Mobile Satellite Services Tech Features

On the Move

Tom Freeman, SVP, Land Mobile, Kymeta, speaks exclusively with SatellitePro ME about how Kymeta’s satellite antennas are changing the world of mobility

Tell me about your relationship with Toyota, and how you are developing antennas with them.

We have a long and deep relationship with Toyota, and we’ve been designing OEM-grade small aperture satellite communication. When they look at their operations, they see a problem of capacity, coverage, security and the cost of being able to update their automobiles around the world.

There are some amazing statistics around automobiles. A Boeing 787 aircraft has about 15 million lines of code in it. One million lines of code could be explained this way. If you took an A3 ream of paper and stacked 18 of them, that is a million lines. A Ford Taurus, on the other hand, has 56 million lines of code. An Audi A8 has 100 million lines of code. If you stack that up, that is taller than the Space Needle in Seattle. It is no surprise that everything that we think of as recalls are actually software problems. If you can solve the software problem, you can go ahead and make a much safer automobile. Toyota is very focused on making a safer car, so we spend a lot of effort in doing that.

How did Kymeta come up with the idea for using these antennas in cars?

In the process of getting there, we were making maritime systems, designed for boats. It’s much more powerful than you need in a consumer car, it’s much bigger and deeper too. We did this trip across America in which we started in Seattle and moved on down. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and we were so disheartened to miss the game. As we get out on the highway, we realise that we have the internet because of this antenna on our car. We go to and all of a sudden we’re watching the game.

When we reach Oregon, I think, would Skype work? So I Skype some friends and we’re having a great time. In big sections there is no LTE coverage. We’re getting all this through satellite. We even binge watched House of Cards all the way out of Oregon to northern California for eight hours. It was just great, and I said to myself: this is going to change the world. We got to Washington, DC where the Satellite 2016 conference was, and it was a maritime aperture; we didn’t think about this for automobiles.

How can Kymeta help out in the security industry?

The security industry needs our antennas. Any reasonably well motivated 16-year-old can buy a black market device off the internet that can completely fry all the cell phones within around 200m. They need secure communications. They do very high sophisticated computing. It’s not the computing you have on a mobile phone, it’s some CAD images and data processing. They need to have a big pipe. They need communications in and out, and it needs to be secure. Furthermore, you don’t want to draw attention, so the antenna needs to be discreet and needs to be embedded in the roofline. That’s when we said, let’s take the maritime aperture and put it into a civilian armoured vehicle (CAV) or into a VIP vehicle, something where people in the Middle East, where you have the combination of wealth and security, might actually want to have in their cars.

Kymeta is delivering on the promise of global mobile connectivity, and we have announced plans to work with Aurum Security GmbH to bring Kymeta mTenna high-throughput satellite connectivity to VIP and civilian armoured vehicles (CAV). Now CAV manufacturers and integrators will be able to deliver global connectivity on the go that their customers demand, without impacting the natural design lines of the vehicle. This means anyone from VIPs to government officials to royalty will have access to high bandwidth connectivity wherever they go that is invisible, secure and reliable, even in remote places.

With the Kymeta mTenna 70CM terminal, access to connectivity is omnipresent, easy to use, easy to buy and linked by secure high-throughput satellite internet, enhancing the vehicle’s security through better integrated audio, data and video communication.

What about connected cars?

You have cars that have LTE connections, then there are cars where the phone transfers to the head unit, and then there are embedded SIMs. Now we’re the next step up from that. We have maybe an embedded SIM and a satellite connectivity. A consumer doesn’t care where they get their bits, they just want their bits. They just want a device that can switch between cell phone coverage and satellite connectivity seamlessly.

What is the pricing of Kymeta satellite antennas?

Whenever you put something new into a car, it has to replace something that’s there. It has to cost less than the system that was there and be more powerful than the system that you replaced. It has to weigh less too. We can guarantee that by the time we’re out with the automobile companies like Toyota, it will meet all those criteria.

However, today, because this is limited quantity and is a much bigger system that we’d put in a Toyota, since it’s a maritime system, a system for superyachts, it retails for $39,500. Our nearest competitor offers a $150,000 phased-array system, which is much bigger and heavier at 550kg. We use 10 watts of power, whereas they use kilowatts of power. Moreover, they are a moving target. As we produce more, the price will come down, but there is a very active market now where this system needs to go in.