Getting Sirius(XM) About AT&T Cell Sites

AT&T is filing applications with local governments to modify existing cell sites to add a wire frame parabolic antenna at some of its sites.  The application also shows the addition of signal splitters (or combiners) and multiple power amplifiers.   In the applications that I’ve seen so far, there’s no mention as to the service that is being provided by (or is it to) this new antenna.

What the heck is going on here?

Well, I have a very Sirius answer for you.

AT&T is adding re-transmission services for SiriusXM radio to some of its cell sites.  Are they telling the jurisdictions that re-transmission is for a completely different non-carrier?  Well, so far unless pressed hard, all I’ve seen is a big fat NO to that.

Sirius-ly, what’s the story?

SiriusXM satellites are in orbits that are occasionally blocked for their mobile users. Why? Primarily because of tall building and hills that place physical barriers between the satellite and a car’s satellite receiver.  If the blockage lasts for more than a few seconds, drop-outs will start to occur.  In urban areas, such as here in L.A., rows of tall buildings are a real issue.

How does SiriusXM deal with this?

Historically, SiriusXM has used terrestrial relay stations that receive the satellite signal at high points and they re-transmit the signals via narrower beam width antennas shooting up and down highways with blockages on the south side.

Guess what?

A heck of lot of AT&T cell sites already do the same thing along highways, and into neighborhoods that are otherwise sometimes blocked by tall buildings.

And, on top of that, AT&T has a lot of antennas with spare transmission ports waiting to be used.  That’s what SiriusXM is going to do…use those spare ports, no doubt for a tidy fee.  Whatever the fee, however, it’s 99.999% likely that the collocation charges levied by AT&T will be less than SiriusXM leasing its own re-transmission sites.

Here’s a basic block diagram I’ve pieced together to example how all this works:

(Block diagram by JLK: Click on the image above to enlarge it.)

AT&T is claiming that these SiriusXM site modifications are subject to the expedited treatment under Section 6409(a).

Well, maybe

What I’ve seen so far, at least at camo AT&T sites, is that these SiriusXM add-on installations can bust the camouflage provision that drops a modification out of Section 6409(a) and back into major-mod land.  There are some other problems with these SiriusXM projects as well, but I’ll save those tidbits for our firm’s clients.

And now you know a lot more about this very Sirius AT&T issue.




New Mobilitie Design: The ‘Fanny Pack’

Mobilitie, the purveyor for Sprint of such new but instant classic wireless designs as:

The “Speargun” Design * (see below)


The “Pox on a Pole” Design (this is the Walrus version) *


The “Stick it Up Your Pole” Design * # (see below)

…has (finally) come up with a fairly-decent site configuration.  I call the new design the “Fanny Pack.”  Here’s what it looks like, as recently deployed in the City of Los Angeles:

The “Fanny Pack” Design *

The RRU, UE (backhaul) Relay, the power distribution, and elements other than the downlink antenna are all located within the Fanny Pack.

I see the Fanny Pack design as Mobilitie’s best efforts to date to come with and deploy a closer-to-mainline wireless site that is far less awful that its prior outdoors site configurations.  There are some site deployment issues with the Fanny Pack design, but those issues are relatively easy to address.

We’ve seen plans for the same basic Fanny Pack design, but with the equipment enclosure on the back of the pole.  Needless to say, we’ll refer to that as the “Back Pack” when deployed.  Photos to follow after the first Back Pack goes up near us.

Keep up this better work, Mobilitie!


* Okay, as you should have guessed by now, these are my design names, not Mobilitie’s. Got it? Good!

# Ms. Shannon Nichols, a NCE Permitting Manager for Mobilitie in Southern California told me on 12/6/2017 that the wood pole configuration shown above, with its standoff bracket and equipment, was a design requirement of the City of Los Angeles.  She went on to say that Mobilitie would have preferred to have its equipment flush to the body of the pole.  Thanks for the clarification, Shannon.


A Cell Tower Lease Landlord Attorney’s Dangerous Tool – A Tape Measure

tape-measure.smallOver the years, my staff and I have inspected a heck of a lot of cell sites on behalf of our cell site landlord clients for lease compliance purposes, and for local governments who ask us to perform the same inspections for permit compliance purposes.

Well, it turns out that somewhere about 30% to 40% of the time, the cell site (a) exceeds the size allowed in the lease; or (b) the cell site has been placed…or moved…to a location other than was was shown in the lease or permit; or (c) other mischief in the physical placement of the site has occurred.

We find these things when we use our very handy tool, a 100 foot tape measure.  In fact, the photo is of one of our tape measures.

