Small Cells, Will They Replace Cell Towers?

By Nick G. Foster

May 21, 2014

Let’s get started, what are small cells?

The term small cells is an umbrella term for low-powered radio access nodes typically with a range from 30 feet to hundreds of feet. They are small cell site solutions for areas that are difficult to design macro cells (what we know as cell towers) in.

Where are they being deployed?

We are seeing Verizon Wireless and AT&T approach many jurisdictions across America to install large small cell deployments  (over 50 nodes) in residential areas. Typically the carriers are proposing to install the small cell sites on light poles and to install a small equipment cabinet at the base of the light pole.

What are the carriers offering in terms of rent?

For jurisdictions negotiating small cell deals on their own without the use of expert cell tower consultants, such as Airwave Advisors, we are seeing deals as low as a few hundred dollars a year per small cell site. This is of course is a rock bottom rent and a bad business deal. The value of your property to the carrier is worth so much more. Jurisdictions that are doing the deal without expert consultation are leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars if not over a million dollars on the table.

Will small cells replace cell towers?

Absolutely not. Small technology is a supplement of macro cell tower technology and not an altogether replacement. It currently is costing carriers millions of dollars to deploy small cells in targeted areas across the country. Carriers have no intentions of decommission their entire macro cell network that took them decades to construct to replace their network with small cells.

How should we handle a small cell project?

Seek professional consultation or representation. Verizon, AT&T, and other carriers have hired cell tower lease experts to get them the best deal on your property. Shouldn’t you?

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  1. Taha Ezz on August 21, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Who are the Top Manufacturers of small cells and what semiconductors chips they have inside?

    • Nick G. Foster on August 22, 2019 at 7:44 am

      Hi Taha,

      According to MarketWatch the top brands are Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, ZTE, Samsung, and Fujitsu. You would have to research each manufacturer to see what chips they have inside.

      All the best,

      Nick G. Foster

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Nick Foster Airwave Advisors

About Nick G. Foster

Since founding Airwave Advisors® in 2014, Mr. Foster has added value to over 400 clients ranging from the State of Nevada, City of Beverly Hills, to Habitat For Humanity. Mr. Foster focuses on cell tower lease renewals, buyouts, new lease negotiation, and cell site lease management. Prior to starting Airwave Advisors® Mr. Foster founded and led the Cell Site Services Group within nationwide commercial real estate services leader Cassidy Turley (now known as Cushman & Wakefield).