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Kymeta buys a company to boost satellite services

Kymeta Corp. — the satellite antenna venture that’s based in Redmond, Wash., and backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — has extended its reach into the service side of the satellite industry by acquiring Lepton Global Solutions.

Executives for the two companies said the move should strengthen their hand as they pursue contracts for government and military communications systems.

“Having a turnkey satellite service provider like Lepton accelerates Kymeta’s ability to successfully penetrate U.S. military and government customers in partnership with a well-established brand, deep channel experience and network support for those verticals,” Walter Berger, Kymeta’s president and chief operating officer, said today in a news release.

Rob Weitendorf, managing partner at Lepton, said he was excited to become part of Kymeta’s corporate family.

“We think the Kymeta antenna has changed the satellite marketplace, especially in the mobility world inside the government, whether it be for the U.S. Army or Coast Guard, or the Border Patrol or the U.S. Forest Service,” he told GeekWire. “The need for connectivity in the government marketplace has never been stronger.”

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Kymeta unveils next-gen satellite antenna

Kymetra’s u8 flat-panel antenna is tailor-made for use with satellite as well as cellular connectivity services. (Kymeta Photo)

Kymeta Corp., one of the high-tech ventures backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has paired its next-generation satellite antenna with a new kind of hybrid connectivity service — reaching the next level in its quest to make buying satellite-based telecommunications as easy as buying cell service.

Bill Marks, Kymeta’s chief strategy officer, said the new combination of hardware and software builds on Kymeta’s current service offerings, which hit the market two years ago.

“When you start to try to penetrate markets that aren’t used to buying satellite services, especially mobility in the platforms that we’re on, the customers want you to provide something as simple as what they’re used to when they buy handsets and cellular plans,” he told GeekWire.

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Quake drill tests Kymeta’s emergency links

Kymeta antenna on emergency vehicle
An overhead view shows Kymeta’s flat-panel antenna installed like a white stop sign on top of a Redmond Fire and Rescue medical response vehicle. (Kymeta Photo

When disaster strikes, cellphone connections are among the first things to go by the wayside — so what will emergency responders who rely on that connectivity do?

That’s one of the big questions that first responders in Redmond, Wash., addressed this month during a two-day emergency preparedness drill called Cascadia Rising Solutions. And it was up to Kymeta, a Redmond-based startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, to provide answers.

Kymeta is creating a hybrid connectivity platform that makes use of standard cellular networks as well as satellite links and Wi-Fi to keep responders connected even when the cell towers go down. And Cascadia Rising Solutions provided the perfect opportunity to put Kymeta’s platform to a hometown test.

“It’s all up, all the time,” Ben Posthuma, Kymeta product manager for advanced connectivity, told GeekWire after the Oct. 18-19 exercise was over. “We have a platform that identifies the right pathway for the right type of information. The responders get connected to their vehicle as easily as they would connect to a Wi-Fi network.”

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Pivotal Commware raises $10M as it gets set for 5G

Echo 5G in home office
In this scenario for a wireless application, Pivotal Commware’s Echo 5G device consists of a paddle-like antenna placed on the exterior of a window, and a power puck installed on the inside. (Pivotal Commware Photo)

Pivotal Commware, one of several metamaterials startups backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it has secured $10 million in convertible-debt financing to help it roll out signal repeater systems for 5G wireless data services.

The company, based in Kirkland, Wash., takes advantage of the electronic properties of metamaterials to produce flat-panel antennas with no moving parts.

One product line, the Echo 5G, can be used by wireless customers to boost the millimeter-wave broadband signals transmitted by 5G operators. Another product line, the Pivot 5G, can be used by operators to extend the range of 5G signals and wrap them around corners, to places that might otherwise be dead spots.

Chris Brandon, Pivotal Commware’s chief operating officer, told GeekWire that the company is due to start shipping the Echo 5G to wireless network operators sometime in December. He said it was premature to disclose which operators will be using them, but they should start showing up next year.

“2020 is a big year for us,” Brandon said.

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How AWS Ground Station is moving the needle

Capella Space satellite
An artist’s conception shows Capella Space’s radar satellite in orbit. (Capella Space Illustration)

LAS VEGAS – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says his company has gotten so big that it has to branch out into business lines that “move the needle,” like the recently revealed Project Kuiper broadband satellite constellation.

