The future of satellite internet may rely on tech already found in your TV screen. LCD manufacturers are providing solutions for tracking fast-moving satellites to provide internet coverage around the world.
Kymeta, a Redmond-based satellite antenna company backed by Bill Gates, announced today a partnership with display manufacturer Sharp to produce antennas using Kymeta’s metamaterial-based technology called mTenna.
Kymeta’s satellite receivers have always been based on liquid crystal technology. For the past three years, the company has worked with Sharp, a massive liquid-crystal display (LCD) manufacturer, to understand the liquid crystal manufacturing processes.
Today’s partnership builds on that relationship, using Sharp’s existing flat-panel display production lines to manufacture antennas that electronically track passing satellites.
“From day one, we knew we wanted to leverage the liquid-crystal display industry. And if I’m candid, we just didn’t know how,” Kymeta CEO Nathan Kundtz said.
Kymeta, which spun out of Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures, was formed to take advantage of the vast, unused satellite spectrum to provide internet around the world. Just 3 percent of the current wireless spectrum sold for $36 billion last year.
“There’s very few services that can pony up that kind of cash,” Kundtz said. “Satellite literally has 1,000 times more spectrum available to it and it’s available on a global basis, naturally, because it’s in space.”
The challenge for Kymeta was tracking those satellites, which move quickly across the sky. Existing solutions relied on bulky, physically moving dishes that can take a long time to transfer to a new satellite when the current one gets out of range.
But Kymeta’s solution uses metamaterials to electronically shift its antennas toward satellites without any movement the user would notice, making for much quicker transfers and reducing the weight and bulk of the final product.