Starry is getting ready to deploy its technology at 24 GHz after winning 104 licenses in the Federal Communications Commission’s latest millimeter wave auction. That represents 51 partial economic areas (PEAs) in 25 states, covering more than 60 million people and 25 million households.
So far, Starry has been offering its fixed wireless internet service using primarily the 37 GHz band. The 24 GHz band offers slightly better propagation, but it isn’t a dramatic difference, according to Starry CEO and co-founder Chet Kanojia.
The FCC's clock phase of the 24 GHz auction ended in April, but officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were still telling members of Congress last month that 5G deployments using 24 GHz spectrum could negatively impact weather forecasting.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has dismissed the claims as unfounded, reiterating his stance last Friday in an address to the New York State Wireless Association, saying when it comes to the 24 GHz band, the message from FCC staff has been a strong and consistent belief that the government can protect passive weather sensors while facilitating 5G.
Asked about the interference claims, Kanojia said: “We don’t think it’s a material issue.”
Starry is unique in that it works with contract manufacturers to produce its equipment based on its own designs, thereby saving the company significant money. It uses the IEEE standard 802.11ax. Everything it uses was developed in-house, including the Starry Beam network node, the at-premise transceiver and in-home Wi-Fi hub.
The combination of shared-licensed and exclusively-licensed spectrum is a powerful one, according to Kanojia. It’s difficult to operate a network using unlicensed spectrum, but Starry uses the 5 GHz band or unlicensed frequencies, for example, for maintenance windows. If it’s switching out radios or doing a software update, it will fall back to the unlicensed spectrum on an interim basis.
However, the core network uses fully licensed spectrum, which may be on a shared or exclusively-licensed basis, but there’s always coordination involved to mitigate risk of interference.
The company is now offering internet services in Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City and Denver, and it plans to expand to more markets including Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Miami, Memphis, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Manchester, N.H.; Portland, Oregon; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Here are some of the markets it picked up in the 24 GHz auction: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; San Antonio, Brownsville, Lubbock and El Paso, Texas; Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Florida; Indianapolis, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Bloomington, Indiana; Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee; Richmond and Virginia Beach, Virginia; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana; Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, Alabama; Fayetteville, Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and Rochester, New York; Little Rock, Arkansas; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Tucson, Arizona; Springfield, Massachusetts; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Charleston, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Decatur, Illinois; Wichita, Kansas; Spokane, Washington; and Boise City, Idaho.
In its early days, Starry is targeting urban areas with about 2,000 or 3,000 homes per square mile, and it tends to be mostly apartment buildings and brownstones. “We think that’s about 30 million households in the country that we can focus on right now,” Kanojia said.
The company offers service plans for $50 per month for 200 Mbps, inclusive of installation, as well as 24/7 customer care and all the equipment. It does not offer self-installation of equipment. Starry employees can do an install in about 40 minutes, and while costly for the company, Kanojia said it’s better to roll a truck to a residence than risk an unhappy customer with a failed install. “It doesn’t make sense to chance that,” he said.