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Antenna replacement
An artist’s concept shows the bridge of the White Rose of Drachs before and after installation of Kymeta’s antennas. The stop-sign-sized antenna visible in the right image replaces the antenna domes visible in the left image. (Kymeta / e3 Illustration)

Kymeta Corp. — a company based in Redmond, Wash. and backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — says it’s conducted successful sea trials of its streamlined antenna system for broadband communications.

The trials were performed over the past several months in the Mediterranean Sea on a super-yacht known as the White Rose of Drachs, in cooperation with Kymeta’s Spain-based distribution partner, e3 Systems.

Word of the trials emerged today during the buildup to the Monaco Yacht Show, scheduled Sept. 27-30.

Kymeta said its flat-panel antennas and KyWay communcation terminals were tested with a variety of satellite communication providers.

“We trialed multiple terminal configurations, ranging from single-panel solutions to multiple-panel solutions,” e3 Systems managing director Roger Horner said in a news release. “We experienced a few practical installation issues, many of which already have been addressed by Kymeta, and we also realized that the network systems on yachts need to be designed and configured to work in tandem with the improved throughput that Kymeta solutions provide,”

Kymeta’s mTenna system takes advantage of metamaterials technology, which uses software and sophisticated electronic arrays to “steer” the focus of a radio antenna with no moving parts. The antennas are currently about as big as stop signs, and Kymeta is working on miniaturizing them even more.

Håkan Olsson, Kymeta’s vice president of maritime, said the tests marked a “major milestone” for the maritime industry.

“While we experienced some challenges during the trials, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome, and it is now clear that domeless vessels are a new reality for the yacht industry,” Olsson said.

Andrew Schofield, captain of the White Rose, said the Kymeta equipment could be switched out and reinstalled within minutes. “With conventional antennas, we would have been in the yard for a few days with a crane to achieve the same results,” he said.

The successful sea trials signal that Kymeta, which was spun out from Bellevue, Wash.-based Intellectual Ventures in 2012, is quickly closing in on full-scale commercial service. Kymeta raised $73.5 million during its latest funding round.

Last month, Kymeta won blanket approval from the Federal Communications Commission to install up to 11,000 of its terminals on land and sea, including 1,000 terminals on maritime vessels.

Kymeta also announced the formal establishment of a KĀLO business unit that will offer bundled hardware and subscription satellite services in cooperation with Intelsat, the world’s largest satellite operator. The idea is to make purchasing satellite broadband connectivity by the gigabyte as easy as buying cellular phone and data services.

KĀLO satellite services are due to be commercially available later this year, Kymeta said.

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