The Role of Site Acquisition in the Wireless Business
This Chapter/Module starts to detail the job of site acquisition by explaining the qualifications
wireless cell site developers look for in companies and individuals they utilize for site acquisition
and explaining the processes involved wireless industry site development. The verbiage found in
job descriptions for wireless site acquisition recruiting purposes correlate well with this content.
We’re going to cover twelve competencies to qualify to perform wireless site acquisition and then
we’re going to address the fifteen essential functions also referred to as Site Acquisition Processes
involved in the job of assuming the responsibility to perform site acquisition from the issuance of
a search area or search ring through to delivering a site ready for construction/implementation.
Many piecemeal assignments can be assumed and accomplished throughout the entire process.
As we pass through the chapters/modules of this material each will provide further detail toward
the end goal. These lessons will teach you how to address any assignment, provide the knowledge
and understanding to evaluate any project, know what questions to ask, and what tasks need to be
Twelve Wireless Site Development Job Qualifications
Competence to perform site acquisition and permitting work is aligned with twelve qualifications.
While these qualifications are listed in job descriptions they can be learned and refined on the job.
Fundamental Understanding of Modern Wireless Systems and Facility Design
Forms of mobile telephone service were available for over thirty years in the US before cellular
communications launched in the fall of 1983.1 Before cellular communications, a very limited
number of channels were available in each metropolitan area. Use of those channels had to be
scheduled in advance since they were not available on demand.2
While wireless technology has evolved since then, the components of today’s wireless system
remain the same. Antennas are required to propagate signals over the air between user devices
and nearby cell sites. A structure is required to elevate cell site antennas to accomplish line-of-sight
paths with mobile wireless devices. Radio transmitters and receivers, waveguide cable, fiber-optic
cable or microwave antennas, electrical power, batteries, battery chargers, and backup generators,
cumulatively known as associated equipment, are additional components of traditional cell sites.
Fundamental Understanding of Real Estate and Land-Use Concepts
Many have gotten a start in wireless site acquisition without a vast real estate law understanding.
However, intellectual curiosity is a vital characteristic of effective site acquisition. More seasoned
project personnel are available to answer questions or point to a source of information.
Legal counsel is available on all projects. Jurisdiction permit officials are willing to answer
questions regarding permits. The desire to learn will lead you to the real estate education you need
when you need it. If you don’t already have real estate credentials, inquire with the real estate
commission in your state1 for licensing rules and schools where accredited education is available.
I earned my real estate license ten years into my career developing antenna sites.
Effective Verbal and Written Communications
Those who get involved in wireless infrastructure development specialize in diverse disciplines
besides site acquisition, including project management, RF engineering, real estate law, land
surveying, civil engineering, structural engineering, land-use planning, architecture,
environmental science, construction management, telecommunication equipment engineering,
property management, and county government.
Each of these disciplines has its own language. On wireless infrastructure projects, we all have
the opportunity and obligation to learn from each other. Written communications are more
meaningful for documentation than verbal communications. Verbal communications,
however, may be more effective in specific instances. Written communications are useful to
document and clarify verbal communications, especially discussions with property owners
and their attorneys.
Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
During the initial meeting with each property owner to present the revenue/leasing opportunity,
your first meeting with a community planner to discuss the proposed land use, and every public
hearing attendance in pursuit of a permit, site acquisition, and permitting is an endeavor that
involves meeting the public. An ability to express concepts with a personable style influences
credibility in the minds and eyes of others.
Successful relationships are based upon trust inspired by clear, honest, forthright dialogue.
Computer Usage, Email, Internet Research, Data Assimilation, and Reporting Skills
In the infancy of the wireless industry, the average person didn’t own a personal computer.
The growth of personal computers and the internet is intertwined with the history of
commercial mobile services. Today, wireless devices perform all tasks of computers including
providing internet access.
Wireless technology and the internet drive technical advancements in telecommunications today.
As a result, the delivery of telecommunications services has been completely transformed since the 1980s.
The ability to use online platforms to make soft copies of photos and maps, download online
documents, operate email, and use geostationary positioning system (GPS) programs is a
standard operating procedure in today’s work environment. Geographical information systems
(GIS) and software programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Adobe Acrobat
need to be operated daily for site acquisition activities. Project management activities require
knowledge of programs and platforms like Microsoft Project.
