Dear Mr. F.
One of your recent news releases suggested that investors might want to look at alternate assets such as towers on which companies can place their cellular equipment. My best friend owns a great piece of land that we think would be perfect for companies like Verizon and AT&T to rent. What do you think of the idea of us building a tower onto which companies can rent space?
Audrey S, Omaha, NE
It is important to remember that every industry has its experts and most people who think that they can outsmart those persons are likely to come out on the wrong end of a transaction. Wireless towers, whether monopoles, lattice or guyed are often built on sites that wireless engineers have selected. While there are exceptions, most are constructed by large firms that are expert in that business model and have strong relationships with the large cellular and other wireless firms.
There are exceptions and we are lucky enough to own a monopole that has colocation agreements [pretty much the equivalent of leases for commercial buildings] with some industry leaders and I can assure you that we were luckier than smart to happen upon a wireless tower that was sold to us well below market. Even with that positive experience, we recognize that we are relative novices in the tower industry and would likely not build an additional structure without commitments in hand from at least two of the major providers.
If you remain convinced that you have the perfect site [make certain to map out where competitive towers are within your community], you might wish to start out by going online to submit your site to the large cellular providers and see if they confirm your belief. If they show a sincere interest, we suggest that you hire a consultant to explain the relatively involved processes needed to gain approval [including environmental, geologic and historical studies] for this sort of venture.
Good luck … and keep us advised.