Cell Tower Lease Rates

What are the cell tower lease rates where your potential cellular site is located? Evaluating cell site lease rates is difficult because there isn’t much comparative data available to the public. What we can tell you about cellular lease rates is that the cellular carriers are all trying to save money, and they are not paying as much as they used to pay for rooftop and tower rentals a few years back.

Landlords and property owners are usually contacted by the carriers via third party site acquisition leasing companies who are paid for identifying sites and getting a lease signed at a new cell tower site. They are paid on the rental price and the terms that they can negotiate. The better the terms for the carrier, the more potential the leasing consultant has for making a larger bonus. Translated, the worse the deal is that they shove down your throat, the more money they make. If they tell you they are not paid on a schedule that rewards them for giving you a lower lease rate they are lying. The carrier leasing companies are also paid premiums for turning a lease around quickly.

So if you’ve been contacted to put a cell tower on your property or antennas on your rooftop the clock is ticking against you. You need to evaluate the offer and figure out if the offer they gave you is a fair one, mediocre one, or a low ball stinkin’ bad offer. You also need to determine if the wireless carrier has any other choices where they can go in your neighborhood which would be a better location. That will determine the amount of leverage you have in the negotiation. You need to respond to them and you are almost always at a significant disadvantage. And they know that.

Of course, you can negotiate what seems to be a good deal on its face, and still end up with a dog of a deal if the you don’t pay close attention to the telecom leasing terms and the confusing language. Chances are you are not a telecommunications legalese expert, and neither is your real estate attorney. Cell tower leasing rates vary from county to county within a state. In 2009 we negotiated several cell site leases with the same carrier in the New York City Metropolitan Area, and the leases negotiated varied from $1,500 per month to $3,000 per month. The difference in price had a lot to do with wireless ordinances and poor coverage in a critical area.

Here are samples of some recent cell tower lease rates we have seen offered initially to landlords in various parts of the country for tower leases and rooftop leases:

• New Jersey, T-Mobile $1,500

• New Jersey, Clearwire $1,100

• New Jersey, T-Mobile $1,250

• New Jersey, Verizon Wireless, $1,650

• New York, Metro PCS $1,300

• Pennsylvania, AT&T $750

• Pennsylvania, Verizon Wireless $600

• Virginia, AT&T $500

• Los Angeles, T-Mobile $1,300

• Houston, TX Clearwire $900

• San Diego, California $1,400 T-Mobile

The cell tower leases offered to property owners are heavily tilted in favor of the carriers and are too burdensome for some. However in life and in the wireless leasing game there are two kinds of landlords, the quick and the dead. Don’t get killed by the carriers on your cell tower leases. They have hired guns to get them the best deal possible. Shouldn’t you?

Mary J. Gibson

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