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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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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