Silicon Valley Seeks to Revamp Wireless Industry

Apr 15, 2007

A start-up backed by Silicon Valley's power elite hopes to convince regulators to back a business plan that could scrap many restrictions on wireless networks and help Internet service providers like Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. into the market.

At stake is a chunk of wireless spectrum so valuable that it is being touted as the last opportunity for a new player - such as the start-up Frontline Wireless of Greensboro, North Carolina - to enter the $100 billion U.S. wireless market.

Just over 100 megahertz of analog airwaves are being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital signals. Of that, about a quarter is being set aside for public safety and another portion is slated to be auctioned off by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission later this year.

Frontline Wireless wants to buy some of the spectrum and use Internet technology and a new type of software-based radio system for a network that public safety workers could share with commercial groups as diverse as traditional cellular phone providers, Internet companies and even energy utilities.

The idea is to have commercial organizations that use the network to foot the bill to build a system also designed to overcome significant problems emergency workers had talking to each other in emergencies such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

"Our basic business plan is to guarantee roaming or national mobility to competitors. We are very much a story about jump-starting competition in an industry that is rapidly consolidating," said Reed Hundt, Frontline's vice chairman and a former FCC chairman.

The U.S. cellular market is dominated by four large companies - AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile - whose networks often do not cover sparsely populated areas and only support communication using devices that they have decided can run on their networks.

Frontline is proposing a system that can support multiple network technologies and can quickly reallocate how airwaves are shared among users, It wants to give customers more choice over devices while ensuring public safety workers get priority in emergencies.

Backers of the plan include some of Silicon Valley's biggest power brokers, such as top venture capitalists, two Google board members and Vanu Bose, a developer of software radio technology.

Frontline's Chief Technologist Stagg Newman, also a former FCC technology official, said the company envisions three types of potential commercial customers for the service.

The first type are newcomers like Web heavyweights Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Corp. "and the companies we haven't even thought of, he said. "That's why I think Silicon Valley is enthused."

Frontline said it has had preliminary discussions with these companies, and was open to more proposals.

"Steve Jobs could come out with an iPhone and come to us and say I'd like to buy capacity," he said, referring to the Apple Inc. CEO. The iPhone launches in June.

The second type of potential clients is cellular providers looking to expand into unserved regions, such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, which is owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telekom.

Thirdly, Newman said he has seen interest from utility companies that want to use wireless to remotely manage facilities such as electric substations or gas pipelines.

The challenge for Frontline, whose proposal was put forward relatively late in the bureaucratic jockeying ahead of the auction, is to convince the FCC to craft auction rules that can work in its favor, analysts said.

The agency is expected to let bidders know on April 25 what kind of services can be offered using the airwaves and how the spectrum will be divided up in the auction.

Frontline wants a block of spectrum next to the airwaves being allocated for public safety, to be designated for use by emergency workers as well as commercial customers.

It also wants the winner of that piece to commit to let any communications service lease capacity on the network.

"It would be a fairly significant change," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast. "I think Frontline has a fighting chance if it gets support from the public safety."

A tentative set of rules on how the auction will proceed is currently being circulated among the five FCC commissioners who vote on agency decisions, sources say.

Copyright 2007 by Ziff Davis Media, Distributed by United Press International

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Invention loves collaboration at Milan show

Apr 14, 2014

Collaboration drove invention during Milan's annual International Furniture Show and collateral design week events, yielding the promise of homes without mobile phone chargers, and with more ergonomic seating, ...

Small, light health patch with enhanced accuracy

Apr 09, 2014

Holst Centre and IMEC have unveiled a prototype flexible health patch weighing just 10g – half the weight of current products. The patch uses real-time electrocardiogram (ECG), tissue-contact impedance ...

Big, fast, weird data

Apr 08, 2014

The "Big Data" research that continues to dominate IT agendas has traditionally focused on making sense of the growing volumes of computer data. Yet in recent years, the volume question has given way to the other V's of Big ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

16 hours ago

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...