The Big 4 in the U.S., being Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, may have cause to worry this spring. A billionaire investor by the name of Chamath Palihapitiya, who owns the Golden State Warriors and has recently been throwing around massive sums of cash in collaboration with Google to bring internet to Sri Lanka and The Philippines, has set his sights on the FCC’s upcoming 600MHz auction, calling it “beachfront real estate”. His projects, Rama and LotusFlare, have been bringing internet and wireless to the developing world with Google’s help. Now, he’s reportedly looking to leverage the upcoming auction of some of the most valuable and usable LTE spectrum currently on the market to expand Rama, the wireless arm of his ventures, to the United States Palihapitiya has confirmed that his firm, Social Capital, would be participating and spending between 4 billion and 10 billion USD. He says he has already set aside a handsome amount for the auction, not disclosing how much for obvious reasons.
Palihaptiya sees a large number of issues in the United States’ current wireless industry as just plain broken, despite carriers’ attempts to fix them. Things like signal in rural areas, billing and signups are all areas that he is saying he wants to revolutionize with Rama. A suite of apps that won’t affect customers’ data plan and super-easy signup processes, including installing micro towers in customers’ homes, are all potentially on offer. The biggest issue here is making sure Social Capital wins some usable spectrum in the auction so they can bring Rama to the U.S. at all, let alone have the coverage to rock the major carriers’ boats. So far, there aren’t a ton of details about how Palihaptiya plans to handle the rollout of a brand new wireless carrier in the United States to compete with the four behemoths and tons of smaller regional carriers and MNVOs.
The attitude of the company and its ventures at this point seems to be a “Let’s see what happens” ordeal, with a fairly Legere-esque quote from Palihapitiya himself setting the stage for what is sure to be a wild ride; “The first country was Sri Lanka. The second country was the Philippines, and now we’ve said, ‘**** it!’ Let’s come back to the US and try to **** this country up,'” Clearly, the plan is to cause a lot of rattled cages and ruffled feathers in the U.S.’ wireless industry, but it all rides on March’s FCC spectrum auction.