“The first responders of today live in a world transformed by the 9/11 attacks. Because no one believes that every conceivable form of attack can be prevented, civilians and first responders will again find themselves on the front lines. We must plan for that eventuality.” – Front Frontline Web site.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A group of investors in Greensboro and Washington, D.C. have lined up some heavy hitters from Silicon Valley and a familiar face from Internet history to boost their efforts to build a new wireless network.
On Monday, Frontline Wireless disclosed that James Barksdale, one of the founders of Netscape, and L. John Doerr of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers had signed on for their effort to acquire radio spectrum soon to be released from the federal government.
Vanu Bose, of the famous Bose Music family, is also part of the effort. The younger Bose has developed software for controller radio frequency rather than hardware, a process that is said to be more efficient.
Frontline’s backers include Reed Hundt, a former vice chairman of the FCC.
What role Barksdale and Doeer will play in the Frontline venture has not been spelled out. How much they might be investing wasn’t disclosed, either.
However, the news created a big enough stir that The New York Times reported in depth on Frontline’s efforts. Numerous high-profile technology publications also picked up the story.
Frontline’s stated plan is to build a “4G,” or fourth generation high-speed, multi-media national network for first responders on a national basis. The system would be designed to be interoperable between various systems and be based on Internet Protocol. The radio spectrum to be used would come from spectrum to be freed when FCC mandates require UHF-based TV stations to abandon analog signals in 2009.
Bidding for control of the spectrum is likely to be expensive.
“Cellular carriers and their rivals covet the spectrum because it has significant capacity and greater range and can easily penetrate buildings and other structures,” The Times reported.
?But Frontline’s backers argue that their plan is unique because it would be more accessible than today’s commercial wireless networks, which are tightly controlled by their licensed operators. The auction, which will be governed by rules that the F.C.C. is expected to issue this month, could generate up to $30 billion in revenue for the federal government, by some estimates.”
Frontline is lining up financing backing of its own.
“The support of Mr. Barksdale, former Netscape CEO, and Mr. Doerr, who provided venture capital to technology companies from Amazon to Netscape, underscores Frontline’s commitment to bring the know-how of Silicon Valley innovators and the needs of first responders to a national wireless broadband communications network,” Frontline said in a press release out of Greensboro and Washington.
Ram Shiram, managing partner of venture firm Sherpalo Ventures, is also part of the Frontline effort. He was an early investor in Google.
Janice Obuchowski, a former administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is chairman of Frontline.
Frontline’s CEO is Haynes Griffin, founder of Vanguard Cellular.
Bose is involved in a company called Vanu that is developing software-based solutions for use of wireless spectrum.
"These partnerships unite these wireless and Internet industry pioneers behind Frontline’s vision," Griffin said in a statement. "As the head of McCaw Cellular in the early 1990s, Jim Barksdale was a critical architect behind the buildout of the initial cellular infrastructure in the United States. John Doerr played a similarly catalytic role in the early growth of the Internet by directing venture capital funding to companies such as
Netscape, which Jim headed. Along with Vanu Bose, these partners position Frontline to transform the wireless broadband future."
Frontline is proposing to build a “hardened” network that would function in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. The company noted that Barksdale is a native of Mississippi, a state ripped apart by Katrina.
In its proposal to the FCC, Frontline said it is proposing a “free buildout” of the network using a fraction of the 700 MHz spectrum.