Why is this important?  Over the last couple of years, we have recovered over $1 million in lease underpayments and increased cell site lease payments going forward. Are you giving away your property without proper compensation?  For local governments, a cell site that violates a permit condition is most likely going to be excluded from Section 6409(a) and NOT subject to the mandatory approval required under that law.  If you’re a local government planner or attorney, you KNOW how important that can be in your planning process.

I think this is such a powerful tool for a cell site landlord’s attorney, or an adviser-inspector to local governments that I start out most of my lectures advising landlords, their attorneys, and inspectors to go out and spend $20ish to buy a 100 foot tape measure, measure the boundaries of their cell site, and compare the actual measurements and cell site location to what’s shown in the lease or permit.

Recently, I received some very kind words about the power of the tape measure from a landlord’s attorney in Missouri, Brandon Moonier, Esq. of Thurman, Howard, Weber, Senkel & Norrick, LLC, who wrote saying:

I have taken many of Jonathan Kramer’s seminars and will keep going back for more.  His insightful, practical and relatable approach to cell tower leases left me with valuable tools to use in my practice.  Upon Mr. Kramer’s urging, one of the tools I now carry is a tape measure. This simple trick of measuring the leased area has made thousands of dollars for my clients.   Bravo, Mr. Kramer.  Please take your bow.

–Brandon T. Moonier, Esq., Partner of Thurman Law Firm, Hillsboro, Missouri. 

Well, it’s always gratifying to hear that lessons taught are lessons being learned–and put to good use.  Bravo, Mr. Moonier…now YOU take your own bow!



Rarer than the Loch Ness Monster: the Mono-Scaffold Wireless Tower!

The elusive and rarely photographed Mono-Scaffold.
The elusive and never-before photographed Mono-Scaffold wireless tower.  Click to enlarge.

It is rare that I have the privilege of capturing a never-before documented wireless tower design.  Yet fate has chosen to grace me by allowing me to find, in the wild, this most elusive of wireless tower designs…

…the Mono-Scaffold!

While hereto-now only hushed rumors of this rarest of tower designs have been uttered in the strictest of confidences between contract wireless engineers working for carriers, I am able to confirm with irrefutable evidence forthe international scientific and lay communities the first documented, photographed mono-scaffold site.

This mono-scaffold site, located in Malibu California on Pacific Coast Highway, forever quiets the popular speculation of the existence of this fabled design.  It is true.  It exists.

Having now proven the existence of a Mon0-Scaffold, I must now turn my attention to the most important follow-on query:

Is a Mono-Scaffold subject to Section 6409(a) of The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012?

A lessor question, but important in its own right:

Is a Mono-Scaffold is subject to EIA/TIA-222?

As is most often the case, one answer provokes several new questions.  The expansion of knowledge continues.

You are lucky to live in the time during which the existence of the fabled Mono-Scaffold was proven as a fact.

If you wish to field-verify my findings, I encourage you to navigate…quickly…to N34.0394 W118.6717.

I urge you to hurry.  There is no telling how long the Mono-Scaffold will remain in this one location.



FCC Offers “Guidance” on Sec. 6409(a)


As an aside, I note that the Commission did not consult with its own Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, much less advise them of the release of this Guidance in advance.

The Commission crafted its Section 6409(a) Guidance to provide the public its own view of how state and local governments should interpret the following self-created questions:

  1. What does it mean to “substantially change the physical dimensions” of a tower or base station?
  2. What is a “wireless tower or base station”?
  3. May a state or local government require an application for an action covered under Section 6409(a)?
  4. Is there a time limit within which an application must be approved?

I’ll let you read the Guidance for yourself (see link below)  to learn the Commission’s thoughts in response to its four questions.  I’m not going to get into my specific thoughts about the Guidance other than to say that it is flawed and overreaching in most areas covered.  The only bright light is that the Commission did recognize that carriers are not exempt or excused from following the state or local government application process  for collocations covered by Section 6409(a).

Importantly, however, there is about a 103% certainty that wireless carrier representatives will show up to local governments toting a copy of the Guidance misrepresenting it as the way that 6409(a) must be read and understood by those governments. That will be factually incorrect, but its tough for planners at “the counter” to critically evaluate a document bearing the FCC seal.  That critical evaluation and the inevitable challenges to the Guidance will be a job for attorneys and stakeholder organizations like NATOA.

At the end, the Commission’s Guidance is advisory only.  Given the fundamental omissions and differences in Section 6409(a) (some of which are acknowledged by the Commission), Section 6409(a) remains a moving target, as does compliance with that moving target.

