Stacking the Deck in the D-Block Auction Never was a Good Idea
If bidding in the upcoming FCC 700 MHz auction can be likened to placing bets in a game of Texas Hold ‘em, a player for whom the deck appeared to be stacked just cashed-out and walked away, mid-hand. As has been widely reported, FrontLine Wireless announced on January 8th that it is “closed for business,” reportedly because it was unable to attract sufficient investment.
FrontLine had been expected to be one of the leading bidders for a license in the D block spectrum, which will come with strings such as requiring joint public-safety use, nationwide geographic coverage and a public safety veto over what could and could not go on the network. Indeed, the very existence of Frontline hinged on winning the D-block, and the company had worked closely with the FCC on crafting a set of rules for the spectrum that were all but tailor-made for Frontline’s business plan. Nonetheless, even with the deck effectively stacked in its favor, the market was not willing to bankroll FrontLine’s play.
FrontLine’s announcement that it has folded should come as no surprise. Far from being an occasion for mourning, however, the foundering of FrontLine hopefully signals the end of what has been a tragically flawed experiment in the D-block from the outset.