Lockheed Martin teams up with Omnispace on hybrid 5G space network

Earlier this year startup Omnispace locked down $60 million to help finance plans for a satellite hybrid global 5G network and now it has aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin on board as a strategic partner.

Lockheed Martin and Omnispace on Tuesday announced a strategic interest agreement to evaluate jointly developing a global space-based 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN).

Omnispace’s vision involves combining a non-geostationary satellite constellation, levering its 2 GHz S-band spectrum, with capacity from telecom operators’ terrestrial mobile networks.

It proposes direct-to-device connectivity, for both users and IoT. Services would span commercial, enterprise, and government industries for global communications worldwide.

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Omnispace sees the 3GPP-compliant "one global network" as having reach, reliability and resiliency to support a variety of applications such as autonomous vehicles, unmanned aircraft, public safety and smart agriculture.

Lockheed Martin Space EVP Rick Ambrose said in a statement that the company shares a common vision with Omnispace “of a space-based 5G global network that would enable users to seamlessly transition between satellite and terrestrial networks – eliminating the need for multiple devices on multiple networks.”

Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest defense contractors, and Omnispace CEO Ram Viswanathan called out the company’s expertise in both satellite technology and the government sector.

“We welcome Lockheed Martin's holistic approach to complex systems and deep expertise in satellite technology and government markets, along with their commitment to creating innovative communication solutions,” Viswanathan said in a statement.

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The announcement pointed to coverage and capacity of the proposed 5G network as capable of supporting defense, government and military use, “including mobile joint all-domain interoperable communications.’”

If successful, the companies said the space-based 5G solution would represent the first truly dual-use 5G platform for commercial and government missions.

Lockheed Martin added communications infrastructure veteran Jim Taiclet to its leadership ranks last May, when he left his role as American Tower CEO to head up Lockheed Martin as president and chief executive.  Taiclet had already been serving on the board of Lockheed Martin at the time.

D.C.-based Omnispace also is pursuing work in the military space as one of four startups awarded in the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN)’s Starts Navy & USMC 5G pitch competition this past November.

That provided the company the chance to pilot its technology with the Navy and Marine Corps at the U.S. Department of Defense and Verizon’s 5G Living Lab. For that project it partnered with LinQuest, a space systems technology company focused on U.S defense and intelligence communities.

Omnispace closed on equity financing in February, in a round led by new investor Fortress Investment Group, with participation from existing investors Columbia Capital, Greenspring Associates, TDF Ventures and Telecom Ventures.

At the time, the company said initial network elements, including Thales Alenia satellites and other network infrastructure, would start service in 2022 to validate key elements and ensure a successful commercial system launch.