Nearly two years after ending his quest to shake up the U.S. broadcast and cable marketplaces with his Aereo live television streaming service, Chaitanya Kanojia is returning to the fray with the debut of Starry, Inc., a new venture that plans to roll out wireless gigabyte-speed broadband services to residential customers. Unveiled late last week in New York City, Starry is backed by many of the same engineers and investors who launched the ill-fated Aereo service. In 2014, Kanojia was forced to shut down Aereo after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the company’s model of capturing and streaming live television broadcasts through a network of dime-size antennas assigned to individual subscribers violated broadcaster copyrights. Declaring, “the future of connectivity is wireless,” Kanojia told reporters that Starry will serve as “an innovative alternative to wired broadband.” The new service will use millimeter wave frequencies above 24 GHz and proprietary technology to deliver high-speed Internet access to customers at “a fraction of the cost” of traditional cable and fiber connections. Efforts are already underway at the FCC to establish a regulatory framework for wireless broadband millimeter wave operations above 24 GHz, and Kanojia proclaimed “there’s an insane amount of spectrum” in these bands to support the Starry service.
Unlike fixed wireline broadband connections that cost cable operators as much to $2,500 per household to deploy, Starry would provide broadband access wirelessly through a network of base station antennas that would connect to routers deployed in subscriber homes. Priced at $349.99 retail, each Starry router is self-installing and features a 3.8-inch touchscreen that provides data on Wi-Fi connection speeds and how much bandwidth is consumed by devices throughout the home. In addition to supporting the 802.11 Wi-Fi transmission standard, the Starry router also boasts an 802.15-ready transmitter that would connect “smart” household appliances to the “Internet of Things.” Although monthly subscription rates are yet to be disclosed, Kanojia confirmed that the Starry broadband service will be offered without contracts or data caps. Starry will begin offering the routers for sale today, and customers in Boston will be the first to receive service on a test-basis starting this summer. Confirming that Kanojia has discussed Starry’s proposed service with FCC officials, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he was all for “competition, competition, competition.”