The Singapore-based startup Transcelestial really thinks outside of the box in terms of wireless communications. It’s invented a laser communications technology that uses infrared spectrum to connect under-served people around the world to the internet.
“The cost to connect the world is not commercially viable if upgrades depend on the rollout of new fiber cables,” stated Mohammad Danesh, co-founder and CTO of Transcelestial, in a recent announcement.
The company’s Centauri 25G product delivers 25 Gbps internet connectivity via laser beam, eliminating the need for underground cables or radio frequency-based devices. The technology can connect buildings point-to-point in less than a day.
Rohit Jha, co-founder and CEO of Transcelestial, told Fierce Wireless today that low-speed, inferior internet can be found in most parts of the world. But what’s really needed is high-speed internet to lift people in terms of education and economics. The company sees this need in both rural and dense urban areas. That’s why it set out to create Centauri. The 25G version, which will be available this quarter, builds on the original Centauri 10G.
Transcelestial created its Centauri devices by emulating fiber-optic technology – but without the optical glass and physical cables. Jha said the thinking was: “What if we take out the inside of the fiber core, use the same technology stack that’s used today, but shoot this laser wirelessly?”
He said that glass-less laser technology has been around for a long time, used in common applications such as laser pointers in educational settings.
But Transcelestial had to solve for some issues specific to wireless communications. First, it had to develop technology to protect the signal from weather such as precipitation. And it had to account for the fact that the tower or pole where the Centauri device is mounted might move or sway in the wind.
Jha said the company has solved these issues via its own IP.
And rather than using traditional RF spectrum bands that wireless operators use, Transcelestial uses spectrum in the infrared 200 THz range. Jha said this spectrum has the capacity for enormously larger traffic loads than radio waves, and it is freely available to use.
Centauri does not broadcast signals like traditional wireless. Rather, it’s a point-to- point solution that is deployed similar to microwave on traditional cell towers, street-level poles and other physical infrastructure.
The company is now producing the Centauri devices in a factory in Singapore. It has about 10 Transcelestial employees working at the factory along with employees from its manufacturing partner. Its goal is to scale up and produce about 2,400 of these devices annually.
The Centauri device is about the size of a shoebox and it uses less than 20 watts of power.
Transcelestial’s first customers are in Indonesia, the Philippines and India. And although Singapore has ubiquitous fiber, Transcelestial has some enterprise customers there. Jha said the technology has been used in Malaysia and the Philippines to connect islands to the internet, where the alternative would have been a subsea cable.
In urban areas, the devices can be deployed to create a wireless mesh.
The beginning of this story mentioned that Transcelestial thinks outside of the box. And that’s an understatement.
The company’s founders don’t just want to close the digital divide on Earth, they envision connecting celestial bodies as well.
“We started with the vision for technology to be in deep space,” said Jha. He and Danesh imagine a world where planets and moons are treated as islands connected by wireless communications. He talked a bit about Elon Musk’s space advances, especially reusable rockets. But he said in terms of Transcelestial’s space ambitions, “We realized it’s still a couple of years away.”
For now, it’s working on its terrestrial laser communications business.
Transcelestial is six years old, and it has raised about $25 million in three rounds of funding.