Kymeta Corp., the flat-panel antenna company that’s backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has demonstrated the capabilities of its satellite broadband data transmission technology in front of a tough crowd: the rich and famous at the Monaco Yacht Show.
“This is really about us showing our first product in action,” said Nathan Kundtz, president and CEO of the venture headquartered in Redmond, Wash.
Kymeta makes stop-sign-sized antennas that take advantage of metamaterials to receive satellite signals without having to turn and focus on the spacecraft flying overhead.
During the week surrounding the show in Monaco show, which ran from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, Kymeta set up two of its antennas on the roof of the stylish Restaurant Virage to provide Wi-Fi access for the Superyacht Owner’s VIP Lounge.
— Kymeta Corporation (@KymetaCorp) September 27, 2016
Kymeta’s system took advantage of Panasonic’s satellite network to serve up data at the rate of 65 megabits per second for downlinks, and 6 Mbps for uplinks. That compares favorably with the typical in-home rate of 20 Mbps down and 2 to 3 Mbps up.
Kundtz said the system served as many as 80 simultaneous users, some of whom were watching Ultra HD Netflix or doing live video on Skype. The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how well Kymeta’s mTenna technology could deliver broadband to mega-yachts, cruise ships and commercial vessels.
“Several of the world’s most iconic yachts have now signed up for the Kymeta mTenna technology as a direct result of the successful demonstration in Monaco, with many other commitments from superyacht owners and designers expected to take place over the next few months,” Håkan Olsson, Kymeta’s vice president of maritime, said today in a news release.
For maritime applications, Kymeta’s antennas promise to deliver data hundreds of times faster than the typical L-band service.
Kundtz said the current going rate for marine broadband data service is about $10 per megabyte, but Kymeta aims to provide a better deal. “It’s better than 100 times better than that,” he said. “What we’re talking about is a sea change.”
The company was spun out from Intellectual Ventures in 2012, and since then it’s received more than $120 million in equity investment from Gates as well as Lux Capital, the Kresge Foundation, Liberty Global and Osage University Partners.
One of the advantages of Kymeta’s technology is that multiple antennas can be linked up to increase bandwidth. For example, Kundtz noted with pride that the combination of two antennas for the Monaco demonstration provided an additional gain of 2.9 dB.
Kymeta’s game plan calls for starting pilot production of the antennas and conducting further product testing in December, building up to commercial availability by mid-2017. Pricing information has not yet been announced.