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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Starry’s low-cost wireless Internet is bridging the digital divide in US cities

Starry! : CambridgeMA

By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW Chairman & CEO

Wi-Fi technology-based wireless ISP Starry is connecting thousands of households to the Internet at only US$15 per month with no caps and no startup fees. The super low cost connectivity service is a part of the Starry Connect program launched in late 2018 to bridge the digital divide within US cities, the company says. Starry was a finalist at the Affordable Connectivity Award at the 2020 Wi-Fi NOW Awards. 

It is well know that broadband services can be both scarce and expensive across rural USA. What is lesser known is that similar problems exist when it comes to delivering affordable broadband to public and affordable housing communities within US cities.

Starry Internet | The Internet Service Provider You'll Love
Above: The delightful ‘Starry astronaut’ used in a lot of Starry’s marketing and promotional material.

Enter Starry Connect: A program connecting tens of thousands of households with Wi-Fi-based wireless Internet at only $15 a month. Starry says that currently some 30,000 affordable and public housing units across the US are eligible to benefit from the program, which is equivalent to more than 100,000 potential users. Participating in the program is the Denver Housing Authority, the New York City Housing Authority, the Los Angeles Housing Authority, and others.

“Starry Connect provides a high-quality a 30/30 Mbps symmetrical service to every household that participates in our program. There are no data caps, no installation cost, and no additional equipment cost. Importantly, subscribers are not required to go through a credit check or other application process. We partner with public and affordable housing owners to tie eligibility to the housing community and not the individual users. This removes a significant hurdle to broadband adoption for a lot of households,” says Virginia Lam Abrams, SVP Government Affairs at Starry.

One hundred times less costly than fibre

The company Starry – a Boston-based startup fixed wireless ISP – is a remarkable story in its own right. Launched in 2016 by entrepreneur Chet Kanojia, the company has developed, manufactured, and deployed its own wireless network infrastructure to deliver low-cost broadband services in five US markets including Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, and Washington DC.

Above: Virginia Lam Abrams, Senior VP at Starry.

Starry uses licensed mmWave bands typically beamed out from rooftop-mounted base station antennas to reach receiving stations (CPEs) that typically connect to the existing wiring within for example and apartment complex. To transmit data over mmWave bands, Starry uses a clocked-up version of the 802.11ax protocol – in a sense ‘clocked up Wi-Fi 6’. The result – says Starry – is a dramatically lower cost of deploying broadband services compared to for example fixed wireline based services such as fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technology.

“We know the most expensive portion of the network is the last mile connection. Typical fibre deployments can cost anywhere between $2200-2500 per home passed. With our high-capacity, licensed point-to-multipoint fixed wireless technology, we can pass a home with a gigabit-quality signal for less than $25 . The efficiency in cost and time to scale is enormous. To date, we’re passing more than 4 million homes across our five markets with a sixth market set to launch this summer,” says Virginia Lam Abrams. Starry also has plans to release a new home CPE (Wi-Fi gateway) this year, Virginia Lam Abrams says.


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