May 19, 2016

Starry Station solves cost of providing high speed internet to the the last mile

Starry Station is a new internet provider who can use a two-foot-high rooftop unit able to serve between 600 and 900 customers within a roughly one-kilometer range with 300 Mbps to 1 Gbps internet. The cost per customer to setup is $25 instead of $2500 for other providers. This will solve the cost of providing the last mile of high speed internet.

Installing the infrastructure is so cheap it could allow for a profitable business even if only 5 to 10 percent of potential customers took service, far less than the 50 percent or more that is typically needed to provide enough payback on capital costs, he says.

Starry uses high-frequency radio spectrum—between 37 gigahertz and 40 gigahertz—able to carry vast amounts of data. Some companies already use a simple version of millimeter wave technology to provide wireless Internet access to customers, but existing systems are very limited in that they require one new antenna added to a tower for each new customer. They also require a direct line of sight to work, because such high-frequency signals are very easily blocked by objects—people, foliage, and even rain or snow.

The “active phased array” approach overcomes these obstacles. With these systems, wireless transmissions are distributed over arrays of 16 or more antennas, and dispatched in rapid and very complex pulses that allow one transmitter to serve hundreds of customers at a time. What’s more, these arrays can reach some customers’ antennas that aren’t in the line of sight.

Starry says it has measured speeds from 300 megabits per second to more than one gigabit per second at a range of between one and 1.5 kilometers—even amid rain or snow.

High-frequency radio signals used to required expensive chips made of an exotic material called gallium arsenide, making the technology so costly it was only practical for applications such as military radar systems. But recent advances have allowed silicon chips—built with standard fabrication methods—to do the same job.

Starry, which has 57 employees in Boston and New York, is prototyping parts of the system in-house.

Even though Google Fiber and other companies and municipalities are starting to provide gigabit service, today only about 8 percent of the country has access to such speeds

AT and T and Verizon have announced trials for millimeter wave fixed wireless systems, and major players like Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, and Google are working on versions. Samsung is working on mobile technologies using 64 antennas to send and receive signals on ultra-high frequencies. And researchers at New York University have also tested advanced versions for mobile networks. But if a gigabit signal reaches your urban apartment, it might well come first from Starry.

SOURCES - Starry Station, Technology Review

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