Starry, a small but growing US internet service provider, is trialling homegrown tech for an on-demand, no-commitment uplink capacity boost that targets the do-everything-from-home crowd whose needs are unmet by non-symmetrical broadband.

The innovative ISP’s Upload Boost add-on feature enables customers to dynamically increase their dedicated upload capacity to deliver symmetrical speeds in support of upstream-intensive applications. Available on a trial basis to pilot participants in certain parts of Starry’s six-city footprint, the add-on spotlights the agility of Starry’s proprietary fixed wireless network technology to personalize the broadband experience. Starry says the experimental feature will help satisfy home internet users’ growing need for occasional fast uplink speeds to improve work-from-home, gaming, virtual learning, and telehealth experiences.

The add-on starts at $5/month depending upon the speed tier, but it initially is only available with Starry’s lower-end $50/month 200 Mbps downlink by 100 Mbps uplink tier, upgrading it into a symmetrical 200 Mbps service on demand. Customers can remove the add-on at any time, so if they need the boost one month but not the next, they will not be on the hook for an ongoing subscription. Starry pledges to test out other price points during the trial.

Putting customers in control

Starry’s on-demand capacity boost is part of a larger effort to insert flexibility into its platform and provide a more agile and user-friendly broadband service. Upload Boost specifically addresses a pain point experienced by home internet users who may need symmetrical speeds occasionally or irregularly, even though overall broadband usage tends to be asymmetrical, with sufficient downstream capacity being most essential. This is an issue not only for existing Starry customers, but also for subscribers on cable operators’ hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks, which face what is becoming a legacy curse of limited upstream capacity, though future cable technology iterations aim to address that situation.

Starry’s approach, rather than providing static upstream capacity, shifts control to customers so they don’t pay for more upload capacity than they need but can get added capacity as required. Starry has not stated a date for commercializing Upload Boost, but continued testing will help it ascertain customer preferences around symmetrical capacity and data speed, which will play into any broad commercial offer.

Big plans for Starry future

Starry is sometimes described as a 5G provider because its service relies upon licensed mmWave bands. However, the company does not offer mobile service, and its fixed network is based upon near line-of-sight (NLOS) transmission, unlike mobile networks that transmit their signals in virtually all directions from a cell site. Starry currently serves customers in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) across six major US metropolitan areas including Boston; New York City; Washington, DC; Denver; Los Angeles; and Columbus, Ohio. The carrier intends to expand to Las Vegas later this year.

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Starry became a publicly traded company in March 2022, after merging with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) FirstMark Horizon Acquisition. The deal was aimed in part at providing Starry with up to $452 million in cash to help the company expand its coverage footprint. Starry expects to increase its number of serviceable households from 4.7 million to 25 million by 2026.