The Alabama Lawyer: THE CELL TOWER GROUND LEASE: An Atypical Commercial Lease- What Attorneys Should Know

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Despite being only a decade old, smart phones drive the United States’ increasingly fast-paced culture. Americans used approximately 262,000,000 smart phones during 2016.1 Smart phones are vitally important to our daily lives: we wake up to their alarms; we communicate verbally and in writing with them through phone, text and social media applications; we use them to stay current with local and world news; we play games on them; we use them as GPS devices; and we watch live sporting events and cable programming on them. Smart phones are the quintessential all-in-one gadget.

Carriers, the companies to which consumers pay smart phone bills, provide smart phone-connectivity services using cellular networks.  Cellular networks depend upon two crucial components: radio spectrum2 and infrastructures.  Radio spectrum is the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which fuels cellular communications. Infrastructures are the network deployment areas, called “cells” or “cell sites,” which include towers, poles and other structures and facilities that support signal transmissions, increase network capacities and expand network coverages. An estimated 308,334 cell sites operated in the United States during 2016.3  Based upon whether carriers own portions of the radio spectrum purchased from the federal government
and build and own their own infrastructures, the wireless industry classifies them as mobile network operators (MNOs) or mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). MNOs own radio spectrum and their own transmission infrastructures. The United States has five MNOs–Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular.  Unlike MNOs, MVNOs do not own radio spectrum or their own transmission infrastructures. Instead, MVNOs piggyback their networks on MNO networks by leasing or purchasing from them access to radio spectrum and infrastructure. MVNOs tend to market to specific geographic areas or population niches and offer contract-free or less expensive connectivity plans than MNOs. MVNOs include Cricket Wireless, Metro PCS, TracFone, Straight Talk and Total Wireless.

Read the full article, "The Cell Tower Ground Lease: An Atypical Commercial Lease- What Attorneys Should Know," written by William Lawrence.

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The Burr & Forman Sports Law team includes attorneys from a variety of legal and college athletic backgrounds, who provide counsel on marketing, licensing and other agreements. The team, which includes NFLPA certified contract advisors, has represented professional athletes in marketing and other deals, negotiated NIL contracts with NCAA coaching legends, represented professional sports organizations, and negotiated deals with major sporting television networks.

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