Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Wireless Wars

If you did not know it already, there is a battle brewing for the wireless spectrum. As the Mercury News reports, the 700 MHz spectrum which is currently being used for UHF TV, is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. What prompts the auction is the federal mandate which forces the TV broadcasters to go digital from 2009 (see this Benton Foundation link for an excellent review of the timeline.)

The bidders for the spectrum include the usual suspects like AT&T and Verizon and some new players like Google and Frontline Wireless, a startup funded by stellar Valley VC's ! So, why such a diversity in the bidding ? - because the stakes are big ! It has a lot to do with Net neutrality and control of the Internet. For example, see this perspective from the man who has some claim to having invented the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. :-) See, not quite who you thought it was :-).

Its all about control of information, and in an information age that equates to a lot of power. The Mercury News column talks about interesting angles to the bidding, such as Google bidding, but not to win. Interestingly, it all ties back to the mobile phone operating systems and Android, which I wrote about earlier in the week. This auction also appears to be the last of the spectrum auctions for useful spectrum. The deadline for bids is this Monday and the results will be announced early next year according to the Mercury News. I can't wait to see who wins this one. It could change the power structure in wireless communication. I will make a prediction - the bid will be a lot more than the $4.6B minimum that the FCC expects for the spectrum.


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