municipal governments and other public entities (universities, public utilities, parks and churches) understand and favorably position themselves in cellular lease negotiations and small cell infrastructure deployment. We take pride in providing our clients with the best advice in consideration of all possible factors. Whether you seek to deploy a DAS or small cell solution yourself, or have been contacted by a company who wants to use your property to install one, we can be of assistance.
Cell tower lease data is not readily available to most landowners. While leases are recorded, the wireless carriers typically use a memorandum of lease which does not contain lease rate or other business term information from the lease. There is no Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) for cell tower leases. Steel in the Air has been gathering data about lease rates for nearly 20 years. Our database consists of nearly 13,000 leases that contain lease rate information. We have gathered this data from public and private sources over the last two decades. Nobody has a more thorough lease rate database other than the tower companies and wireless carriers themselves.
On average, wireless carriers entered into new lease with landowners at an average of $1,050/mo. on a nationwide basis. There is a wide variation though in what landowners are offered. Generally, though most offers are between $500/mo and $1,500/mo for new ground leases for telecommunication towers. The average lease rate for all ground leases in our database in 2022 is just under $1,300/mo. It hasn’t changed from 2021 but is up from 2018 when it was $1,220/mo. These averages include rural, suburban, and urban towers including newly built 5G towers.
Proposed Cell Tower
Ground Lease Rate
Proposed Cell Tower
Ground Lease Rate
Cell Tower Ground
Lease Rate for
(new and existing)
|METROPOLITAN AREA||2022 POPULATION (ESTIMATED)||AVERAGE CELL TOWER LEASE RATE (Month)||Average cell tower lease (annual)|
|New York||19.2 M||$ 1,900||$ 22,800|
|Los Angeles||13.2 M||$ 1,500||$ 18,000|
|Chicago||9.5 M||$ 1,300||$ 15,600|
|Dallas||7.6 M||$ 1,000||$ 12,000|
|Houston||7.1 M||$ 1,000||$ 12,000|
|Washington DC||6.3 M||$ 1,750||$ 21,000|
|Miami||6.2 M||$ 1,750||$ 18,000|
|Philadelphia||6.1 M||$ 1400||$ 16,800|
|Atlanta||6.0 M||$ 1,400||$ 16,800|
|Phoenix||4.9 M||$ 1,300||$ 15,600|
|San Francisco||4.7 M||$ 2,500||$ 30,000|
Even in these metropolitan areas, there are pockets of variation- meaning that leases in Oakland generally average less than San Francisco proper. Below is a heat map showing which states in the United States have the highest cell tower lease rates (orange) and the lowest (blue) on average.
Like any property type, rent is based upon the underlying market real estate conditions. Markets that have higher rents across all types of properties also tend to have higher cell tower rents. However, an equally important factor is the difficulty of finding suitable alternatives. A cell tower site may be unique for multiple reasons. Perhaps there is unique topography (hills/valleys) that restricts the location of where a cell tower can be placed and still see the preferred coverage. Or someone owns all of the land in the area and the cell tower developer has no other choice but to put the tower on that land. Sometimes the zoning regulations of an area limit where towers can be built. They do this by restricting where towers are allowed. Zoning regulations often contain limits on how high a tower can be on certain types of properties or how close it can be to property lines or to other towers. Some cities prefer lots of shorter towers and make it easy to build new ones. Others prefer fewer but taller towers.
Lease rates also vary significantly depending upon the age of the lease. A tower built 20 years ago that started at $1,000/mo and that has a 3% annual escalator now pays $1,700/mo. Also, when a lease expires, the landowner can typically negotiate even higher lease rates than the average in the area because the tower owner has invested a lot of money into the tower.
The last few years have been interesting for lease holders with trends pushing lease values up and down.
If you have read through to this point, you know what the average lease rate for cell towers in the United States. You might know from the chart above what the average rate is in your metropolitan area. You may even have comparable data on what your neighbors are getting for cell towers on their property. You might think that at this point, you have enough information to negotiate the proper lease rate for your location. If your site is average and the wireless carrier or tower company has other options, then you likely have enough information to negotiate a fair lease rate. However, if your property is not average or the wireless carrier doesn’t have other options, you will likely leave money on the table. And this is the second most important factor related to cellular tower lease rates: the knowledge or relative knowledge of the landowner. Unless you deal with cell phone tower land leases daily (or weekly or even monthly) you are unlikely to know what you don’t know.