But Project Kuiper isn’t Amazon’s only potentially needle-moving satellite venture: Amazon Web Services’ effort to create a network of ground stations and an easy-to-use satellite control interface is a similarly big bet for the Seattle-based company.

At least that’s how Shayn Hawthorne, general manager for AWS Ground Station, sees the situation.

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Kymeta widens its reach with Türksat alliance

Turksat 4B
An artist’s conception shows the Turksat 4B satellite in orbit. (Turksat Illustration)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kymeta Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based satellite antenna venture that’s backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it has struck up a partnership with Turkey’s Türksat telecommunications service to expand satellite data connectivity across a wide swath of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Today’s announcement came here at the Satellite 2019 conference.

The arrangement will provide Türksat’s customers with new satellite links for voice, data, internet, TV and radio.

“Partnering with Türksat allows Kymeta to provide coverage through their satellite communications with our end-to-end solutions on both land and sea,” Neville Meijers, Kymeta’s chief commercial officer, said in a news release. “We are excited about the possibilities this partnership opens.”

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Boeing backs Isotropic satellite connectivity venture

Isotropic terminal
A cutaway view shows Isotropic Systems’ integrated terminal for satellite communications. (Isotropic Systems)

London-based Isotropic Systems, a startup that is developing flat-panel antennas and high-throughput terminals for satellite communications, says it has raised $14 million in a Series A financing round led by Boeing HorizonX Ventures.

Isotropic’s user terminals take advantage of optical beam steering, which lets its terminals connect with several different satellites without increasing cost or complexity. The company says its technology will help clear a path for low-cost, mass-market broadband connectivity via satellites.

“Boeing’s investment provides our team access to Boeing experts, testing labs and other valuable resources to fast-track the deployment of our terminal solutions and to leverage our intellectual property across other space-based and wireless connectivity applications,” Isotropic founder and CEO John Finney said in a news release.

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RBC Signals turns to India for space networking

Indian antenna
Vikram Sarabhai Space Center’s 18-meter antenna, located near Bangalore, India, can be used for deep-space communications. (VSSC Photo)

Seattle-based RBC Signals has forged an agreement with Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, to widen its spectrum of communication services for spacecraft operators.

The partnership adds C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band communication capabilities to RBC Signals’ existing resources in the VHF, UHF, S, C and X radio bands. It also extends the company’s potential reach beyond Earth orbit to the moon and deep space.

The pact marks another first for the three-year-old startup. “It represents our first partnership with a national program,” RBC Signals co-founder and CEO Christopher Richins told GeekWire.

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Kymeta unveils portable satellite terminal

KyWay Go terminal
The KyWay Go satellite terminal system is designed to be set up within four minutes. (Kymeta Photo)

Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp., the communications company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it’s starting to roll out a ruggedized portable terminal that’s designed to be set up for satellite links within four minutes.

“Commercial and government customers have shown great interest in a portable KyWay satellite terminal for use in defense, oil and gas, and first responder applications,” Nathan Kundtz, Kymeta’s founder, president and CEO, said in a news release issued March 13 at the Satellite 2018 conference in Washington, D.C.

Kundtz said Kymeta has deployed a larger version of its KyWay flat-panel, electronically steered terminal system to more than 20 customers in 10 countries. The portable rig, called KyWay Go, is expected to widen the system’s appeal for mobile applications.

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Connected car comes home after 7,000-mile trek

Kymeta connected car
Kymeta employees check out the stop-sign-shaped antenna on the roof of a Toyota RAV4 car that made a coast-to-coast connected drive. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

REDMOND, Wash. — Kymeta Corp.’s Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle and the flat-panel satellite antenna on its roof are back at the company’s headquarters after a 7,000-mile test drive across America, and few people are more relieved than Benjamin Ash.

“I’ve never seen anything coming back from being out in the field that long,” Ash, who is Kymeta’s director of manufacturing engineering, said after examining the stop-sign-sized panel. “I thought it was going to be much worse.”

Ash and about a dozen of his fellow Kymeta employees gathered in Kymeta’s parking lot today to celebrate the car’s return to its Redmond headquarters after a two-week, coast-to-coast odyssey.

The trek served as Kymeta’s beta test for a new mobile satellite internet service called Kalo, provided in partnership with the Intelsat satellite network. Kalo is the centerpiece service offering from Kymeta, which was spun out from Intellectual Ventures in 2012 with backing from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other high-profile investors.

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