Posted by: Olga Kharif on January 8, 2008
It’s a sad day in wireless today. Frontline, a company that was expected to build a new network open to all mobile applications and devices, has announced, in a statement to reporters, that it’s “closed for business. We have no further comments.” Analysts believe that the company simply failed to secure enough funding to bid in an upcoming Federal Communications Commission auction of wireless airwaves, needed for such a network.
With Frontline out of the running, this further narrows down the number of new companies that could potentially enter the wireless services market as a direct result of the auction. There’s Google, of course — but not much else. In a way, that’s not surprising: Few investors would be mad enough — and wealthy enough — to want to compete with the likes of Google and incumbents such as Verizon. And this means that it could take longer for wireless networks to open up, the way Frontline envisioned.
Frontline's exit could also spell trouble for the FCC auction. Frontline was instrumental in shaping rules governing the so-called D block of the spectrum that will be auctioned off. That spectrum is expected to be used by public safety agencies as well as commercial entities. Now, with Frontline out of the running, it's unclear whether there will be any bidders interested in the block -- and having the expertise to make the complex public-private network a reality.
The reason why so many people believed in Frontline is that the company's assembled some tremendous talent. Vice Chairman Reed Hundt is a former chairman of the FCC. Chairman Janice Obuchowski served as assistant secretary for Communications and Information at the Department of Commerce, leading the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under President George H.W. Bush. If these people can't make it in the wireless market, who can?