LTE Expansion or Modifications on Rooftops
In recent months, we have received an increasing number of requests from clients who have received proposals from AT&T, Verizon, Metro PCS, and US Cellular to add LTE antennas (Long Term Evolution) to their cell sites on our clients’ rooftops. Sprint has also alleged that it will start LTE upgrades on its cell sites in late 2011, early 2012. LTE is the next generation of equipment that will enable the carriers to provide higher data speeds and better quality to their subscribers. Please note that Steel in the Air is not affiliated with AT&T, Verizon, Metro PCS, Sprint, or US Cellular.
Typically, the first point of contact is either by letter or in person by the wireless carrier’s construction representative. The typical letter states that the carrier is looking to do “maintenance” or “minor performance modifications” to the site. The letter typically implies but does not state outright that the maintenance or modifications are permitted under the lease agreement. Landowners should read the letter language carefully- the carriers draft the letter very specifically so as not to encourage the landowner to even think that they have the right to ask for compensation. The letter asks for the landowner’s consent to the modifications. However, a savvy landowner should question first whether he or she is obligated to give that consent. Once the landowner consents, they waive the right to ask for compensation even if they were entitled to it under the lease. The carriers are simply trying to avoid having to pay additional rent for the improvements.
Instead of blindly granting consent, we recommend that a building owner who has received a vague letter asking for consent for LTE modifications do the following:
- Ask the carrier representative for drawings showing the proposed modification
- Ask the carrier representative whether they believe the lease requires that the building owner agree to the changes without additional compensation
- If the carrier representative says that the lease does require consent without compensation, ask the representative to send a letter with the specific language highlighted.
- If the carrier offers a one-time payment for your approval, tell them you would prefer an increase in your monthly rent.
Many times, these questions by themselves will force the carrier to acknowledge that they need the building owner’s consent and the carrier will offer some type of compensation for the consent. They will then make an offer of a small monthly increase in rent in order to get approval for the additional LTE antennas. Alternatively, if they have the right to add the LTE equipment without additional compensation, they will point to the specific language in the lease that permits such modifications. If the carrier makes a proposal for additional rent, at that point, you should contact Steel in the Air to find out whether the proposal is fair market value. Our staff is well versed in how lease amendments for LTE antennas and additional equipment should be priced. We can advise you on whether the offer is fair or needs to be improved. We can also review the proposed drawings and amendment and recommend additional terms that will be of benefit to the owner.
If the carrier states that you are obligated to provide consent to the LTE modifications without compensation, then we recommend that you contact Steel in the Air and forward us the letter/lease. At no cost to you, we will review the documentation and suggest whether it would be worth your time to retain our services. If the carrier is right, we will tell you that we can’t help. If the carrier is wrong, we will either recommend that you retain our services or those of an attorney like Cell Tower Attorney.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.