A small Redmond startup that is backed by the big name and deep pockets of Bill Gates announced Tuesday it has signed a major agreement with a manufacturer to get its inventive satellite antenna systems to market.
A small Redmond startup backed by the big name and deep pockets of Bill Gates announced Tuesday it has signed a major agreement with a manufacturer to get its inventive satellite antenna systems to market.
Kymeta will partner with Japan-based Sharp to produce small, lightweight antennas that aim to simplify satellite connections so that more people and devices can easily access broadband Internet. The antennas are made from metamaterials that steer antenna beams without moving mechanical parts, so they can be much smaller and less expensive than current systems.
Kymeta is barely 3 years old. It spun out of Bellevue patent-licensing company Intellectual Ventures in August 2012. But the company’s rapid growth has enabled it to move far along for its young age. It has raised $82 million from investors including Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Liberty Global.
Kymeta is in the alpha phase now to create the Kymeta-branded antennas using a combination of the two companies’ technologies. The beta phase will launch next year, CEO Nathan Kundtz said.
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Kymeta already has existing partnerships across several industries, including with Honeywell and Airbus, to get the products to end users.
The antennas could have major implications for mobile Internet connections, Kundtz said. Right now, big dishes must spin around, using a mechanical pointing system that is constantly following the satellite.
“We are replacing that with something that can scan electronically,” Kundtz said. “It’s a completely new type of antenna design. We will be able to point the beam wherever we want to.”
The current antennas are expensive and clunky, making them hard to use in many remote parts of the world. Kymeta hopes its antennas will bring broadband access to places where it is nearly impossible now.
Kymeta plans to make antennas to enable Internet broadband for pretty much anything that moves — boats, planes, cars, you name it.
“A car being connected to a satellite is groundbreaking,” Kundtz said. “You couldn’t do that if you had to stick a 500-pound piece of equipment in it.”
Instead, Kymeta’s antennas could potentially be placed in the car’s windshield.
The company has 110 employees in its Redmond office.