Starry aims to bring gigabit Internet to every US home

Starry, a startup company from the founder of the now-defunct Aereo Internet TV service, plans to use previously-unusable wireless spectrum to beam gigabit Internet to people's homes.

Starry
The Starry hub, shown here, would use high-frequency wireless antennas to beam gigabit Internet throughout a home.

Chet Kanojia’s previous startup, Aereo, was ambitious to say the least.

Before it was bankrupted in the wake of an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling, Aereo allowed customers to view live or recorded over-the-air TV on their computers, tablets, phones, and other devices. This approach annoyed cable providers and broadcast networks, which argued successfully that Aereo was infringing copyright by transmitting content over the Internet without permission.

Now, Mr. Kanojia has set his sights on a different industry: Internet service providers. Most people only have one choice for high-speed Internet at home, he argued at a launch event in New York City on Wednesday, because wired networks are so expensive to install that no company wants to dig up people’s yards and lay miles of cable just for the chance of competing with the existing provider. 

Kanojia’s solution is a wireless hub called Starry. Designed by the same antenna makers who built Aereo, Starry uses extremely high-frequency “millimeter waves” to beam Internet through homes at gigabit speeds. This wireless approach, the company says, is “modular and efficient,” and can be quickly rolled out to reach thousands of subscribers in cities around the US.

From a technical perspective, however, Starry faces some significant hurdles. High frequency transmissions can carry a lot of data, but because they have such a short wavelength they can’t travel very far through the air and are stopped by obstacles such as windows, walls, buildings, and even moisture in the air. (Lower frequencies, which can travel over longer distances and through buildings, are known as “beachfront property” in the spectrum community and are highly prized by wireless carriers.)

To get around this limitation, Starry customers will have to install an antenna that sits partially inside and partially outside a window; the antenna will direct itself to receive an Internet signal from outside and beam it to a base station in the house. But the company’s Starry Beams, the municipal wireless nodes that send a signal to subscribers’ antennas, will need to be no more than a mile apart – the frequencies being used are so high that the wireless transmissions simply won’t carry very far through the air. This need for density might make Starry impractical for anything other than urban deployment, and might make it difficult for the company to expand as quickly as it says it wants to. 

Starry will launch service in Boston starting this summer, and will roll out to other cities later this year. Hubs, which will start shipping in March, cost a penny under $350; the company hasn’t said how much it will charge for a monthly Internet subscription but has promised no contracts or data caps.

[Editor's note: This story has been changed from its original version to more accurately describe the timetable for Starry's rollout. The Starry hub will begin shipping in March, and Starry Internet service will go live in Boston in summer 2016.]

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.