After Aereo's Collapse, Founder Hopes To Disrupt Wireless Broadband Market With 'Starry'

from the good-luck-out-there dept

You’ll of course recall that Aereo founder Chaitanya Kanojia’s attempt to disrupt the TV industry ran face-first into an army of broadcaster lawyers and a notably ugly ruling by the Supreme Court. Undaunted, Kanojia has returned with a new plan to try and disrupt the frequently pricey wireless broadband industry. Kanojia’s trying to do this via a new startup named “Starry,” unveiled at a launch event this week in New York. Starry is promising to offer users uncapped, gigabit speeds at prices less than most people pay their incumbent broadband provider.

Kanojia claims that the service will deliver this ultra-fast connectivity via what it’s calling the country’s “first millimeter active phased array technology.” FCC documents suggest that Starry will utilize spectrum in the 38 GHz band to deliver broadband to urban areas via hundreds of rooftop nodes scattered around the city. Users are given both a “Starry Point” antenna that sits outside their window, and need to buy a fancy $350 router called a “Starry Station” to connect to their various Wi-Fi devices. Kanojia tells TechCrunch that the technology will only cost around $25 per home to deploy:

“It costs the cable guys around $2,500 per home to deal with the construction costs of laying down cable,? said Kanojia on a phone call, setting the scene for his next big unveil. ?And beyond cost, there are regulatory hurdles that slow down the process. We can deliver faster broadband with no regulatory wait time and it will cost us only $25 per home.? Kanojia won?t disclose pricing but says that the service will offer various tiers based on speed (up to 1GB up and down) and that it will be ?orders of magnitude cheaper? than current broadband providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.”

The catch? One, nobody really knows specifically how well Starry’s phased array technology is going to work (especially in regards to line of sight), and Starry isn’t offering much hard technical detail right now beyond a YouTube video. If it does work, millimeter wave technology will still require the deployment of hundreds if not thousands of nodes across a city, distance limitations restricting its use to only denser urban areas. The broadband landscape is littered with the corpses of thousands of urban WISPs, which still rely on incumbent bandwidth, and still require slow, cumbersome deployment of a sizable amount of gear.

And while real-world disruption of national incumbents will probably be minimal, it’s still refreshing and absolutely necessary to see somebody try (and fortunately there’s spectrum available to try with). According to Starry, users can pre-order the self-install kits at the Starry website, after which they’ll be made available at Amazon and other retailers. The service will launch first in Boston in March. Variety got wind of the fact that around fifteen cities should be unveiled as launch markets sometime this year, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington D.C., Seattle and Denver.

And while nobody actually knows whether Starry will really work, with no real regulatory or legal hurdles in its path, Kanojia’s latest attempt at disruption — at the very least — shouldn’t wind up face down and unconscious at the Supreme Court.

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Companies: aereo, starry

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Comments on “After Aereo's Collapse, Founder Hopes To Disrupt Wireless Broadband Market With 'Starry'”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

so its like ubiquiti ? ? ?
think distributed/individual-based, ‘mesh’ networking is a pretty cool idea, if not the ultimate in small dee democracy in action…
if i recall, wasn’t just a urban-friendly method, but actually more popular in rural areas; the line-of-sight thing being one of the main issues…

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m quite keen on mesh networking in principle; the only issue is getting enough nodes connected to make it work. Would a satellite be able to function as a node with mesh networking technology or are we still reliant on one or more nodes being able to hook up with incumbent ISPs to enable connectivity to the wider internet?

Anonymous Coward says:

If you notice something, it’s that there are all sorts of startups trying to come on line to replace or do what the big telcos have done. The days of over charging and refusing to put in services is coming to a close.

Just like with court entities such as Prenda, it starts slow and small. But ever increasing numbers eventually find a way to establish themselves with a foot hold and after that it is Katy bar the door.

Google kicked all this off with gigabyte connections. Others are trying to move into the vacuum that the major telcos created. It is now a matter of time before they actually have some sort of competition, be it ever so small to start with. It’s long over due.

Whatever (profile) says:

Disruptive indeed

Well, let’s see…. 38gig wireless broadband from 1999:

Anyway, a little poking around makes it clear that much of that frequency band is a licensed band, and was auctioned as early as the year 2000. Not sure if Starry has licenses or how they are planning to use that band without having to license every installation.

The other part is the question of roof top transmitters. Generally such a transmitter would require FCC approval and licensing, and also local building code approval for ac commercial undertaking. It might even be that this sort of repeater / distribution node network wouldn’t be permitted on residential properties.

The concept of the technology is interesting, but unless it has good range it end up as a “city” solution, which doesn’t at all address the largest group of people without high speed internet connections, which are rural. It may or may not be a workable idea, but it may be more limited than everyone would like.

It seems like a variation on WiGig… proprietary routers and such seem like such a bad idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disruptive indeed

The FCC trumps the building codes et al for businesses or homes receiving video or internet over an external antenna. If the antenna is less than about 1 meter in diameter and less than 12′ above the roof line, then about all the AHJ can do is require you to paint it, so long as the paint doesn’t interfere with the signal.

If the same antenna is used to relay and receive, this would apply to a mesh network. If a separate antenna is used to relay the signal, then that antenna can be regulated.

