Intellectual Ventures Spinoff to Market Metamaterials Antennas

The new technology promises cheap, fast broadband on the go

1 min read

The dream of cheap, high-speed satellite broadband is now one step closer to reality. Yesterday, the patent-licensing giant Intellectual Ventures announced it has spun off a new company, Kymeta, to bring its beam-steering antenna technology to market.

The lure of IV’s—now Kymeta’s—antenna design is that it relies on metamaterials, which can bend electromagnetic waves in ways natural materials can’t. By equipping a radio antenna with an array of hundreds or thousands of metamaterial elements, IV engineers claim they can electronically tune the array “to point and steer a radio signal toward a satellite.” This creates an unbroken broadband link to whatever device is carrying the antenna—whether it’s a boat, a plane, or the laptop in your briefcase.

The ultimate application of Kymeta’s technology may be cheap and fast Internet connections on airplanes, trains, buses, cruise ships, and military vehicles. But IV says the company’s first product will probably be a portable, laptop-sized antenna that gives you an instant Internet hotspot anywhere in the world.

Kymeta, which was jumpstarted with US $12 million in investments from Bill Gates, Lux Capital and the cable company Liberty Global, is calling its new product line mTenna. IV says the company’s first customers will likely be mining and defense companies. But ordinary consumers, sick of paying data roaming fees or hunting down Wi-Fi hotspots, may not wait long to get in line.

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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