How Wireless Startup Starry Plans to Challenge the Giant ISPs

How Wireless Startup Starry Plans to Challenge the Giant ISPs
Before Starry There Was Aereo
Understanding mmWave and How It Works
Why mmWave Is So Appealing
Starry Station Is How You Connect
Starry Station IQ Is an Important Feature
Yes, There Are Full Parental Controls
Mobile Control Is Central to the Experience
Starry Wing Is a Repeater
The Rollout Might Be Slow Going
An Eye On Pricing and Availability
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How Wireless Startup Starry Plans to Challenge the Giant ISPs

Starry is aiming to leapfrog established ISP services by giving Web users another choice for accessing the Internet. We look at the startup and its technology.

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Before Starry There Was Aereo

To understand Starry requires knowing some history about founder Chet Kanojia. Prior to starting Starry, Kanojia founded a company named Aereo that provided subscribers with the ability to view live and recorded video content they captured through over-the-air broadcasts. While Aereo argued that its service was legal, copyright holders as well as cable and satellite companies sued, arguing that it should be treated as a TV service provider and pay the license fees for the video content. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled Aereo violated content producers' copyrights. Without enough cash to the pay licensing fees, Aereo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and ceased operations.

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Understanding mmWave and How It Works

Starry's service is made possible through the use of millimeter wave band active phased array technology. More simply, the company has developed hubs, called Starry Beam, that connect to the mmWave, 30GHz (or more) spectrum. Once it collects the waves running across that spectrum, it beams it out to customers. The technology is somewhat similar to how wireless networks collect spectrum to deliver Internet connectivity to smartphone and tablet users.

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Why mmWave Is So Appealing

Starry is quick to point out that mmWave is an exceedingly important component in its service. While the company could have used other spectrum, mmWave is practically unused and has the capacity to handle large amounts of traffic. Better yet, it can deliver speeds of up to 1G bps. To put that into perspective, Time Warner Cable's "Ultimate" service tops out at 50M bps, a far cry from 1G bps.

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Starry Station Is How You Connect

Once the company installs Starry Beams around the United States, those Beams send out the waves to devices owned by consumers. Those devices, called Starry Points, will sit in windows and capture the signals. The signals are then transported to the Starry Station, which effectively acts as a home router. Think of it like this: Starry Beam is the Internet "provider," Starry Point is the modem and Starry Station is the router.

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Starry Station IQ Is an Important Feature

Once connectivity is established, it's time to get Starry up and running. Central to that is a feature called Starry Station IQ. The router provides easy-to-understand set-up instructions and guidance on a range of key metrics, including how many devices are connecting to the network, which of those devices is performing best and how strong the signal is. Starry Station IQ is designed to be a one-stop shop for understanding what's happening on the network at any given time.

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Yes, There Are Full Parental Controls

Starry was quick to point out that parental controls have been baked into Starry Station. So, users will be able to determine from their mobile devices when kids should be allowed to access the Internet. The feature also helps parents determine what kinds of content kids can access and whether certain devices can circumvent network-wide controls.

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Mobile Control Is Central to the Experience

Starry has said that it has developed a mobile application designed to control all facets of the company's user experience. From the company's app, users can quickly run diagnostics on the network, no matter where they are. Users can also modify controls, change parental settings and more. Mobile is central to the Starry experience.

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Starry Wing Is a Repeater

Although mmWave should provide a solid connection, there are still some places where WiFi signals are hard to capture. For those areas, Starry will sell the Starry Wing. The Starry Wing is essentially a repeater that connects to the Starry Station and provides connectivity in hard-to-reach areas. Best of all, unlike many WiFi extenders, it doesn't require users to create a new network name

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The Rollout Might Be Slow Going

For now, Starry has committed to starting its rollout in Boston, though it says that it plans to ramp up rather quickly in the coming months. The issue, however, is that Starry will need to place its Beams around cities and other populated areas in order to create networks. So, while Starry may sound promising, it could take the company quite a while to get into midsize and small market areas.

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An Eye On Pricing and Availability

Starry will start selling its Starry Station for $350 on Feb. 5, though customers can reserve a device right now. According to Starry, supplies are limited, so it may take some time to get one of its devices in-house. Still, that shouldn't be much of an issue: According to the company's site, Starry will kick off its beta program in Boston this summer and tack on additional cities after that.

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