It doesn’t apply to the base stations however. But those are likely attach to existing towers or commercial buildings and no one will care.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Disruptive indeed

The FCC trumps only to a point. If the installation is commercial in nature (ie, a repeater in a network / network node) it doesn’t get the same pass.

You also have to remember that at that frequency range, you are looking at things that are pretty much line of sight, and usually quite directional. It will be interesting to see how they overcome these issues, not in theory but in practical application.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Disruptive indeed

The FCC rules are explicit. Commercial doesn’t matter. Repeater doesn’t matter. What matters is that the antenna(s) in question are required to receive Internet access or video. If the antenna is not required to receive Internet access, then the rules do not apply. If the antennas also double as transmitters, that’s explicitly okay. What’s not okay, or at least can be regulated by HOAs, AHJs, et al are antennas not strictly required to receive internet.

The problem is of course the base stations, which are providing internet service only, so the rules don’t apply and you have to get approvals.

I’ve looked into using either ubiquiti or mamosa systems to set up a small WISP. My plan would be to buy a townhouse on a ridge nearby, use it as a repeater, and rent it out. I could use a single antenna as a repeater and effectively cut the bandwidth in half, or I could hide the repeater antenna behind the attic vent which is likely made of MDF or plastic and wouldn’t block too much of the signal.

From the vantage point, the repeater would have line of sight to my house and also to about a dozen data centers. I’m guessing I could get cheap bandwidth and some roof space at at least one of the data centers. Mamosa’s tools say I would get about 1.2Gbps using their radios. I’m guessing if I get about 6 people to split that, at $100/pp I would about break even and I could handle up to about 40 people and everyone would be able to stream a netflix UHD video at once. However, this model has problems scaling because of the roughly 40 people per backhaul limit.

I’ve even got the bank to give me a tentative okay to purchase a townhouse. The problem is I don’t want to be in the WISP business and if someone else is going to do it within the next few years, I’d rather just wait.

BTW, I think there is likely a market for sector antennas painted to look like shutters. You could place them on houses and since from a distance, you couldn’t tell they were there, they would be easy to get approved.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Three letters, miles of red tape

And while nobody actually knows whether Starry will really work, with no real regulatory or legal hurdles in its path, Kanojia’s latest attempt at disruption — at the very least — shouldn’t wind up face down and unconscious at the Supreme Court.

No real regulatory or legal hurdles yet.

Guaranteed, if it starts to look like it’ll pose a real problem to the current ISP’s they’ll be tripping over themselves to beg the government to introduce ‘necessary regulations’, all to ‘protect the consumers’ of course, and not so incidentally make it too expensive for the service to operate.

Ninja (profile) says:

The only real way to actually hurt the current duopoly/oligopoly is if other companies start seriously deploying redundant infra-structure and take a shot at the poorly served areas. Reminds me of this airline that got pretty big in the US serving only the countryside and staying away from the expensive, crowded hubs (ie: New York, Atlanta etc). I see huge opportunities here and the price the current ISPs charge for really crappy services should be more than enough to sustain the expansion. The problem is the initial costs. Alphabet could detach Google fiber from Google (as a company) and push for such goal. Not limited to the US.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are correct, but so far the only real “success” has been Google fiber, and that is only because they have insane amounts of cash on hand and can pretty much buy any market they want. They have no real need to make a profit (or even significant income) in the near or even medium term. They could literally throw a few billion at the problem and not come close to emptying the corporate coffers.

It’s also why few want to do anything rural, as the cost per hookup goes up (longer connection cabling and more signal boosters / repeaters / etc) and the income does not. It’s much easier in many ways to do what Google Fiber is doing, select an area based on demand and good demographics, concentrate in a very small overall area, and try to get the most people in that area signed up. It’s still frighteningly expensive, but at least they are trying!

Mimosa is already doing this says:

Mimosa's products will ship next month

The Mimosa equivalent of the Starry Point is the Mimosa C5i.

The Mimosa A5-360 is the equivalent of the Starry Beam.

Both systems will start shipping in high volume in February 2016.

Mimosa is accepting online pre-orders for both right now:

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Mesh mesh baby says:

Connecting to the wider Internet

@ #20 – A mesh network can connect to the wider Internet via many routes. An ISP can provide a connection (this can be either a consumer connection or a (typically fiber) business connection). Alternatively, members of the mesh network can agree to provide connectivity via their own personal consumer and/or business connections. If a satellite were to be used as a link in a mesh network, that would be a much more expensive proposition because satellites are very expensive and satellite dishes would also have to be purchased and installed, all of which is much less economical than just routing traffic through some number of ISP connections. With multiple ISP connections, the mesh could in theory scatter-route its packets such that no ISP would have more than a small fraction of anyone’s message traffic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Kanojia is the genius and has resources that can provide affordable services. He fell down as he was mercilessly dragged down by strong forces that were determined to condemn him of his earlier business model on grounds of legality. Whether it was legality or the fear of a new rival competetor, that was then, now Kanojia has come back even more strong and powerful.

Karen Lambord (user link) says:

Let’s just hope that it all goes well. Nowadays, technology is much more economical than it was in the past. The concept of this particular technology is quite mesmerizing considering the fact that it happens soon and people are satisfied with the results. Service providers need to improve their service by making a plan and executing it perfectly without any major problems

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