I'm currently researching tower access and wondered if anyone else might have already done some of this legwork...
Basically, looking at the various companies that own and lease tower space, how hard they are to work with, typical startup and ongoing costs, etc...and how that might compare to erecting your own towers for various areas. I do realize it would vary quite a bit based on location, but just wanted to have the discussion.
I got a response from Crown Castle today that they've started a (new?) program that bases pricing on population density, so it looks like they're trying to tie pricing to the addressable market from their location. I suppose there's good and bad points that that...but would like to hear others opinions...
We typically don't put up our own towers if there's reasonable rent already on a butte/mountain. A lot of times if it's on gov't/BLM land, it's very difficult to put up a new tower if there's already towers and space available. It can take years to get approval.
We've worked with American Tower on a few sites, they're OK to work with once you know how their system works and you've done one tower deal. You'll use their mapping system to pick out a site, and then apply for it, figure out what you want to put on it and negotiate costs... and then before you hang gear you have to pay an engineering fee, usually around $2k. Depending on how full the tower is, what the surrounding pop is, and where on the tower you want to be... it can cost a lot or a little. They do have a WISP program that does give some better pricing, but they put you down lower on the tower and I think if anyone else wants to pay more and they run out of space, you get bumped or you have to pay more. The rates we've been getting are around $125-$150 per mo per antenna. If you change anything on the site you typically have to jump through a bunch of hoops and sometimes pay an engineering fee... so you want to make sure that everything that you'd possibly want is on the tower from the get go.
If you think AT is bad... I've heard Crown Castle is worse to deal with and more expensive... but maybe they're coming around to doing more business with WISP's.
There's also smaller regional tower owners that you should be able to find... they're typically the easiest to work with and their rates are often very good. The majority of our leases are with smaller regional tower owners. We'll typically visit a site with towers and there's usually some identification on gates or the fence, radio of FCC ID, etc. and then we'll just start searching in Google and making calls until we find someone that knows the tower owner.
I've mapped all the towers in the area I'm looking to provide service using the FCC Antenna System Registration (ASR) database. It's been help in finding most of the antenna site owners, except one...which just happens to be the tower I'd really like to get started with. It lists it as belonging to T-Mobile (but they don't claim it), and also as being dismantled...but a drive would seem to indicate that's certainly not the case. Still got some digging to do...
The deal Crown Castle pitched to me was $2k, essentially you write the check and they handle everything up through providing you with availability and pricing. In your experience, has there been any issue with paying the $2k up front for the application and engineering study, and then finding out they don't have the space / height you need?
In your experience, has there been any issue with paying the $2k up front for the application and engineering study, and then finding out they don't have the space / height you need?
We've never had an issue with the initial up front application, and they're really good about telling you if it's worth it or not. I would imagine if they started charging this and then denying applications it would result in some really bad business relations and a huge hesitation to get up on any more sites.