Facebook Executive Wants to Form America’s Fifth Wireless Carrier

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Former Facebook executive Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 5.25.16 PMChamath Palihapitiya, now with Social Capital, intends to spend $4 billion to $10 billion buying spectrum at the FCC’s March auction to build a wireless carrier to compete with the likes of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

In an interview Tuesday with Forbes, the Sri Lankan-born, Canadian-raised 30-something billionaire venture capitalist said he plans to bid on the spectrum and has already lined-up deep-pocketed investors whom he declined to name.

A part owner of the San Francisco Warriors NBA basketball team, Palihapitiya already is working on bringing Internet access to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, according to Business Insider, and it faces an uphill battle to gain spectrum in the U.S. As Forbes notes, “First, the company will have to start the slow and expensive process of actually building the towers and infrastructure that make up a wireless network. Palihapitiya said he wants to use “microcells,” or tiny cell towers installed on people’s homes, to help build the network quickly and provide better coverage.”

Speculation on the street is that he will try to do some stuff differently than the Big Four starting with software made by LotusFlare and used in developing countries that allows users to monitor data usage. Forbes says “it could be a major improvement over the customer service and billing options currently offered by the big carriers. Earlier this year, Google reportedly tried to acquire LotusFlare.

The new venture also could sell itself on a simple billing structure, like Google’s Project Fi, which transparently charges customers based on the amount of data they use. “There’s a whole bunch of issues that carriers aren’t trying to solve. All these things are now just totally broken,” Palihipitiya told Business Insider.
But remember, nothing happens with the creation of a fifth wireless carrier until it gets a hold of spectrum. Nothing.

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November 12, 2015 |
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