Will cell towers become obsolete?

by Dick
(Pennsylvania)

Do you ever see cell towers becoming obsolete? We are blessed to have significant monthly income from a cell tower and the 3 ground leases that have. What are the chances of my cell tower leases going away because of cell towers becoming obsolete? I have been offered several cash lump sum buyout offers from tower lease buyout firms from New York and California, and I've also been called about our AT&T lease and T-Mobile lease by two companies that are telling us we need to help the carriers lower their operating expenses and they seem to be almost saying that if we don't agree to lower our rents that they can't guarantee our cell tower will remain in place. It seems like a shakedown but I don't understand enough about the technology to reason with them.

Has anyone else on this forum experienced the same thing?

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Mar 01, 2017
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Technology
by: Anonymous

Ask people 5 years ago if they thought it were possible for a robotic drone to deliver them Doritos to their house that is entirely controlled by their mobile phone.... Enough said.

Feb 04, 2016
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Superconductors
by: Anonymous

Superconductivity will change everything. This will allow RF receivers to have very low thermal noise and usher in satellite phones for everyone. The cellular form of telephony has its days numbered. An array of geostationary, linked satellites will perform the RF link to personal communications devices and possibly even do the "switching".

Editor's Note: Hello anonymous blogger. Wanted to get your thoughts on this... Vermin Supreme, 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate in New Hampshire recently discussed the use of harnessing energy from zombies utilizing the latest in hamster wheel technology, by dangling brains in front of the zombies, thus causing them to run and make these giant turbines spin, creating energy. Could this green energy source also help the superconductors and satellites replace the cell towers?

Feb 02, 2015
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Cell Carriers Most Eager to End Towers
by: Jake Austin

There is no entity out there more eager to do away with cell towers than the carriers themselves: T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, in the US. No other industry incurs the soft costs and infrastructure maintenance costs as does the wireless industry. I have worked in this industry since 2007. Starbucks, Exxon, Apple...none of these other types of businesses deal with anything close to the complexities of rolling out, upgrading and maintaining a 50,000 tower network. And, most of the complexity is not hardware-based. As a commenter mentioned here, it is the leases, the governmental approvals at multiple levels, the obscene idea of maintaining such an enormous bloated inefficient network that frustrates carriers and urges them to find more streamlined alternatives. It is staggering and a bunch of contractors and vendors are hired each year to push everything forward- get leases signed, get zoning and construction approvals, draft construction drawings, do radio frequency studies.

Finally, the Federal government has done very little to standardize approval processes nationwide other than add a few ambiguous provisions to unrelated laws, such as the Tax Relief Act. This allows local governments to run amok over the cell tower upgrade approval process, throwing in all sorts of arbitrary regulations and restrictions. This not only prohibitively increases the costs involved, but also stymies and limits network development and, as a result, detrimentally affects the entire economy, given the importance of wireless communications. So, if the Federal government will not definitively step in and standardize the approval process for site upgrades, this will go on and on and townships will continue to hurt our economy and not even realize or accept that they are doing it. Kind of sad.

I hope to live to see the day that technology advances to the point that some combination of maybe 500 TOTAL land-based towers (10 per state, maybe) nationwide and 100 satellites work in conjunction to provide all wireless communications in the United States. The world will be a much better place. Trust me.

Editor's Note: Thanks for sharing Jake. Believe me, if Al Gore has anything to do with it, we will all live to see the day.

Jan 14, 2015
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2015 and i still see towers everywhere
by: Anonymous

I guess those pesky cell tower did not become obsolete yet.

Mar 06, 2012
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The end of cell towers
by: Anonymous

To those mocking lightradio please consider that laser discs did not unseat VHS. It was a later iteration of the technology in the form of cd's and DVDs that did. The same with 8 tracks and then cassette tapes. Both of which are being replaced by digital delivery. This pattern is repeated over and over again. I highly recommend reading "The Singularity Is Near" by Ray Kurzweil. It is not insane or irrational to expect the traditional cell tower to go the way of the buggy whip within a decade.

Editors note:

Sorry, but the end of cell towers is very far off. It it were near, cellular carrier attorneys in San Francisco, the mecca of everything green, would need to turn around lease amendments faster than the 6 to 9 months it often takes them. By the time they figure out how to merge robotics, nanotechnology, and wireless telephony we will all be dead. Cell tower are here to stay. END OF THREAD.

Mar 06, 2012
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Darin don't bet on it.
by: Anonymous

Darin, the only way that the solar companies can sell their stupid solar panels is if they give out some sort of tax credit. Most of these "Green" technologies including the failed Chevy Volt require some sort of FOSSIL FUEL to power them. Solar manufacturing companies are going broke left and right. We can't even maintain our roads and bridges properly, do you think we have money in this country for a solar highway wireless telecom network?

