1GB/s whistling speed, cracking the problem of car networking

The key to Kymeta's smart antenna technology is that it provides a stable Internet connection, whether the user is on the move or the satellite itself is moving.

Author Emily Calandrelli is the producer and presenter of Fox TV's XploraTIon Outer Space show.

Kymeta has developed a new type of "smart" antenna, and the company has recently completed an important test of its core technology, mTenna.

mTenna is designed to provide Wi-Fi connectivity for vehicles such as cars, planes and boats. This is a kind of flat panel antenna, which is light in weight and low in power. It has also obtained relevant patents and can be connected with satellites to provide users with Internet access.


According to Kymeta, the company's unique technology allows mTenna to stay connected to the satellite during its activities. mTenna can be fixed to almost any moving object, no matter where it is in the world, it can provide Internet access – whether it's a car, an airplane, or a vessel sailing in a remote area.

Although the appearance may vary, in essence, mTenna's features are no different from the disc satellite TV antennas you see on the roof.

But there is still a difference between the two, that is, the traditional satellite TV antenna is considered "cannot talk", it always points to the same area of ​​the sky, and does not move. Kymeta's antenna does not have any moving parts, but can be connected to any satellite in the sky.

mTenna relies on software to acquire satellite signals in electronic form. Thanks to the simplicity and size of the antenna (same size as an extra-large pizza), it can be integrated into vehicles that have special requirements for antenna size and weight.

If Kymeta's mTenna antenna can be further refined, it will greatly improve existing antenna technology. For example, United uses an antenna produced by Panasonic that can also receive satellite signals, but it is larger and heavier than mTenna and needs to be controlled by an engine that moves around the antenna to capture satellite signals.

Panasonic's Ku-band antenna

For any kind of object moving at high speed in the air, such as cars and airplanes, resistance is a key factor in fuel consumption and operating performance. Although the antenna mounted on the top of the vehicle can provide Wi-Fi capability, it also generates more wind resistance, resulting in an increase in fuel costs. For these reasons, the antenna is smaller and lighter, which is better for the enterprise. In addition, another advantage of mTenna is that it does not have any moving parts by itself, which means less friction, less wear and less noise.

Panasonic antenna installed on the top of the United Airlines

There are already many connected cars on the market that offer Wi-Fi connectivity, but these cars are not connected to the satellite. Instead, they use LTE network coverage, providing an average Internet speed of only 5MB per second (Mbps), which is only one-fifth the speed of Internet broadband defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Using satellite signals, we can provide 1GB (Gbps) per second transmission speed and cover a larger area,” said Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz. “In fact, with existing With network coverage, we can provide 1TB of network coverage per month for every car in the world."

The combination of satellite and Internet has the advantage of near-global coverage, while LTE-based Internet connections are disrupted when mobile services are dropped.

While smart cars with Internet connectivity now seem to be a luxury, the former may become more common when auto-driving cars are more common. Intelligent, self-driving cars rely on real-time traffic information to share and receive information with other autonomous vehicles.

This requires a continuous, stable Internet connection. Cars equipped with satellite Internet cannot provide reliable LTE global coverage, and it may be a more economical solution.

mTenna antenna technology has not yet been officially introduced to the market. But Kymeta recently completed an important test that demonstrates the ability of the mTenna antenna to provide network connectivity on the move. The company installed the flat antennas they developed and installed them for 8,000 miles. The key to Kymeta's smart antenna technology is that it provides a stable Internet connection, whether the user is on the move or the satellite itself is moving.

This test confirmed the three main functions of the mTenna antenna. First, it shows that the mTenna antenna can maintain a continuous connection with the Ku-band satellite. Prior to this, Kymeta was only tested on the Ka-band satellite. The two satellites operate at different frequencies, and satellite operators may own both satellites.

Second, experiments have shown that mTenna's linear polarization (AT) can work properly, which means it can track the polarization of the signal and the orientation of the satellite during activity. This ability is important to avoid a drop in signal quality on the move. Finally, it proves that mTenna can maintain a continuous connection to the satellite for up to 8,000 miles.

Currently, Kymeta is working with Inmarsat, the world's largest satellite operator. Intelsat's satellites are deployed in geostationary orbit (GEO), which means they are very far away from the Earth—the satellites orbiting the Earth at the same speed as the Earth itself. In this way, relative to the users on the ground, they are always in a constant position in the sky. A short board for receiving network connection signals from GEO satellites is the time delay problem due to the relatively remote distance from the Earth.

However, Kymeta's technology is also compatible with low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites – OneWeb plans to connect the Internet to LEO satellites in the next few years. Once this step is achieved, these LEO satellites offer the advantage of providing high-speed Internet connectivity while maintaining low latency.

At the heart of Kymeta's smart antenna technology is that whether the user is active, such as in a car, or the satellite itself is moving, such as the LEO satellite, it can continue to provide users with a network connection.

Kymeta's next step is to conduct Alpha and Beta tests next year, with trial antennas expected to be available by the end of 2016. Kundez also told the TechCrunch website that they have selected a car manufacturer as a partner and will work together to bring the technology to market. The two parties will officially announce the establishment of cooperation in mid-January 2016.

Although more tests are needed in the future, Kymeta's mTenna antenna is definitely a huge improvement over the current technology, wherever you go, where Wi-Fi is used. If all goes well, it is estimated that a few years later mTenna will appear on top of connected airplanes, trains and even cars.

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