Click here to read the FCC’s Guidance on 6409(a)


Is Tower Building a Dirty Job?

Apparently, tower building is a Dirty Job, according to Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.”   I happen to love the show, and I love towers, so what’s not to love about this?

The February 7th show has Mike joining the Great Plains Towers crew as they build a new stick.   No doubt this will be an interesting segment.

Here’s a question for you: Why are the tower bolts inserted upwards through the holes, with the nuts and washers on the top?  There is a VERY good reason for this, and you are taught the reason on the very first tower you assemble, or come to inspect.

Here’s another question from the clip, above: Why did Kevin Reski, the owner of Great Plains Towers  attach one of his safety belt hooks to a tower segment that had not yet secured by any bolts?  I really doubt there’s a very good reason for this.


PS: The tallest stick I’ve built was 251 feet AGL back in 1982.  It was for Storer Cable in Mission Viejo, California. That was tall enough for me, thank you very much.

PPS: Mike is well known for Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and the Deadest Catch, and for the hysterical YouTube clips of Mike on QVC in the early 90’s (don’t drink while watching these unless you want to mop the floor after).  His personal web site is a fun pun:


FCC’s New Rules Regarding Migratory Birds

Turkey Vultures in Pittsburg, California find this CrownCastle tower very pleasant, indeed!Turkey Vultures in Pittsburg, California

The FCC has recently released new rules requiring public notice and and opportunity to comment on new Antenna Structure Registration (“ASR”) applications. These new rules, released on December 9th, 2011 are explained by the Commission in the following three paragraphs:

1. In this Order, we take procedural measures to ensure, consistent with the Commission’s obligations under federal environmental statutes, that the environmental effects of proposed communications towers, including their effects on migratory birds, are fully considered prior to construction.  We institute a pre-application notification process so that members of the public will have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of proposed antenna structures that require registration with the Commission.  As an interim measure pending completion of a programmatic environmental analysis and subsequent rulemaking proceeding, we also require that an Environmental Assessment (EA) be prepared for any proposed tower over 450 feet in height.  Through these actions and our related ongoing initiatives, we endeavor to minimize the impact of communications towers on migratory birds while preserving the ability of communications providers rapidly to offer innovative and valuable services to the public.

2. Our actions today respond to the decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in American Bird Conservancy v. FCC. 1 In American Bird Conservancy, the court held that our current antenna structure registration (ASR) procedures impermissibly fail to offer members of the public a meaningful opportunity to request an EA for proposed towers that the Commission considers categorically excluded from review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The notification process that we adopt today addresses that holding of the court.  In addition, the court held that the Commission must perform a programmatic analysis of the impact on migratory birds of registered antenna structures in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Commission is already responding to this holding by conducting a nationwide environmental assessment of the ASR program.  The Commission has also asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to perform a conservation review of the ASR program under the Endangered Species Act  (ESA).

3. Today’s action also occurs in the context of our ongoing rulemaking proceeding addressing the effects of communications towers on migratory birds.  In 2006, the Commission sought comment on what this impact may be and what requirements, if any, the Commission should adopt to ameliorate it.  Evidence in the record of that proceeding and in the record compiled for the programmatic EA indicates, among other things, that the likely impact of towers on migratory birds increases with tower height.  Consistent with that evidence and with a Memorandum of Understanding among representatives of communications providers, tower companies, and conservation groups,6 we require, as an interim measure, that an EA be prepared for any proposed tower over 450 feet in height.  We expect to take final action in the Migratory Birds proceeding following completion of the programmatic EA and, if necessary, any subsequent programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

As a practical matter, the process required by the FCC is one that occurs only at the federal level.  If someone wants to install a tower that requires an ASR, then their application will go on public record at the Commission with time for interested members of the public to provide their comments.

Please click on the following link to download the FCC’s order (PDF format): FCC-11-181A1-20111209



When (Wireless) Worlds Collide…Will Site Landlords Get $quashed?

Today’s (4/15/11) AGL Bulletin carries a buried-lead story about Sprint’s deployment of new, flexible base stations that are multi-modal, multi-band, and potentially multi-user.

Faced with Data Surge, Carriers to ‘Feed the Beast’ with Base Station Innovation

Noting the importance of scale, spectrum and innovation, representatives of Sprint Nextel and Clearwire discussed how the growth of wireless data traffic must result in the complete modernization of cell site equipment on a panel on March 22 in Orlando, Fla. They spoke at the Raymond James Breakfast, which was moderated by Ric Prentiss, managing director at Raymond James & Associates.

