Wireless Carriers

Wireless Carriers (“Wireless Communications Service Providers”? or “Mobile Network Operators”?) are companies who own and/or operate infrastructure that provides wireless voice and data services to subscribers. Wireless carriers bid for and are awarded licenses by the FCC for specific spectrum frequencies that allow them to serve a designated area of potential subscribers (POPs)1. In the United States, there are four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and a handful of smaller wireless carriers.

Top U.S. Wireless Carriers


Cell Sites


120,000,000 57,000

Verizon Wireless

114,000,000 45,000


57,500,000 50,000-70,000**


57,000,000 55,000

U.S. Cellular

5,000,000 8,250

C-Spire Wireless

1,000,000 1,500


275,000 998

**Total count may include Clearwire and Nextel sites.

*Source: FCC Annual State of the Wireless Industry Report: December 2014. Please note that numbers are approximate.

Wireless carriers provide services to their subscribers through the use of cellular sites, which may be placed on towers, rooftops, or on other structures like water tanks or billboards. They either own the cell towers themselves (e.g. AT&T and Verizon) or have recently sold their towers to separate tower companies (e.g. Sprint and T-Mobile).

When carriers contact landowners, building owners and tower owners, it is typically with the following requests:

  1. To inquire about leasing land or structures upon which to build a new tower;
  2. To inquire about adding a new cell site to an existing structure, such as a building or tower;
  3. To inquire about modifying/expanding an existing lease to accommodate additional equipment (or new equipment), such as generators, fiber optic cables or other utilities.
  4. To discuss collocation or subleasing agreements, which involve installing other wireless carriers’ equipment on the cell site;
  5. To discuss modifications of an existing lease that include, for example, the addition of a Right of First Refusal Clause (although these requests typically come through a lease optimization company) or
  6. To extend existing leases before they expire.

Are you curious about the wireless industry? Read our featured article: “The History of U.S. Wireless Carriers”

Steel in the Air can assist you with any questions relating to any aspect of cellular lease negotiations. We look forward to working with you.

Insider Tips

Wireless carriers consider a myriad of factors when deciding upon where to build new cell towers. They do not simply look for the highest point within a given coverage area.

Requests to reduce monthly lease payments might not be detrimental to your bottom line. It’s important to look at the terms of the lease, holistically. In some cases, for instance, modifications that extend the duration of your lease while reducing the monthly lease payments might result in a higher net present value.

Carriers nationwide are racing to deploy LTE. If you are party to a cell site lease and the Lessee wants to update its network infrastructure, chances are that you are eligible for some compensation.