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Kymeta and OneWeb move ahead with flat panel terminal for satellite internet service

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Engineers test Kymeta’s u8 antenna system with OneWeb’s satellite service in France. (OneWeb via YouTube)

Kymeta Corp., the antenna venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has signed onto a joint development agreement with OneWeb to develop a flat-panel user terminal for OneWeb’s global satellite internet network.

The plan calls for modifying Kymeta’s u8 antenna system for fixed-terminal applications on land, with an eye toward supporting additional applications including mobile service in land-based and maritime settings.

Today’s announcement comes just weeks after Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta and OneWeb reported a successful test of Kymeta’s u8 technology, which takes advantage of an exotic category of electronics known as metamaterials. The technology makes it possible to “steer” an antenna electronically rather than physically moving it.

OneWeb is one of several ventures that is creating satellite constellations in low Earth orbit, or LEO, to broaden access to broadband internet service. SpaceX’s Starlink service is furthest along, but OneWeb is planning to begin limited service in the Arctic within the next few months. The plan calls for Kymeta’s terminals to enter the market as an option by the third quarter of 2022.

“Kymeta’s pioneering u8 does not require mechanical components to steer toward a satellite, and when paired with our LEO network will provide governments, businesses and communities with high-throughput and low-latency communication services at competitive prices,” Michele Franci, OneWeb’s chief of delivery and operations, said today in a news release. “This partnership is a welcome addition to our overall product strategy, offering another great choice for OneWeb’s customers, and contributes to strengthening our vision to provide seamless, resilient mobile connectivity where and when it’s needed most.”

Kymeta’s system is designed to work with OneWeb’s LEO network as well as other satellite networks that make use of constellations in geosynchronous orbits.

Neville Meijers, Kymeta’s chief strategy and marketing officer, said the new agreement formalizes “our collaborative efforts and commitment to bring to market an innovative electronically steered antenna that is turnkey and compatible with OneWeb’s rapidly expanding LEO network.”

Both Kymeta and OneWeb work with other partners as well. Kymeta, for example, has been collaborating with Kepler Communications on its satellite data network for smart devices, while OneWeb has just signed another joint development agreement with GDC Advanced Technology to develop a data terminal for in-flight connectivity.

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