“We must keep feeding the beast, or we are just going to turn our customers away. We must innovate around the cost. Technology allows it,” said Iyad Tarazi, vice president, network development and engineering, Sprint Nextel. The carrier expects 10x growth every three years for the foreseeable future.

The challenge for Sprint Nextel is to keep up with the pace in a cost-effective manner. To do so the carrier has unveiled Network Vision, which is a blueprint for enhancing data speeds by consolidating multiple network technologies into one, seamless network.

Today, Sprint uses separate equipment to deploy services at 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and, through Clearwire, 2.5 GHz. The Network Vision concept features the use of software to bring together multiple spectrum bands on a single, multimode base station.

“The technologies that we are deploying in the Network Vision project allow us to modernize our cell sites in a way that gives us a lot of flexibility with the types of technologies we put on it,” Tarazi said. “In the future, with the Network Vision project, we will build spectrum at 40 megahertz to 60 megahertz at a time, and we will build it once.”

The Network Vision project will play a role in increased network sharing, according to John Saw, chief technology officer, Clearwire, which has been sharing networks for some time with Sprint Nextel on a limited basis at sites. Saw envisions much more sharing in the future because of the benefits in cost, time, speed and flexibility.

“One of the things we are excited about, looking at network sharing, is that you actually get to leverage all of these capabilities for customers,” Saw said. “That buys us time. That buys us some cost savings with the leases and some of the common services that we share with Sprint. The Network Vision project brings network sharing to a whole new plateau.”

Network sharing, according to Saw, means virtually all of the physical components of the base station can be used by multiple carriers, including the radio, the backhaul, the access equipment, the utilities and other services.

“The key difference with network sharing is being able to share the radio at the network level. In the past, it was mostly cell site sharing. If we are able to share the same floor space, the same common equipment, the same switching, the same backhaul, potentially even the same radio where you can run multiple technologies, that’s what we’re talking about,” Saw said.

In interview with AGL Bulletin, Ted Abrams, president, Abrams Wireless, reacted to statements made at the session, applauding the move toward network sharing saying network operators will be able to increase overall efficiency of bandwidth and infrastructure through the new technology.

“Multi-modal equipment connected to big backhaul pipes can transport payload from end users through the cloud across retail platforms branded differently,” Abrams said. “Most of the attributes of a wireless network are fungible, readily adapted to exchange on par. Antenna physics and other band-specific requirements continue to require consideration. As infrastructure providers are able to increase the density of sites supporting these new technologies, the rate of broadband deployment can be accelerated.”

As an attorney representing wireless site owners (landlords), the question that instantly comes to my mind is this: As Sprint deploys it’s wireless upgrade, how will ‘electronic collocations’ be accounted for in legacy wireless leases?


Go back now and carefully reread the following excerpt from the AGL Bulletin report, above:

The Network Vision project will play a role in increased network sharing, according to John Saw, chief technology officer, Clearwire, which has been sharing networks for some time with Sprint Nextel on a limited basis at sites. Saw envisions much more sharing in the future because of the benefits in cost, time, speed and flexibility.

“One of the things we are excited about, looking at network sharing, is that you actually get to leverage all of these capabilities for customers,” Saw said. “That buys us time. That buys us some cost savings with the leases and some of the common services that we share with Sprint. The Network Vision project brings network sharing to a whole new plateau.”

Network sharing, according to Saw, means virtually all of the physical components of the base station can be used by multiple carriers, including the radio, the backhaul, the access equipment, the utilities and other services.

“The key difference with network sharing is being able to share the radio at the network level. In the past, it was mostly cell site sharing. If we are able to share the same floor space, the same common equipment, the same switching, the same backhaul, potentially even the same radio where you can run multiple technologies, that’s what we’re talking about,” Saw said.

Okay, back to reality for landlords.

Historically, savvy landlords have received incremental income from collocations and their tenants sublease to other wireless providers.

In Sprint’s future world of electronic collocation, site landlords won’t know when Sprint has subleased a portion of the use of the site to another company. Legacy leases don’t usually specify that collocation must be ‘physical’ in nature, so those same savvy landlords (and I assure you, their attorneys, including yours truly) are likely to reasonably take the position that that if Sprint has subleased the electronic use of a wireless site to another, then that revenue should be shared with the site landlord pursuant to the existing lease agreement.

Landlords and their attorneys should be on the lookout for proposed lease amendments for legacy sites and sublease terms in new leases that might try to draft around this $$multimillion dollar issue$$.


