Starry -- the fixed wireless startup that raised $100 million last year for a major network buildout -- this week added New York City to its roster of commercially launched markets. And the company also fanned some speculation about whether it might partner with a company like Sprint or T-Mobile to add its in-home broadband offering to a smartphone offering.
"Starry was asked about partnering with tech giants (YouTube) and other infrastructure companies," wrote the analysts at Wall Street firm New Street Research in a report from Starry's NYC launch event. "They want to keep options open, but the partnership that seemed to make the most sense was one with a wireless-only carrier (T-Mobile or Sprint). We spent a lot of time talking about the virtues of bundling broadband with wireless, particularly in light of Cable’s recent entry into mobile. Starry (at scale) could offer a unique way for wireless-only players to compete on this bundle."
The analysts explained that a company like T-Mobile could potentially add Starry's Internet services to their mobile phone offerings, thus bundling mobile services with Internet services.
Starry of course is not alone in looking for partnerships that would pair in-home Internet services with a smartphone plan. Verizon and AT&T both offer fiber-powered Internet services in markets across the country alongside their wireless offerings, while Comcast and Charter recently entered the smartphone game via MVNO deals with Verizon. Further, T-Mobile has said that it would embark on a major in-home Internet buildout if its merger with Sprint is approved.
Regardless, Starry this year continues to work on its network buildout plan, which involves rolling out its cap-free, low-cost fixed wireless broadband service to almost 20 total markets following initial tests in 2017 in parts of its home town of Boston. Aside from New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, other Starry markets include Denver; Cleveland; Chicago; Houston; Dallas; Seattle; Detroit; Atlanta; Indianapolis; San Francisco; Philadelphia; Miami, Memphis; Phoenix; Minneapolis; Manchester, NH; Portland, Ore.; and Sioux Falls, SD.
Starry, which has initially focused on apartment buildings and other types of multiple-dwelling units, has been using millimeter wave band spectrum (in the 37GHz to the 38.6GHz band) to underpin a 200 Mbit/s symmetrical, 802.11-based, no-contract broadband service for $50 per month.
Starry's business model has also grabbed the attention of some Wall Street analysts. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote earlier this year that the company's "technology, the economics, and the business itself all appear to be working."
Network and customer metrics
During its NYC launch, Starry provided some interesting updates on its market rollout efforts, network performance characteristics and customer metrics. Starry currently offers services to a total of 1.5 million homes across all of its markets. The company expects to expand that figure to a total of 8 million to 9 million homes by the end of this year. The company is currently targeting dense urban areas where there are more than 1,000 households per square mile. The company said each of its base stations -- which are typically installed on towers and other sites that are above light poles and other so-called street furniture -- could cover up to 5,000 receivers.
Starry said that traffic across its network is also growing. Ten months ago, the company's average customer consumed 260GB per month, but that figure is now 350GB per month. The company added that the top 5% of users consume 750GB per month and the top 1% consumes 1.3TB per month.
Starry isn't the only company working on using fixed wireless technology to challenge wired Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Charter. Others include Verizon with its 5G Home service as well as the likes of Common Networks, Redzone Wireless and Rise Broadband.