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Free Ad Supported Wireless Might Be Coming

John Doerr and Milo Medin visited the FCC on July 13, 2010 with a great plan to disrupt the dishonest marketing and overpriced wireless services offered by the 4 giant telcos. They would provide 768K wireless free across 95% of the U.S.. Even with a good deal on the spectrum, it will require investing $5-7B before breakeven.  Doerr is a legend who was the money behind ad supported Google and ecommerce giant Amazon and a dozen others. Milo built most of the cable networks in the U.S. as CTO of @Home.

Their audience included the FCC Chairman and six chiefs. Julius Janikowski is taking this seriously, and Doerr is confident they have the cash needed. There's essentially no downside to Julius saying yes except the predictably violent opposition of the incumbents. The 4 giant wireless telcos are screwing Julius so many ways he might just go ahead.

Doerr's partners include Al Gore as well as Republicans Colin Powell and Tom Perkins. The Senate is pressing Julius hard because he's not doing enough on affordability. This wouldn't have much impact until 2015 or so, but is a partial answer at the very low end.

Doerr and Medin are looking for the 2155-2175 AWS-3 spectrum. That 20 MHz is as much as Verizon is devoting to a worldclass LTE network, although at the higher frequencies far more towers would be needed to match VZ. The business plan begins with selling at market rates the higher speeds and probably voice. Doerr is on the board of Google, so they've presumably have thought through the advertising. Google put $3.5B on the line for spectrum in the hope of breaking the wireless cartel and has advanced $billions to win ad contracts from AOL and others. With over $20B on Google's balance sheet, they are a natural source of financing. They promise to reach 50% of the country by 2016 and 95% by 2021. The technology will presumably be LTE, for which inexpensive gear should be widely available in 2013-2015.

They would require radios on 3,000-10,000 towers in 2016 and can plan the build for where towers and backhaul are available at competitive prices. They also will have a natural partner if Harbinger makes it. Some think that a long shot, but Phil Falcone just filed for a $400M debt offering for Harbinger.

Especially because Doerr is one of Obama's most important supporters and active in the White House. Click here to read the full filing summary

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