Kymeta takes to the field—and seas—to prove beam-steering technology

Kymeta ship (Kymeta)
Kymeta has demonstrated that its technology can serve market niches like maritime. (Kymeta)

Kymeta, the Redmond, Washington-based startup perhaps best known for its work to connect cars via satellite technology, is picking up steam among much larger vessels these days: container ships.

Earlier this year, Kymeta received special temporary authority (STA) to test and demonstrate its antenna technology on a U.S.-flagged container ship traveling between Seattle and Oakland, California. The purpose of that test was to show that the Kymeta beam-steering technology and antenna mounted on a mobile platform could track and transmit to a fixed satellite.

Kymeta, which was recently granted FCC permission to continue tests in the 24-24.5 GHz frequency in Redmond, is taking to the field to prove the capabilities in market niches like maritime, according to Carl Novello, vice president of Solutions at Kymeta.

Kymeta’s first generation of products is already being used in North America and parts of Central America, as well as in Europe and Asia, he said. Its deployments run the gamut from a simple and elegant single panel installed on the top deck of a ship to the other end of the maritime spectrum, where four panels and a combiner are integrated into a vessel.

The company announced a deal in March with Intelsat for its KĀLO service, which is designed to offer a way to buy and sell connectivity to customers and sectors that are currently unreached or underserved by terrestrial networks.

The company has said the KĀLO service will change the way satellite services are purchased by direct users, integrators and service providers because it will be sold much in the way cellular services are purchased. Pairing the Kymeta mTenna antenna subsystem modules and fully integrated KyWay Terminals, KĀLO will provide “easy, flexible satellite connectivity” for both fixed and mobile applications, the company says. It will target vertical sectors like rail, energy, IoT, first responders, buses and more.

The company has talked about the connected car, which Novello said is an important future market. It’s working heavily on a number of connected car programs, and newer satellite constellations promise much lower latency than current systems, making the use case for satellites that much more compelling.

As for how the industry goes—whether it’s cellular-based vehicle-to-everything or something else, “we’re not sure yet,” he said. But “satellite could make a lot of that easier,” and it would be complementary.

Kymeta’s founder and CEO, Nathan Kundtz, Ph.D., was researching metamaterials while finishing his doctorate at Duke University when he discovered they could be commercialized at satellite beams.

The company’s mTenna uses software-driven, tunable metamaterial elements to holographically create a beam that can be electronically steered to follow a satellite, meaning it can stay connected even while moving. The enterprise and commercial applications are centered on providing steady Wi-Fi networks for planes, trains, tractors, cars and boats, which can all benefit from satellite connectivity.