Very odd: The high-profile Frontline Wireless firm that convinced the FCC to tailor a public/private spectrum license auction to its needs is "closed for business": RCR News reports that the well-connected Frontline is shuttered. Frontline was expected to bid hard for a special band that would allow both commercial and public safety uses nationwide with priority given in emergencies to the public safety purpose. Frontline needed to make a $128m deposit for the D Block license with the FCC by Jan. 4, but the firm wouldn't tell the trade publication whether it had made such a deposit.
The New York Times notes involvement in Frontline from former FCC chair Reed Hundt, Kleiner Perkins' John Doerr, former Netscape head Jim Barksdale, and early Google backer K. Ram Shriram. The Times's John Markoff profiled the firm last April.
It's not clear what happened. The Times speculates capital was tight, although an AP report notes that one of Frontline's bidding partners is controlled by a private equity and hedge fund firm with $40b in assets. Update: Later on Tuesday the Times confirmed with an unnamed source within the company that the firm didn't make a deposit against the auction, and was unable to raise the funds necessary to make a successful bid.
The Associated Press also notes that without Frontline in the bidding, the D Block's minimum $1.33b bid may not be met, and it's unclear what happens at that point. The entire 700 MHz auction, including the C Block that Google, AT&T, and Verizon will likely contend over, must raise over $10b in aggregate, or the bidding will be declared null, and the rules changed. The C Block will likely exceed its nearly $5b opening bid, but the other regional licenses up for grabs may not total enough with the C Block to meet the minimum.
This could throw open access into disarray, as if the auction doesn't produce the desired revenue, the rules requiring the C Block winner to allow any legal device running any applications and accessing any service would be revised to be more restrictive.