Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making the Most of High Rent Rooftops in Demand for Cellular

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Making the Most of High Rent Rooftops in Demand for Cellular

Article excerpt

To the average eye, a building rooftop is nothing more than a way to keep out the rain.

Mike McNelly looks at a rooftop and sees a gold mine.

McNelly is in the business of finding sites for the tens of thousands of antennas needed for the next generation of cellular telephones called personal communications services, or PCSs.

Rather than fighting with anxious suburbanites, no-growthers and NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard) of one stripe or another, McNelly figures rooftops are the most natural sites around.

"The potential is huge," said McNelly, who works for Koll: The Real Estate Services Co., a commercial real estate broker in Newport Beach, Calif.

Not only do antennas on rooftops avoid headaches for the PCS operators, they also offer an easy way for a building owner to rent out otherwise unusable space. A landlord can pick up an extra $50,000 a year or more, most of it profit.

Some real estate firms such as Koll, CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc. in Los Angeles and the Rubin Organization in Philadelphia hope to earn lucrative fees matching landlords and tenants as the PCS industry grows.

Although similar to today's cellular phones, PCS phones will be smaller, sound better, work faster and cost less. The technology will let users see, speak and send messages to each other over hand-held phones.

The service is expected to become so popular that it challenges existing "land-line" telephone companies for local phone services.

The catch: To operate, these systems will need a forest of antennas. In the next five years, the number of sites needed for PCS transmission towers is expected to quadruple to 80,000, says Andy Roscoe, head of MTA-EMCI, Washington-based telecommunications consulting firm. Other estimates run as high as 150,000 in that time.

This emerging market has its roots in an auction of radio frequencies earlier this year by the Federal Communications Commission. That auction raised almost $8 billion in its first sale of licenses to provide PCS systems. …

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