How to Get Cell Reception on Your Property

We get hundreds of emails from property and landowners who are interested in leasing their land for a cell tower. Here are some ways we have discovered are effective at getting a new cell tower. There is no consistent formula for making it happen because each location has different requirements.  However, these factors will come into play when carriers are considering your property:  distance to adjacent towers, population density, broadband providers in the area, customer density, city zoning laws & public safety.

Wireless companies will not build a cell tower on your property unless it fills a business need for them and there is a critical mass of users in the area. These areas are commonly known by the towers companies as "search rings" when a carrier is looking for land to lease, you are out of luck. "Search rings" are continuously changing and expanding in the US as coverage seems to get worse and capacity demand increases. Unfortunately, wireless carriers are not very transparent about where their areas are and make it virtually impossible to get the information unless you know the local carrier network, and operation team.

1. The cheapest and quickest way is to purchase and install a femtocell (mini cell phone tower) on your property which only covers 5,000 square feet on average and works for approximately 8 registered phones or people on your network.  This is not for public access but can fix problems for one carrier only especially if you are in a remote area.  Costs range from $100-$300 and require broadband services on the premises for back-haul.  See our List of Femtocell Manufacturers.

2. The 2nd way is to have a site acquisition agent from one of the wireless carriers visit your land and ask if you are interested in leasing. Real estate site acquisition companies deal directly with companies like Verizon Wireless, ATT Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Alltel, Metro PCS or Cricket. The carrier will handle permitting, zoning, installation of back-haul fiber (if needed) and building construction costs. They will often look for opportunities to piggyback and share cell phone towers with other carriers in order to minimize costs.  Its not clear how to reach AT&T or Sprint but here are two resources for T-Mobile and Verizon.  T-Mobile Landlords, Verizon Wireless Real Estate

3. The 3rd option is to contact a tower or DAS (distributed antenna system) development company like American Tower, Crown castle, Tower Co, SBA Communications, Public Wireless, NextG Networks or ExteNet Systems. They place a cell tower,  DAS system or public femtocell (ie. Ubiquisys) on your site and cover the costs to build and market the site to the wireless carriers. They usually keep about 75% of the rental income for first 6-10 years to recover their costs and then usually split the income after that period. Many municipalities and states like New York have contracts like this to develop their sites. Development often overlaps with police and fire safety communications in these cases.

4. The 4th method is to have a wireless RF engineer / consultant or cellular site management firm market your property for you to the carriers. It will still cost you a percentage of the rental revenue but the management fees are lower, usually about 25%.

5. The 5th method and becoming increasingly more popular is to market your property on your own. The best method to do this is through your city council or department of public works and safety. Many cities have e911 and Federal funding initiatives that will pay for tower development if it falls within an area where police and fire have no wireless access. You can submit it to the carrier or tower company directly giving them as much info as possible about your site. However, we recommend approaching your city council directly and developing a case study with them and this often makes a much more compelling case versus an individual property owner themselves.  We recommend taking screenshots of our map data to your city and show the number of cell phone coverage complaints or dropped calls by carrier in your area: See this example of AT&T Beverly Hills.

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