LightSquared v. GPS Users: We’ll know on June 15, 2011

At the direction of the FCC on January26, 2011 (See: for all of the filings), LightSquared and the GPS Industry Council have formed a working group. The working group will conduct tests of LightSquared’s transmission system to determine whether LightSquared’s proposed filter solution will resolve the demonstrated potential for interference to GPS users within miles of each proposed LightSquared site.

The potential for LightSquared service to cause severe interference to GPS users was made clear in an ex parte teleconference presentation made on January 19, 2011 to the FCC by members of the GPS Industry Council.

Simply put, the GPS Industry Council’s testing discloses that LightSquared’s very high output power from its planned 40,000 sites, coupled with its proximity in frequency to the very weak GPS downlink band, forms a witch’s brew for catastrophic interference to GPS receivers. LightSquared’s system is to operate in the 1525-1559 MHz band, while the GPS downlink frequencies are in the 1559-1610 MHz band. You can read the ex parte notice and the presentation by clicking here.

LightSquared has stated that it take care of the potential interference to GPS users using filters. It’s unclear whether the filters are sufficient, or who would be expected to pay for the cost of the filters.

On February 25, 2011, Light squared submitted its first report to the Commission regarding its work with the GPS Industry Council. That report is linked here. The group’s next report is due on the Ides of March. The final report showing the results of the filter testing is due to the FCC on June 15, 2011.

To frame the uses and users who could be negatively affected by GPS interference, or the outright loss of GPS coverage, here’s an abbreviated list of users and uses:

Military: Locations; targeting; timing; network synchronization; stuff we don’t know about

Aviation: Precision landing systems; aircraft location; timing; network synchronization

Transportation: Vehicle location; timing; network synchronization

Local Governments E911; Vehicle location; timing; network synchronization

Industry E911; Vehicle location; timing; network synchronization; precision measurements; stuff we don’t know about

Non-Government Users Location; rescue; timing; network synchronization

Yeah, this is a big deal


Current Issues in Cell Tower Leases

March 3, 2011: 2 hour live teleconference
1 pm ET (12 pm CT, 11 am MT, 10 am PT)

Teleconference Highlights:

The wireless industry has built more than 250,000 cell sites in the United States in the past 20 years. But many more cell sites are needed as iPhones, iPads and the like strain existing network capacity with data, email, computer and video applications, as well as to fill gaps in coverage. New cell sites and significant modifications to existing cell sites will also be needed due to the FCC’s new advanced wireless services and goal of using wireless to increase broadband speeds and coverage.

This audio conference will help level the playing field by providing private and municipal property owners with the expertise of two faculty members highly experienced in cell tower and cell site leases – property owners usually are negotiating such leases for the first time, while the cell companies have teams who work exclusively on such leases.

This audio conference will focus on key business issues in wireless site leases, including lease rates, who gets the revenues from additional antennas or carriers being co-located at a site, potential underpayments by cell companies on existing sites and why rent reduction requests generally should be denied. An emphasis on the industry-specific elements and terms of modern cell site leases, and renewals and modifications of expiring leases, which are important for the property owner, their attorney and the leasing agent involved in these efforts. You will be better able to identify and resolve issues that are unique to wireless siting, including what may be included in a lease that cannot be included in a government-issued permit, site location and value, lease term and terminations, access requirements, interference regulation and mitigation, design and camouflage, and radio frequency emissions issues.

Learning Objectives

  • You will be able to maintain and increase the revenues the property owner receives, and discuss the common elements of private wireless site leases on developed and undeveloped land.
  • You will be able to utilize practice pointers, including key concepts, for owners of private property and their attorneys, as well as municipalities and municipal attorneys.
  • You will be able to understand the basics of wireless technology and the real property, technical and technology issues that drive a wireless carrier’s siting and leasing process.
  • You will be able to review insurance and indemnity provisions to protect the property owner.

Faculty Information

John W. Pestle, Esq., Varnum LLP
Jonathan L. Kramer, Esq., FSCTE, BTS, BDS, BPS, Kramer Telecom Law Firm, P.C.

MCLE/Educational Credit Information

  • AIA
  • AICP (Pending)
  • CC
  • CLE
  • ENG
  • PMI

Who Should Attend?

This audio conference is designed for attorneys, planners, directors of development, project managers, government administrators, council and board members, land use officials, public works and utilities directors, municipal government officials, engineers, architects, surveyors and real estate professionals.

5 Easy Ways to Register:
Phone: 1-866-352-9539
Fax: 1-715-833-3953
Mail: Lorman Education Services, Dept 5382, PO Box 2933, Milwaukee, WI 53201-2933
Seminar ID: 387436