The Information Age has played a major role in reducing the need to travel to access facts.
Outdoor landscapes can be observed on a computer screen with online services such as
Google Earth. County maps, property ownership records, and local zoning ordinances are
available online for many jurisdictions. Remote business meetings are conducted through
online video services such as Google Hangout, Zoom, Citrix, and Skype. The use of internet
resources benefits due diligence research and time management objectives. Efficiency is key.
Time Management Skills
New agents are typically assigned one to five search areas. More assignments may be received
upon evidence of the ability to manage time and resources effectively. Besides the ability to
manage a site through the development process, the talent to start as many as ten to twelve
projects at one time and handle as many as twenty-five to thirty-five projects simultaneously
speaks highly to one’s organization and time-management abilities.
Ability to Work Effectively under Limited Supervision
This work is not for individuals who need constant contact with superiors to know what needs
to be done next. Self-starters who understand the task at hand, perceive a proper sequence of
events, tenaciously move projects toward completion, and adjust focus as priorities evolve.
Motivation to Complete Tasks and Meet Deadlines
Deadlines for large and small tasks arise daily. New tasks constantly present new obstacles.
Multiple projects are active simultaneously. At all times one or more tasks can be advanced
while progress on other tasks is waiting on the contribution from another team member or
The best perspective is to minimize the time others need to wait for your input. Be prepared
to provide input as soon as possible when it is requested or can be utilized. Always perform
better than established deadlines when possible.
There are always problems to solve. Thrive in problem-solving. When a project slows to a halt,
there’s a reason. If it’s a conflict about the best way to proceed, be a leader, provide the client
with clear decision-making analysis. Accomplish this through ongoing due diligence research
and a sensitivity to the issues. Get clarity from subject matter experts (SMEs) to facilitate the
best decisions by the project team. Recognize and address potential obstacles that may cause
a project delay or cost overrun. Problem-solving is discussed throughout the text.
Attention to Detail, Ensuring Project Information Is Accurate
Most data regarding site selection is due diligence information generated during site search.
Beware of incorrect details that creep into a project’s information database and affect
The reuse of templates from one project to another is a major reason for inaccurate data.
Whatever be the case and whoever else may be responsible for inaccuracies, be detail-
oriented enough to verify the accuracy, at least to the extent of your knowledge, of all
drawings, reports, sets of geographic coordinates, and agreements.
A vital skill to develop is the ability to determine latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates
with a consistently high degree of accuracy. If there is a question, verify with the original
source. Mistakes are inevitable; however, through ongoing verification, you can find and
fix your own mistakes before they cause issues.
Ability to Escalate Issue Resolution
A common error of newcomers in this business is withholding knowledge of obstacles
that arise and shouldering the responsibility to resolve the problem without help.
Nothing is further from the correct approach.
It’s important to share ominous obstacles that arise so that others with more experience
can lend a more seasoned perspective. Simply address the difficult circumstances with
your immediate supervisor as informational content and ask for comments.
Compliance with Policies and Procedures
Follow guidelines provided by the organization(s) overseeing your work.
Client criteria for finding and securing sites may be just the first policies to observe.
Every organization has its own culture, language, and group politics.
Know your surroundings. If it’s not appropriate to call project attorneys, RF engineers,
or others directly, first clear the issue or question with your immediate supervisor(s).
They may know the answer to your question already. Keeping in step with the ways of
the organization you report to is a good way to keep your career upbeat and positive.
Fifteen Wireless Site Development Processes
Throughout this curriculum, each site development process is covered by one or more
modules that provide context to the tasks of that particular site development process.
Site Development Process #1 Site Search Due Diligence Research
Search and identify specific properties as candidates for development based upon client-
provided criteria, property owner interest, and the application of land-use regulations.
This first site development process is addressed in Module 7 Search Area Assignment;
Module 8 Search Area Mapping; Module 9 Zone-ability; Module 10 Constructability;
Module 11 Lease-ability; and Module 12 Property Owner Communications.
Site Development Process #2 Search Area Feasibility Report
Assemble and submit a detailed report identifying qualifying candidates for selection
consideration. Module 13 Search Area Report, speaks to the second site development
Site Development Process #3 Coordinate Site Selection with Project Team
Participate in the site selection discussion by answering other team members’ questions,
conducting further research, and reporting prior to site selection. In Module 14 Project Team,
the project team is introduced relative to the third site development process.
