It may sound a little far-fetched for a company to promise gigabit Internet speeds at home without any ISP involvement, but that’s exactly what Aereo’s co-founder Chaitanya “Chet” Kanojia is promising.
For those unaware, Chet’s previous company Aereo dared to take on US broadcasters with an online streaming service that allowed users to watch live and time-shifted TV on any device connected to the Internet.
The service ran for two years until the United States Supreme Court deemed it unlawful and shut it down in 2014. Despite that, DVR company TiVo still decided to buy the company in 2015 for $1 million, clearly seeing potential.
Chet is no longer involved in Aereo, but his latest company, Starry, promises to take on yet another behemoth – ISPs.
Starry promises to deliver gigabit Internet to homes via a wireless network rather than a traditional wired one. The technology was built by the same antenna experts as those behind Aereo, but once again it could leave the company in a whole lot of trouble.
Rather than seek regulatory approval in the US, Starry is attempting to use several unlicensed bands of spectrum; something the FCC is unlikely to take lightly. Despite that, Chet believes that consumers deserve high-speed Internet at a fraction of the cost offered by ISPs. He also wants to give Americans more choice, as currently many in the country only have one or two ISPs to choose from.
Starry’s wireless Internet is powered by using millimetre waves; which anyone familiar with this sort of technology will recognise the first hurdle in the company’s plans for world domination. Millimetre waves are unable to travel long distances and have difficulty penetrating obstacles; whether those obstacles be brick walls or water particles in the air.
That presents a rather major problem when it comes to a global rollout. In places like the UK where it rains frequently, any customers using Starry’s technology would be without an Internet connection on a regular basis and still left with the bill to pay for it.
Chet’s team has partially solved this issue by creating an antenna that can hang outside a window and receive the signal. It works similar to a satellite dish. That antenna will then be connected to the company’s Hub which is being called ‘Starry Station’.
The Station will supposedly include a built-in ‘Internet health monitoring system’, which is designed to inform users of how much bandwidth is available and what’s currently being used by devices around the home. If it believes that there is a better way to optimise the network, it will suggest solutions; such as creating a new network for specific devices.
The hardware for the station itself is probably one of the most interesting routers currently on the market however. Rather than being controlled by a web interface, everything can be manipulated on a built-in touchscreen on the front of the hub.
It also affords functionality not available on traditional routers. Users will be able to install things such as parental controls and ad-blocking technology directly at network level, rather than on individual devices.
All that will come at price however, with the router costing $349.99 (£245) – hardly cheap when the company bills its services as an ‘affordable’ alternative to ISPs.
Also, despite solving the problem with getting a signal that can’t penetrate the walls with an outside antenna, the company still has not explained how it plans to roll-out the service; after all Starry will need to have broadcast points close to people’s homes in order to deliver a signal.
Starry says that it will launch in Boston in the United States first, but with so many questions still remaining about how well the service will work, how affordable it will actually be and whether the ISPs will try to fight it, it’s unlikely that this technology will revolutionise the broadband industry this side of the pond.