Small Cell Leases Exposed

The Dirty Secret Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile Sprint and AT&T Don't Want You To Know About Small Cell Leases.


By Steve Kazella

Small cells aka the single antenna or duplexed antenna solutions, were rolled out by Verizon Wireless in the New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, California and Virginian Markets in Q3 of 2013. Tower Genius started getting calls almost immediately from landlords seeking advice and guidance about what to do now that Verizon Wireless wants to put a single antenna installation on their rooftop. Most questions were like,

"What is Verizon up to with this proposed Small Cell?"  

"What is a micro cell lease worth?"

"How much do I charge them for renting space?"

"What about power usage and electricity metering?"

"They say they only need a very small amount of rooftop space."

"It's much smaller than Verizon's 12-antenna 4G/LTE Macro sites."

In a nutshell, here is the SmallCell leasing formula on how to run a very successful wireless network, and earn billions in profits annually:

Capacity + Capacity + Capacity + Capacity + More Capacity =

Increased Capacity & Happy Cell Phone Subscribers  

Our Advice To Landlords?

Talk to Tower Genius about your small cell antenna cell lease proposal. Verizon Wireless has been spearheading network deployment among the carriers while AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have sat back on the sidelines and watched, to see if Verizon would succeed or fail miserably. The RF engineers albeit well intentioned, thought it was a great idea. And hat tip to them -- it is. However the folks running Verizon forgot that they still have to overcome a major obstacle... the landlords. 

Most Verizon Wireless landlords with macro antenna rooftop cell sites in major metropolitan areas are receiving at least $1,800 to $2,000 per month and offers time much MUCH more than that. And building owners have friends who are landlords and they sometimes talk to each other. Long story short, Verizon was having a heck of a difficult time offering landlords $100-$500 per month for a single or duplexed 5G small antenna lease. The carriers however will almost always look to lease a utility pole in a public Right of Way where they can get away with paying $100 to $500 PER YEAR for a 5G small cell. What property owner other than a government agency would be foolish to lease any space to anyone for that small an amount?

And in 2021 the carriers are still are having difficulty finding takers for small cells. We wish them well, hope they realize that they still need to pay a fair market price for the privilege of leasing rooftop space that is not based on the number of antennas or on square footage price as regular commercial real estate is -- or so they would want you to falsely believe. But we digress...

Carriers need to add more capacity and mini cell sites to enhance their networks and can barely keep up with demand. The microcell antenna cell sites are smaller, yes, but at the end of the day they still need to put them somewhere.  Companies like American Tower and Crown Castle are dumping tons of money into small and microcell technology.  And the carrier real estate departments have been earnestly trying to convince landlords to accept $100 to $500 per month for a single-antenna lease - even in places like New York City, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan area.

And Verizon can get away with charging low cell site lease rates on small antenna nodes and cells because they reward and incentivize their consultants and they know that if there are several available rooftops to choose from, there's got to be a sucker amongst them who will accept $500/month or less. 

Even AT&T contractors are using the possibility of their your macrocell site being replaced by microcell technology as a way to place fear in your mind to take a rent reduction or a lease optimization rent guarantee. The only thing guaranteed is that you are getting the short end of the stick.

The small one antenna cell sites still are worth much more to carriers like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T than they are leading you to believe. It's not about the numbers of antennas or square footage they are taking up on your roof, it's about the privilege of utilizing your rooftop and being able to service their subscribers. For most landlords, micro cell rooftop leases will prove to be an annoyance, and inconvenience once you factor in the regular maintenance 24x7 access you have to give them and having to reconcile Verizon's or AT&T's electrical bills because they are too cheap to install a direct meter. And to add insult to injury, remember this... While they complain about the fair market value rent that you should really be getting here, it costs them less than $10/month to carry the cost of voice and data for your smartphone. 

The carriers are now pushing to deploy massive small cell networks along public right of ways utilizing fiberoptic networks and putting small cell antennas on street lamps and similar type of low buying public infrastructure. While it is a good revenue source, it will eventually impact the macro rooftop cell sites and probably hurt the same cities who benefit from tax revenue the cell sites generate, but who are willing to cut deals with the carriers to deploy small cell networks. 

So... to be completely honest and transparent, we really do not like small antenna cells. We abhor them. They are a pain in the rear end to negotiate for landlords. They are worth a lot less than a traditional 12-antenna macro-cell lease but involve the same amount of work to get them completed. If the carriers are successful in deploying hundreds of thousands of them as they have been talking about it will probably cause us to hang up our hats and buy the lunch truck we have been dreaming about.  However where there is chaos, there also is opportunity. Make sure you talk to Tower Genius about what we can do for you. 

What Are You Waiting For?
Call Tower Genius.

The bottom line is that carriers  won't pay more than about $100 to perhaps $500 per month at best for a small cell lease. But these leases have DOZENS of items that still need to be adjusted.   You need expert guidance. Contact Tower Genius at 1-888-313-9750 or if you have a question about a Small Cell proposal you may have received from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.
Contact Tower Genius

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  • Cell tower lease agreements
  • Selling Cell Tower Lease
  • Tower lease extensions
  • Cell site upgrades
  • Small cell proposals
  • Lease amendments
  • Tower lease buyout offers
  • Rooftop lease buyout offers
  • Rooftop cell site audits
  • Lease Agreement defaults
  • Cell tower valuations
  • Rent reduction solicitations
  • Lease Optimization Help
  • Lease Revenue Purchase
  • Transactional Coaching
  • Verizon Wireless 
  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile
  • DISH Wireless
  • US Cellular
  • SiriusXM
  • Crown Castle
  • American Tower
  • Atlas Tower
  • Phoenix Tower PTI
  • Vertical Bridge
  • SBA Communications
  • Tillman Infrastructure
  • Lyle Company, Black Dot, Md7
  • Everest Infrastructure

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