Expanding and upgrading wireless networks requires an astounding amount of investment, both in terms of time and resources. As we head into the era of 5G connectivity, that investment only increases.
But Starry Internet, founded by Chet Kanojia, is looking to lower the cost for the entire industry through a new partnership with Marvell.
Partnering with Marvell, the maker of the 802.11ac and new 802.11ax chipsets, Starry plans to release the reference designs for their fixed wireless technologies. This will incorporate elements of Starry’s millimeter wave fixed wireless IP for pre-standard 5G connectivity, letting any operator across the globe manufacture their own Starry Point devices and sell/distribute their own 5G network.
But let’s back up.
Starry Internet launched back in January of 2016 with a brand new way to deliver internet to urban areas. Using a phased array laser atop a building in a city center, users could connect to ultrafast internet through a device called the Starry Point. The Starry Point would sit outside the user’s window or on their roof and receive connectivity, via millimeter wave technology (the same stuff used in the TSA scanners at the airport), to their home.
The company has raised $63 million thus far, but revolutionizing an industry can be expensive nonetheless, especially when it’s dominated by a small number of incumbents.
To lower costs for both Starry and the wireless industry as a whole, Starry is getting the help of Marvell to build the actual radio chipset for the Starry Point system in the 802.11ax chip. Moreover, Starry and Marvell are now licensing their reference designs so that anyone can get into the wireless game. You can imagine electric companies, home security companies, smaller operators and contract manufacturers themselves getting into the game and creating more competition, all on the back of Starry’s technology.
Kanojia likens the move to Tesla’s battery business. Tesla is investing long-term in Gigafactories and opening up access to Supercharging stations and Tesla patents in hopes that the whole industry will move forward with electric. This will open up the market to electric vehicles, lowering overall cost and putting Tesla at an advantage through the Gigafactories.
This isn’t Kanojia’s first project, and it may not even be his most ambitious.
Aereo was founded back in 2010, and used large collections of micro antennae to let users watch broadcast television through their computer, phone or set top box. In essence, the antenna functioned as rabbit ears which users would rent on a monthly basis for access to a small variety of channels, complete with DVR.
The broadcast industry hated this, as Aereo and those users paid nothing to access these broadcast channels (which are technically free), and sued Aereo to high hell. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the broadcast networks and sent Aereo into bankruptcy.
This time, Kanojia is targeting ISPs with a brand new technology. And it comes at an interesting time. With the recent ruling on repealing Net Neutrality rules, Starry’s decision to release reference designs should theoretically create a greater level of competition within the industry, which will put more power in the hands of consumers.