Bell labs came out with their new cell tower technology over a year ago. Has anyone heard as much as a word about anyone implementing it anywhere? The carriers can barely keep up with bandwidth demand.

Where is Al Gore when you need him?

Mar 05, 2012
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Yes but not over night
by: Darin

I have a hard time believing that lightRadio cubes will replace cell towers out in the country along major highways (or at least not anytime soon). But given time these cubes, Solar Roadways, or some other technology will make the cell phone towers obsolete (or a combo of technology such as the cubes being placed in the solar roadways).

And you really can’t compare physical transportation technology like cars to the data transportation technology like towers. So just because cars are still here after 80 years doesn’t mean we will still have cell towers for just as long – it just isn’t logical.

Sep 24, 2011
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yes Anonymous
by: Tower Genius

Haha... Funny you haven't heard a peep out of them since they showcased their "rubic's cube cell tower killer" and the carriers are still pouring billions into upgrading to 4G LTE - and not to satellite telecom systems.

Sep 24, 2011
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Technology moves at the speed of "Light"
by: Anonymous

Haha! I bet Blockbuster used to say streaming video (Netflix) would never be a threat either.

Mar 31, 2011
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Not in our lifetime.
by: Sean - Airwaves

Bell Labs has created thousand of patents on many "great" ideas that never made it to market. They also have a history of delivering on products at a level that is half of what they promised at twice the cost. At best these "Cell Cubes" will be used in buildings or in small areas where coverage is needed but space is limited. Antennas still need to be at a specific height so towers will not go away in our lifetime.

Automobiles have been around longer than cell phones but while the may have evolved they are still basically the same as they were 80 years ago so obsolescence is not always part of the evolutionary model of all industries. Tucker Automobile Company was way ahead of everyone else.... where are they now?

Cell sites may be reduced in size but they do need the height to cover a specific area. How do you propose that they will be cheaper to operate? Landlords rentals are not calculated via a square foot rental... and landlords will not assume the risks and issues involved with cellular sites if it is not profitable for them... so forget cheaper rentals.

Cell sites are actually fairly efficient from a power standpoint. The Bell Labs Box is still going to need to fiber the calls back to a rack of radios at a remote location. So the box does not offer anything more than an existing DAS system for areas where they do not need to be 180' in the air to get their coverage. As solar becomes more efficient and cheaper I do see the carriers taking advantage of that technology to reduce their costs and to get the tax credits associated with such programs.

In most major cities there is no need for towers at all. The problem with this technology is that its major costs savings is based on microwave backhaul. I was responsible for exploring the use of microwave backhaul in urban areas (NYC, Boston etc.) and guess what... it would never work because the microwave shots that were required to to line of site interference made it too difficult. Also do you think that Verizon is going to give lucent that contract and cut the throat of its parent company that sells them backhaul services via fiber.... nope.

Even if this product delivers what they claim... it will not replace towers in rural or suburban sites. If you are so sure that the towers will not be needed why are you not selling your leases now? If you wait your leases will be worth nothing.

Also what about security? These boxes going to be wall mounted? Every kid with a baseball bat will be playing Willie Mays with the equipment..... too many issues.

I heard Lucent make the same claims when they built the first compact base station and when they started selling the "Cell Site " in a cabinet. Verizon only used either if a gun was put to their head. And if you can't hardwire it to a full size generator... Verizon will not touch it.

Mar 31, 2011
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Link to AP News article
by: Tower Genius

Your link was not removed, it looks like it was not uploaded properly. This is the AP news article you are referencing about the new cell tower technology.

Mar 31, 2011
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I posted yesterday but my link was removed...
by: Anonymous

Google search: Wireless Advances Could Mean No More Cell Towers. Then click news.

The AP ran a story just last month on developments from the Bell Lab in New Jersey.

I know that this site and people who post here have a vested interest in the industry but like other models that have become economically obsolete (big box retail) so will the cell tower.

I say this as a member of a family who owns two leases. Technology is advancing at a clip that is hard to fathom. Cell technology is in its infancy. All you have to do is look back 15 years to see people carrying around suitcases to service their phones. Now they are flat and perform better than the largest most powerful super computers did 25 years ago. Point being tech advance is not static or even on a slightly upward curve. The fact that it takes a second for a satellite to respond to communication from earth really has very little or nothing to do with this conversation. It's like talking about popping Jiffy-pop popcorn on a stovetop as the only way to make popcorn as the first microwaves are rolling off the assembly line. Tech is rocketing forward, like it or not.

Satellites will not be the killer of the cell tower, a physically smaller net of terrestrial antenna will. They will be cheaper to operate, consume less energy and increase capacity by multiples. As you'll see in the articles the leading developers of cellular tower technology are behind the development of the tech that will replace them. They are the ones pushing this.

It is better to be prepared for the future than ignorant of it.

