Fierce 15 2016: Kymeta connecting vehicles via satellite

Fierce15 2016

Editor's note: Welcome to the 2016 Fierce 15, an annual list that recognizes 15 of the most interesting startups in the wireless industry. We'll publish one profile a day for 15 days; Kymeta is the eighth company to be recognized this year.

Company: Kymeta
Where it's based: Redmond, Washington
When it was founded: 2012

Why it's Fierce: The connected vehicle is one of the most ubiquitous aspects of the Internet of Things discussion. However, the cellular networks relied upon to connect those vehicles aren’t quite as ubiquitous. As Kymeta puts it, less than 10 percent of the world is covered by 4G/LTE and the parts with coverage are already home to an enormous amount of smartphones chewing through the available bandwidth. But the company may have a viable solution with its mTenna flat panel antenna.

The 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. Kymeta says satellites offer 1,000 times more available spectrum than terrestrial networks.

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

Kymeta is anticipating a 2017 launch for the mTenna and, most recently, the company received $62 million in Series D funding from investors including Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Liberty Global, bringing Kymeta’s total funding to date to $144 million.

With the launch still a few months off, Kymeta has already attracted customers and partners in various sectors including maritime (Intelsat, Panasonic, iDirect, Intellian, e3 Systems), aviation (Honeywell, Inmarsat, TECOM-Smiths Microwave) and automotive (Toyota).

LEARN: V2X is about to change driving. Find out how at the FierceTelecom Learning Center

Kymeta is also planning on leveraging its satellite technology in mining, construction, agriculture, and shipping applications but first, the company says some challenges need to be overcome.

“The greatest challenge currently facing Kymeta is that our customers are looking for more of everything. The market is saying they need to connect more devices, from all mobile platforms, with more data, more capacity and greater coverage. In order to meet this demand, the satellite industry must bundle the increasing bandwidth and capacity customers are demanding with a new and innovative satellite connectivity solution like Kymeta’s mTenna technology,” said Lisa Dreher, director of marketing at Kymeta.

What's next: “Kymeta is currently preparing for commercial launch of its mTenna technology and its combiner solution. Kymeta’s mTenna technology will become available to the maritime market in early 2017, and looks forward to transforming the many other industries as the company continues to bring more communications solutions to market,” Dreher said.

Read more: FierceWireless's Fierce 15 2016