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Google's Wireless Auction Play

Its apparent withdrawal from the wireless auction leaves the coveted C block to Verizon and AT&T. They could all prove to be winners

Think of Google as Garry Kasparov facing Bobby Fischer. Exposing its queen, the Web search giant bids $4.7 billion in a government auction of new wireless spectrum. Google's opponent, most likely Verizon or AT&T, pounces on the queen, raising the bid to corner Google's king.

Checkmate? Actually, this chess game ends in a draw. The high bidders, as yet undisclosed, are required to build an open wireless network allowing all sorts of new devices and software to run over it. And so in losing, Google (GOOG) still achieves its primary goal, revving up competition in the wireless market, without spending a dime.