Site Development Process #4 Selected Site Due Diligence Research Package
Complete in-depth report to satisfy data requirements for the team to proceed with the
project to develop wireless infrastructure on the selected site. This fourth site
development process is the focus of the Module 15 Site Candidate Information Package.
Site Development Process #5 Initiate Project
Coordinate, schedule, and track site due diligence visits with or for technical teams. The
fifth site development process relates to the material found in Module 16 Project Initiation.
Site Development Process #6 Initiate Collocation Applications
Prepare, coordinate, and process applications for collocations.
Module 17 Collocation Applications is dedicated to the sixth site development process.
Site Development Process #7 Initiate Title Work
Coordinate, order, and track title work, site surveys, lease exhibits, environmental reports,
regulatory reports, and construction drawings. The seventh site development process is
addressed first in Module 18 Title Insurance Commitment and then in
Module 19 Site Design—Standard Drawings and Reports.
Site Development Process #8 Coordinate Site Design
Advise and assist project managers and construction managers with project perspectives.
Interpret, review, and redline, if necessary, site sketches, surveys, and construction drawings.
Module 19 Site Design—Standard Drawings and Reports speaks to the common application
of the eighth site development process.
Module 20 Site Design—Supplemental Drawings and Reports address the aspects of this site
development process that are not a factor for every project.
Site Development Process #9 Negotiate Space Rights
Negotiate agreements to acquire or modify space and use rights for infrastructure installation
and operation, including maintenance and repair. Obtain property owner approval on
engineering drawings and zoning/permit applications.
Details related to the space agreements pertinent to the ninth site development process are
the substance of Module 21 Initial Space Rights; Module 22 Leasing Concepts;
Module 23 Collocation Agreements; Module 24 Lease Provisions;
Module 25 Purchase Contracts; and Module 26 Miscellaneous Agreements.
Site Development Process #10 Finalize Space Rights
Coordinate the process to finalize desirable space rights agreements and actively pursue
processing so that projects may progress without unnecessary delays. The tenth site
development process is manifest through the content found in Module 27 Finalize Space Rights.
Site Development Process #11 Initiate Local Permit Rights Application
Prepare, complete, obtain property approval for, and submit zoning and building permit
applications to local authorities. Serve as the point of contact for local community inquiries.
Module 28 Local Permit Applications and Module 29 Planning Staff Review address the
initiation of the permit process under the eleventh site development process.
Site Development Process #12 Finalize Permit Rights
Coordinate the permit process, including support from vendors and outside counsel.
Prepare for and attend public hearings, as necessary, to secure permit approvals.
Execution of the twelfth site development process completes the real estate entitlement
resulting from local permit rights, as discussed in Module 30 Community Due Diligence
and Module 31 Local Governing Bodies, Public Hearings, and Final Documentation.
Site Development Process #13 Project Management
Track, expedite, and document the progress of events leading to the acquisition of all real
property entitlements necessary to build and operate wireless infrastructure (Project
Management). Site Development Process #13 Project Management regarding processes
and procedures utilized in a project management environment provides a basis for
applying the organization inherent to the thirteenth site development process.
Site Development Process #14 Project Close-Out
Coordinate handoff of the project with real estate entitlement close-out documentation
for construction personnel to commence site construction (Close Out).
Site Development Process #14 Project Close-Out addresses close-out documentation,
the fourteenth site development process, prior to passing the project onto construction.
Site Development Process #15 Customer Service
Remain the primary contact for the property owner and jurisdiction project contact
regarding issues as they arise (Customer Service). The fifteenth and final site
development process addresses being willing and courteous to respond quickly and
appropriately to inquiries made after the first fourteen site development processes
These and appropriate levels of post-project contact are the subjects of
Site Development Process #15 Customer Service regarding customer service.
The role of site acquisition in wireless facility development has evolved into multiple
These specializations exist regarding different types of sites or systems (such as
traditional cell sites, small cell sites, and DAS), different functions in the process
(such as structure surveys, title work, leasing, permitting, collocation applications,
and site modifications), and post-process activities (such as rent reduction and
Another rapidly growing specialization involves site acquisition in public right of way.
The text ahead provides insight for all of these specializations of wireless facility
site acquisition and permitting.
Throughout this curriculum, each site development process is covered by one or more
modules that provide context to the tasks of that particular site development process.