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Antenna venture gets a $30M boost from Korea

Hanwha Systems, a smart-technology company headquartered in South Korea, has agreed to make an $30 million investment in Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp. — with an eye toward getting a foothold in the market for antennas capable of linking up with satellite constellations in low Earth orbit.

The equity investment deal follows up on an $85 million funding round led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in August. Gates has backed Kymeta since its launch as a next-generation antenna venture in 2012.

Kymeta is in the midst of the commercial rollout for its latest connectivity offering, a hybrid cellular-satellite broadband service known as Kymeta Connect.

The service relies on an innovative flat-panel antenna called the u8. Metamaterial-based electronics allow Kymeta’s antenna to lock onto satellites without the need for moving parts.

Kymeta Connect currently takes advantage of satellites in geostationary Earth orbit, or GEO. But its system can be upgraded for compatibility with the broadband satellite constellations that are taking shape in low Earth orbit, or LEO — including OneWeb, SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s future Project Kuiper constellation.

That meshes perfectly with the plans being laid by Hanwha, a global conglomerate involved in industries ranging from telecommunications to aerospace and finance. Hanwha Systems Co. focuses on smart technologies in defense electronics and information infrastructure.

“The objective of our investment in Kymeta is to enter the LEO satellite antenna market early on, and diversify our technology portfolio,” Youn Chul Kim, CEO of Hanwha Systems Co., said in a news release. “With the expertise of HSC’s top-notch defense communication and radar technologies, we are joining hands with this promising U.S. satellite antenna company. All these efforts will further strengthen HSC’s aerospace systems capabilities.”

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Kymeta rolls out next-gen connectivity service

Kymeta Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based connectivity venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is making the next generation of its hybrid satellite-cellular mobile service for voice and data available to commercial markets starting today.

And although commercial availability of Kymeta’s u8 terminal and Kymeta Connect service marks a milestone, the company’s executives consider the government and military market to be just as important.

“Government and military need the most reliable and seamless connectivity to safely fulfill their missions,” Walter Berger, Kymeta’s president and chief operating officer, said in a news release. “These men and women often go to the most remote or disaster-stricken areas of the world, and they need reliable communications to rescue lives, keep property safe and complete missions.”

During beta testing, the u8 system faced a trial by fire — literally.

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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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Intelsat sues OneWeb broadband satellite venture

OneWeb satellite
An artist’s conception, released during the time when Intelsat was considering what would have been effectively a merger with OneWeb, shows a OneWeb satellite in orbit. (OneWeb Illustration)

One of the world’s biggest satellite operators, Intelsat, is accusing the OneWeb broadband satellite venture and its biggest investor, SoftBank, of breach of contract, fraud and conspiracy in a lawsuit seeking what could amount to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

In the course of laying out its case, Intelsat told the New York State Supreme Court that it paid Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta, a venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, $10 million for development of a flat-panel antenna for OneWeb’s constellation.

Intelsat’s Sept. 10 filing also said OneWeb has pivoted from its original plan to provide broadband access to underserved regions of the world to concentrate on the very markets that Intelsat was planning to serve under the terms of the deal it struck in 2015 with OneWeb: maritime and aviation mobility services, oil and gas industry services and government services.

The lawsuit claims that OneWeb decided to “abandon its business plan of focusing on consumer broadband, land-based connectivity and underserved geographic markets because OneWeb and/or SoftBank concluded such plan would not yield sufficient revenues and was not viable in the long term.”

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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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Kymeta boosts satellite links on the road in Peru

'SmartBus' buses in Peru
Kymeta installed flat-panel antennas shaped like white stop signs on top of TEPSA interprovincial buses in Peru. (Kymeta / Airbus Photo)

Kymeta Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other investors, has demonstrated the performance of its flat-panel satellite antennas in an unlikely setting: on top of buses traveling throughout Peru.

With the aid of partners including Intelsat, Cubic Telecom and Cradlepoint, Kymeta worked with Airbus to create a pilot project called SmartBus. The project involved outfitting interprovincial buses operated by TEPSA — the Peruvian analog to Greyhound Lines — with Kymeta’s satellite terminals.

SmartBus is designed to gather up-to-the-minute data on road safety and other indicators to improve Peru’s transportation system while connecting people in remote areas of the country.

The system leverages satellite bandwidth capacity from Intelsat, cellular coverage from Cubic Telecom and a software-defined WAN solution from Cradlepoint to establish real-time data connections along a 460-mile bus route through Peru.

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Kymeta’s Nathan Kundtz leaves CEO post

Nathan Kundtz
Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz will transition into an advisory role. (Kymeta Photo)

Kymeta Corp., the antenna company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says that CEO Nathan Kundtz will be leaving his post next month to make room for an executive who’ll be focused on the startup’s next stage of evolution.

Marc Stolzman, the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s president and chief financial officer, will take charge of day-to-day operations while the board of directors conducts a search for the next CEO. Kundtz, who has been with Kymeta since it was spun out of Intellectual Ventures in 2012 and has served as CEO since 2015, will continue his relationship with the company in an advisory role.

In a news release, both Kundtz and Kymeta said the changeover was amicable.

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Microsoft and Kymeta show off connected cars

Microsoft connected car
A prototype vehicle designed for disaster response is outfitted with Kymeta’s KyWay flat-panel satellite antenna. (Microsoft / Kymeta Photo)

REDMOND, Wash. — The vehicles sitting in the parking lot here at the headquarters of Kymeta Corp., a flat-panel antenna startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are a car fan’s dream. But Microsoft’s Scott Montgomery says you have to look under the hood. And under the roof.

“The vehicles themselves are literally just four wheels and an engine to get the platform where we need it to go,” Montgomery, who’s a senior industry solution manager at Redmond-based Microsoft, told GeekWire.

“What I always tell folks is, forget about the cars,” he said. “It’s really not about the cars. It’s about everything that sits within the cars, and also what sits within the cloud.”

The platform is a combination of hardware, software and cloud computing connections that can turn a sport-utility vehicle into a mobile communications hub for police officers, firefighters or disaster response teams, complete with industrial-strength data servers and satellite links.

Kymeta, Microsoft and other vendors organized today’s parking-lot demo to show journalists, officials and VIPs how their platforms can work together to address future worst-case scenarios, such as the West Coast earthquake threat known as the Really Big One.

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