The Harsh Reality of Building a Cell Tower: A Cautionary Tale

Some property owners are under the misguided belief that simply constructing a cell tower will attract wireless carriers. This notion is far from reality. Wireless carriers operate within specific MHz bandwidths, relying on detailed radio frequency studies to identify suitable sites. What works for one carrier often won’t for another.

The Burdens of Cell Tower Development

Embarking on the path to build a cell tower involves numerous cumbersome steps and a substantial financial burden:

  1. Architectural and Engineering Plans: You will need to invest heavily in comprehensive plans for the compound, including vehicle and utility access.
  2. Utility Coordination: Coordinating with local electrical and telephone service providers to ensure the availability of the necessary electric service and fiber optics adds another layer of complexity.
  3. Determining Structure Requirements: During the A&E phase, you must painstakingly determine the required height of the monopole, lattice tower, or guyed tower, as well as the depth of footings and other critical details. At this stage, you can expect to sink $35,000 to $50,000 into the project.

    Wrestling with Red Tape

  4. Entitlement Process: Submitting plans to the municipality for approval is a bureaucratic nightmare, often involving obtaining a conditional use permit and navigating a maze of local, state, and federal regulations, including securing an FCC license. This grueling process typically drags on for about a year.
  5. Selecting a Manufacturer: Choosing a cell tower manufacturer and managing the lead time for steel delivery only adds to the headache.
  6. Construction Phase: Site grading and utility infrastructure are the initial hurdles, followed by the laborious task of pouring and curing the tower footing.
  7. Erecting the Tower: Constructing the tower structure and pouring equipment pads is another exhausting and time-consuming step.
  8. Final Touches: Completing the site involves yet more tedious work with cleanup and installing the required fencing or perimeter wall.

A Sinking Investment

By this point, you’ll have poured $250,000 to $400,000 into a non-stealth cell tower, with the entire exasperating process taking 18 to 24 months. Your end goal? To secure one of only four national wireless carriers to lease the tower for a mere $1,500 to $2,000 per month—leases that often come with terms allowing the carrier to terminate with just 30 days’ notice. By now, most of your friends and family are likely questioning your sanity.

Avoid the Pitfalls with NAI Global Wireless

Why subject yourself to this costly and frustrating ordeal? Our expertise in wireless landlord representation ensures you avoid unnecessary risks and expenses. Contact our team today should you have additional questions. For a free site assessment of existing infrastructure, contact our COO, Amber Brandhagen, at