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Maximizing Tower Assets
As advertising revenues decrease, many broadcast owners are actively looking for other sources of income. Over the last 10 years there has been an increasing trend to lease available tower space on FM and AM towers (including rooftop assets). The growing cellular telephone industry has created the bulk of leasing opportunities, while paging and SMR services are now out of business. The bottom line is that there will always be opportunities to rent tower space. Here are some insider tips to keep in mind.
Build it and they will come ... NOT! I've been in the businesses for more than 20 years and one thing I will assure you: Having an existing tower or building a new tower doesn't ensure you will ever have a lease opportunity. Some of you are thinking, Well if my tower site is next to a busy road or population center, carriers will flock to it. Wrong. Wireless system operators, particularly wireless carriers, have very specific location criteria based on a number of factors: What is in the coverage footprint of the site, what sites are adjacent to it, how far your site is from their adjacent sites, amount of voice and data traffic that the site is predicted to handle (based on population density in the area), future growth in the area, amount of dropped calls in the area and the list goes on, but you get the idea.
Tower site management companies will not always bring you customers. Almost everyone with a tower or a rooftop that appears to be a potential lease opportunity has been approached by companies claiming they can lease and manage these assets for a fee. One of the claims is that they have relationships and aggressively market these to the carriers and other radio system operators. In many cases this may be true, but the reality is that the carrier will make contact with a tower owner directly through its site acquisition contractor, not the management company. Unless the management company brings other value to the deal, you are probably throwing away a large portion of the potential lease revenues.
Ground space is as important as tower space. It really doesn't matter how much additional structural capacity the tower/rooftop can handle if there isn't enough room to place the ground equipment. Wireless operators can mount equipment in a number of configurations; typically there should be room to place a concrete pad or shelter. The equipment can weigh a lot. If the site is in a flood plain, the tenant may elevate the shelter or build a steel platform. Space inside an existing building will also work if it is a proper size, can support the weight and grants 24/7 access. Equipment can also be mounted on rooftops if the building can structurally support the weight. Typically rooftop equipment installations require the construction of a steel platform attached directly to the building steel, necessitating penetrations through the roofing material. Keep in mind that most wireless carriers require 200 - 400 square feet of space to mount equipment.
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