Chamath Palihapitiya Is Getting Into the Carrier Business, Too

There are few traditional businesses that investor Chamath Palihapitiya isn’t interested in disrupting.

At a StrictlyVC event in September, he talked about raising a multibillion real estate fund to co-manage beside the $600 million that his already unconventional venture firm, Social + Capital Partnership, closed on earlier this year.

Today, at the Mobile First Summit in San Francisco, Palihapitiya planted the seeds for yet another ambitious and expensive project. According to Business Insider, Palihapitiya is hoping to raise between $4 billion and $10 billion dollars to take on AT&T and Verizon with a new company called Rama.

Apparently, the year-old company has already been quietly licensing spectrum in Sri Lanka, where Palihapitiya was born (though his family emigrated to Canada when he was 6 years old). It’s now reportedly in talks to buy spectrum in the Philippines and, perhaps more significantly, has its sights set on an FCC spectrum auction this spring.

Palihapitiya acknowledges that not only does he have to raise the money first – he suggests to BI that some well-known investors are already on board with his plans – but he’ll have to win the spectrum, too, which might not be easy.

The FCC is planning to auction the low-frequency spectrum – which is capable of carrying a signal further than higher-frequency bands — next spring. But Rama won’t just be competing against  Verizon and AT&T, which already control about three-quarters of the country’s low-band spectrum. It will also be going up against other small carriers for a portion of the spectrum that will be set aside for them to bid on.

That could include small rural carriers. It might also mean Google, suggests this very good overview by Computerworld of what to expect.