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Gates puts cash into broadband antenna start-up

Tue, 08/21/2012 - 3:12pm
Brian Santo

Kymeta, a start-up with technology likely to improve broadband service to moving vehicles, just closed $12 million in funding, with contributors that include Bill Gates, Liberty Global and Lux Capital.

A spin-out from a technology incubation operation called Intellectual Ventures, Kymeta was founded to develop and bring to market IV's metamaterials surface antenna technology (MSA-T).

Metamaterials are a new class of materials with a wide variety of unusual properties. One of those properties can be exploited to manipulate electromagnetic radiation in a variety of ways. One of those is beam steering. An antenna based on this class of materials – an mTenna in Kymeta’s parlance – is capable of keeping radio signal directed toward a satellite.

Ideally, an antenna with this ability will be able to maintain a continuous broadband link between a satellite and a moving platform such as an aircraft, car or boat.

Manufactured using established lithographic techniques, mTenna's metamaterials-based approach also allows it to be thinner, lighter, more efficient and less expensive than traditional antenna technology, the company said.

Josh Wolfe, co-founder and managing partner of Lux Capital, said, "Kymeta's 'broadband-anywhere' product focus will transform a market that's already poised for incredible growth."

In addition to mobile applications in the aerospace, transportation and maritime industries, Kymeta also plans to develop a portable satellite hotspot product for individual users. The laptop-size antenna will open the door for high-speed Internet and other satellite broadband services wherever they're needed. The device has potential benefits for news reporters in the field, emergency responders in disaster areas, or even just average consumers looking to untether from public Wi-Fi and mobile broadband signals.

"The disruptive form factor, performance and cost advantages of Kymeta's mTenna products, based on advanced metamaterials technologies, will enable users to access a wide variety of mobile, portable and fixed satellite services beyond the capabilities of existing antenna solutions," said Vern Fotheringham, Kymeta’s president and CEO.

Kymeta's mTenna products are currently in development at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters, with commercial availability expected by 2015.

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