Korea’s Hanwha Systems to invest $30M in Kymeta antenna venture

Kymeta’s next-generation antenna can fit on top of a vehicle to provide hybrid cellular-satellite connectivity. (Kymeta Photo)

Hanwha Systems, a smart-technology company headquartered in South Korea, has agreed to make an $30 million investment in Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp. — with an eye toward getting a foothold in the market for antennas capable of linking up with satellite constellations in low Earth orbit.

The equity investment deal follows up on an $85 million funding round led by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in August. Gates has backed Kymeta since its launch as a next-generation antenna venture in 2012.

Kymeta is in the midst of the commercial rollout for its latest connectivity offering, a hybrid cellular-satellite broadband service known as Kymeta Connect.

The service relies on an innovative flat-panel antenna called the u8. Metamaterial-based electronics allow Kymeta’s antenna to lock onto satellites without the need for moving parts.

Kymeta Connect currently takes advantage of satellites in geostationary Earth orbit, or GEO. But its system can be upgraded for compatibility with the broadband satellite constellations that are taking shape in low Earth orbit, or LEO — including OneWeb, SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s future Project Kuiper constellation.

That meshes perfectly with the plans being laid by Hanwha, a global conglomerate involved in industries ranging from telecommunications to aerospace and finance. Hanwha Systems Co. focuses on smart technologies in defense electronics and information infrastructure.

“The objective of our investment in Kymeta is to enter the LEO satellite antenna market early on, and diversify our technology portfolio,” Youn Chul Kim, CEO of Hanwha Systems Co., said in a news release. “With the expertise of HSC’s top-notch defense communication and radar technologies, we are joining hands with this promising U.S. satellite antenna company. All these efforts will further strengthen HSC’s aerospace systems capabilities.”

Assuming that the investment deal wins regulatory approval, Hanwha Systems will receive a seat on Kymeta’s board of directors.

Kymeta said the fresh funding will support increased hardware production as well as enhancements in its system’s capabilities and customer experience, and “improve the overall growth trajectory of the company.”

“Support from HSC will help us expand our reach and drive the development and productization of our metamaterial-based antenna technology,” said Doug Hutcheson, Kymeta’s executive chairman.

Like Kim, Hutcheson emphasized the outlook for broadband satellite services in low Earth orbit.

“LEO antenna solutions will become preferred for latency-sensitive and highly mobile applications as additional LEO satellites are launched and constellations are deployed,” Hutcheson said. “Kymeta’s solutions work on existing GEO networks and are LEO upgradeable. We look forward to working with HSC to develop technologies and solutions that are reliable and critical for communications on the move.”

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