In the marquee for this message board there is a photo on the left of antennea mounted on the roof of a brick building. This September an antennea the size of a rubic's cube will start to replace these with the same capacity and performance capabilities. Internet search "lightradio".


Mar 31, 2011
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No....
by: Sean - Airwaves

Do you think that if it was possible to launch a few satellites and that they could handle the millions of users that we have today that the cell phone companies would not be doing it already?

Do you think that the carriers would spend the vast amount of money building out a terrestrial communication system if the technology existed to do it via satellite?

The biggest problem for carriers today is capacity. How would a satellite be able to fix that? Why do you think Sirius satellite radio has a terrestrial site development department ....because satellites work so well?

The largest section of wireless development is in-building coverage sites at corporate offices. This is needed because cell phone frequencies do not penetrate the glass, concrete and steel used in building materials. Do you think that this can be overcome via satellites?

Using high altitude satellites a radio signal will take roughly a 1/4 of a second to reach and return from the satellite, resulting in significant signal delay. This delay increases the difficulty of telephone conversation and can not be fixed. In addition terrain and buildings cause to many shaded areas and would create blind spots for cell phone users.

Satellites will be used for cheaper backhaul and the routing of calls internationally via long distance services. This is not star trek and we do not have a universal translator either....Cell towers will be around for decades.

So here is the secret formula for building wireless networks....

Coverage + Capacity + Capacity + Capacity + Capacity= Happy customers. Capacity means lots of new sites... some on towers, some on buildings and some on DAS systems.

Mar 30, 2011
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Won't become obsolete.
by: Jackie

Anonymous... truth is they are not loathed. Sure, people yell and scream a little, but once they are up no one gives a hoot.

Mar 30, 2011
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They will become obsolete...
by: Anonymous

With all due respect to the fellow who predicts they will never fall into the dustbin of past technology because of inadequate satellite technology today, how naive or wishful can you be? It is like claiming wireless phones were never a possibility because you needed a chord and a rotary device to make telephones work. Cell towers are high overhead and high maintenance. They are also loathed in general by your neighbors and most of the population at large. Here is a recent article about the end of cell towers from a wireless communication trade magazine. It is coming much sooner than you think. Easy come, easy go I suppose.

Mar 15, 2011
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Do not agree that cell towers will become obsolete
by: Tower Genius

Thanks for the post. I disagree, however. Cell towers will not become obsolete due to satellites, because of the simple fact that mobile phones unlike TV are a 2-way communication device.

Anybody that ever used SATCOM phones in the military will tell you that you need to have a satellite directly overhead, and you also have to have perfect atmospheric conditions, and even heavy fog or rain can disrupt communications. The transmitting device would have to be operating at much higher power levels than the 6/10th Watt levels allowed by the FCC that everyone is so concerned about.

All you need to do is go back to the late 1990's and look at a company call Iridium which launched a bunch of satellites to do precisely what you talking about doing, and due to the service working so poorly back then and being so expensive based on land based systems, they had to seek permission from the US Government to allow them to destroy the satellites by having them re-enter the earth's atmosphere. Their best case scenario then was $5/minutes for a satellite call. They are still priced at a premium. If you work offshore on an oil rig, fishing vessel, remote location, or hang out with Jack Bauer, then this is the only way you can make calls. But this is not something that the masses can afford. Would you rather pay $2 - $5 for a minute for phone calls, or would you rather get 10,000 minutes for $150 per month?

If you are expecting Google to build a network to support wireless phones, they would not be able to do it based on their current business platform in our opinion. What you may see however, are people opting for free phone services for their motor vehicles. Technically, as Wi-Fi networks are developed, you could see Google or others have a car-based system, like a futuristic iPad built into the car, where one could utilize them for surfing the internet or making calls on a SKYPE-like system where you had free computer to computer calls, but where you called out of network for a fee.

Bottom line, even under these circumstances, Wi-Fi networks will still need cell towers to communicate, and another important factor, different countries have utilized their various radio spectrums and frequencies differently, so satellites will never be more than a backhaul for telco services.

Steve
Tower Genius

Mar 15, 2011
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Cell phone towers will one day be obsolete
by: Anonymous

Cell phone towers will one day become obsolete but most likely not within the next 15 years.. The biggest scare for cell phone companies has come from Google Voice. Now, anyone in the world can get a free -phone number -voicemail -text message that you can control from your computer/internet for free.. It currently will not replace your handheld or your cell phone service/provider but it is re-maping how and who controls the phone #'s.. Even apple/facetime uses wifi to talk to your friend/family through the internet, that technology will evolve also. One day technology either through the internet or satellite will replace cell phone towers completely.. many people think this will happen at some point within our life time.

Oct 25, 2010
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Obsolete Cell Towers?
by: Anonymous

1. No they will never become obsolete.

2. Chances? No Chance. Stop worrying.

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