Starry founder Chet Kanojia seems intent on changing how people get their internet service like he did with Aereo and television. While the beta launch of the startup's millimeter-wave wireless service won't happen until this summer, people will be able to get the first taste of the Starry formula — a WiFi router called the Starry Station — much sooner than that. Like Google's OnHub, the $349 Starry Station is meant to give regular people a simpler, sleeker, more reliable way to set-up and manage their Wi-Fi networks, but it also packs a handful of curious extras.
Before we go any further, know this -- the Starry Station is not the bit of hardware you'll need to link up to the company's new, fixed-wireless broadband network. Once the service launches, customers will get an antenna called a "Starry Point" that connects to any existing router. Simple.
The Station is a totally separate deal, one the company describes as a "hub" that allows users to check on the health of all their WiFi connections. A bubbly (some would say "friendly") interface gives your overall network health a score based on WAN and LAN issues, and parts of a network map will turn red if things get sketchy. You'll be using the 3.8-inch touchscreen display to dig into all those details, and -- perhaps thankfully -- Ookla's Speed Check service is baked right into the router, as is the ability to set parental controls and set up guest networks.
More importantly, the Station was designed for sheer networking ease-of-use, a problem we've seen bigger players tackle with varying degrees of success. One touch, for instance, is all it takes to coax the router into displaying your network name and password. And a proximity sensor on the station can tell when you waddle over so it knows to display, health score, current internet speed, and the number of devices connected. Starry's edge over the competition might come from its stance on future-proofing, as evidenced by what's inside the glossy white wedge. The Station's wireless radio plays nice with standard 802.11ac networks, but also packs support for future implementations of the 802.15 standard for Internet-of-Things devices.
Kanojia and his crew are still unveiling Starry at an event in New York, so we'll have more as the situation develops. Eventually, he'll mention that you can reserve a Starry Station until February 5th and that the first units will start shipping this March.
Devindra Hardawar contributed to this report.