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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Thursday, November 06, 2003

 

What wireless broadband providers need to know about getting tower space

Jim Baller pointed me to a good series of overview articles on ISP-Planet's web site that cover various tower-related issues for wireless broadband providers:

"An Overview of the Tower Industry"

"Take Me To Your Leader"
Finding a Tower, Part I

"Finding a Tower, Part II"

"Negotiating Tower Fees"

"Fight the Towers That Be"
Dealing with difficult tower owners

"American Tower"
Profile of one of the largest tower owners.

Municipal utilities should read some of these -- even if they have no plans to offer wireless broadband!!

Why?

Because many smaller utilities (especially those that own water towers), unfamiliar with tower rates and issues, are being conned into making tower space available at below-market rates and on unfavorable terms to wireless providers. In some towns, they're even being told they need to provide free power in addition to tower space if they want a wireless broadband provider in their town.

In other cases, small utilities are signing exclusive deals with middlemen that promise to 'market' and 'manage' their tower leases for them. At one of our utility customers, we learned they were already locked into a long-term contract with one of these 'marketing companies'; they'd done nothing to market the tower but were instead asserting their rights to a gigantic cut of any leases the utility signed without their help.

There may be towns where a municipal utility has to offer space at a reduced rate to attract a provider -- if so, the utility may want to consider getting into the wireless broadband business themselves.

With tower space so important -- even in small towns -- at Fiber Planners, we're now making sure the fiber systems we design for our utility clients always include fiber runs to all the water towers and tanks for fiber backhaul of wireless signals.

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