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Starry COO Alex Moulle-Berteaux says the initial trial, focused on the company's 200-Meg/100-Meg speed tier, will eventually be expanded to bring symmetrical speeds to Starry's premium broadband plans.
August 15, 2022
Coming through on a promise to introduce "personalized" broadband capabilities, fixed wireless access (FWA) startup Starry has begun to trial "Upload Boost," a $5 per month add-on that will support symmetrical data speeds.
The initial focus of the trial is on Starry's lower-end 200 Mbit/s down by 100 Mbit/s upstream tier – the upgrade will ratchet that up to 200 Mbit/s by 200 Mbit/s for an extra $5 per month. The 200 Mbit/s by 100 Mbit/s tier regularly sells for $50 per month. Starry noted that it will test out other price points during the trial.
Starry currently markets two other tiers: a 500 Mbit/s down by 250 Mbit/s upstream service for $65 per month, and a 1 Gbit/s down by 500 Mbit/s up tier for $80 per month, that currently aren't part of the Upstream Boost trial. All of Starry's service tiers are free of monthly data caps and usage limits.
Figure 1: Starry's move into "personalized" broadband is focused on upload speeds and symmetry, but future enhancements and customizations are expected to cover other performance metrics such as latency.
(Source: Starry. Used with permission.)
Alex Moulle-Berteaux, Starry's chief operating officer, said the initial Upstream Boost trial, offered today to pilot participants in "selected buildings" across all of Starry's service markets, is just the start.
"The plan is to continue to roll out the Upload Boost add-on to our premium plans," he said, noting that Starry can adjust its speed/link profiles centrally at the network management level. "It's all part of our design to be able to support symmetric across all the plans."
From a competitive standpoint, Upstream Boost is taking aim at DOCSIS-based hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks that are, at least for the moment, downstream-heavy, and lack the ability to deliver symmetrical speeds at higher levels. The cable industry is hoping to rectify that with "mid-split" and "high-split" upgrades that beef up the amount of spectrum dedicated to the upstream. Future DOCSIS 4.0 networks will support multi-gig symmetrical speeds.
Starry's Upstream Boost trial, Moulle-Berteaux said, will help Starry determine what kind of appetite and take-rate there is for symmetrical data speeds. Starry is working on other features and pricing for its personalization efforts, but hasn't determined when it will commercialize the offering.
Starry offered baseline symmetrical speeds in the very early days of its service but later adjusted to the current baseline of offering a downstream-to-upstream ratio of 2:1. Moulle-Berteaux said Starry's network was fundamentally built to support data symmetry, but noted that usage tends to be more asymmetrical – 10:1 on average, and 6:1 during peak hours.
Starry announced last week it's seeing the average customer consume about 432 gigabytes of data per month, with the top 5% consuming more than 1 terabyte per month.
"We have designed the network to give us a lot of flexibility in terms of how we profile and how we manage and serve customers at the router level," Moulle-Berteaux said. "We're looking to tune networks and package them in ways that we think customers need them."
Though delivering symmetrical data is the focus of Upstream Boost today, Moulle-Berteaux said Starry can and likely will be more flexible and customizable with data speeds and pricing.
Moulle-Berteaux said educating customers on their data needs will also tie into the effort, as most don't know how much speed they truly need to support the applications they use before selecting a predetermined data speed tier.
Customizable latency on the horizon
"It's actually part of the reason that we're doing this," he said. Starry, he added, will go well beyond its current three "good, better, best" tiers and make the offering "much more personalized."
While speed and pricing appears to be the initial focus of those efforts, "latency is next," Moulle-Berteaux said. "I won't talk too much about it because we're at work on it. It's not an easy problem to solve. But, we're on it."
Starry's Upstream Boost trial comes in the wake of a second quarter in which the startup added a record 9,703 customers, for a total of 80,950, up 69.4% year-over-year. Starry also reiterated guidance that it expects to end 2022 with more than 100,000 customers.
Starry is pursuing a range of financial options to ensure the company has enough funding to reach break-even. The company also posted a study (PDF) showing that Starry was able to turn a profit in multiple buildings launched in 2020 and Q1 2021 within three to four quarters after launch.
Starry currently offers service in parts of Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Denver, and Columbus, Ohio. Starry's seventh market, Las Vegas, is set to come online in Q3 2022. The company ended Q2 2022 with 5.7 million serviceable homes.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
Senior Editor, Light Reading
Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.
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