Frontline Wireless this week announced three partnerships amid a flurry of activity that could lead to the FCC opening a proceeding to consider the company’s proposal for a public-private partnership to build a nationwide broadband network for public safety. Meanwhile, a prominent U.S. senator issued a statement that company officials found encouraging.

Under Frontline’s proposal, the FCC would auction 60 MHz of spectrum as mandated by Congress, but 10 MHz would be auctioned to a wireless wholesale network operator—like Frontline—that would have an opportunity to reach an agreement with public-safety representatives to build a network that also would utilize an adjacent 12 MHz of frequencies already allocated to public safety.

Sharing this vision are newly announced partners James Barksdale, former Netscape CEO; venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers; and Vanu Bose, president and CEO of Vanu, a software-defined-radio (SDR) solutions provider.

“We all share the same business vision,” Frontline CTO Stagg Newman said during an interview with MRT. “We’re excited to have them all on board.”

Terms of the partnership are not being disclosed. Newman lauded Bose’s technical expertise but said his partnership does not include a commitment that Frontline would use Vanu’s SDR technology in any network buildout.

“We’re far away from making any technology decisions,” Newman said.

Indeed, Frontline first needs to have the FCC adopt its service rules and then win 700 MHz spectrum at an auction that is supposed to begin by the end of January 2008. To that end, several key groups—the United Telecom Council, the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition and search-engine giant Google—have submitted filings requesting the FCC open a proceeding to consider Frontline’s proposal.

While questions exist concerning whether an operator legally can use public-safety spectrum for commercial purposes, the FCC technically has the authority to adopt the Frontline service rules without input from Congress. However, Newman has acknowledged that leaders of Congress need to express support for considering the Frontline proposal before the FCC could take such action, because it could impact the amount of revenue the 700 MHz auction generates.

Last Friday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, released a statement saying that it is “wise” for the FCC for considering various 700 MHz proposals “rather than rushing headlong into a 'fire sale' of these licenses.”

Although Markey mentioned no particular proposal by name, the statement was welcomed by Frontline, Newman said.

“That’s a good example of the encouraging signals that we were hoping to get from [Capitol] Hill,” Newman said.