Kymeta targets Africa’s ‘on the move’ and remote business cases with its mobile satellite antenna
6 September 2019
Kymeta has produced satellite-based based products that will create both voice and data connectivity “on the move” and in remote places. It’s a niche product but one that will have several interesting business cases in a continent not short of remote places. Russell Southwood spoke to Rash Jhanjee, Vice President EMEA & Indian Subcontinent, Kymeta Corporation.
Kymeta’s first CEO Nathan Kundtz developed the technology behind the company’s products while doing a PhD at Duke University in 2012, involving metamaterials research. It was then incubated at Intellectual Ventures, during which time the first prototype of the reconfigurable metasurface antenna was created.
This became the foundation of Kymeta’s mobile sitcom terminals that has now received several rounds of investment finance. Past financing rounds, including a $73.6 million equity round in March 2017, put the company’s total investment at close to $200 million from various investors including Lux Capital and Bill Gates . In October 2018 at the point of a new round of investment Kundtz stepped down to be replaced by a more operational CEO, Marc Stolzman, who had been the company’s Chief Financial Officer.
To offer its current core product – Kalo – it has partnered with Intelsat to offer data services using Ku band on the move and in remote places. It demonstrated a trial of its forthcoming hybrid service at Mobile World Congress in March, offering instant switching between satellite and cellular-based service, even while running live streams:”We’re going to upgrade to support cellular hybrid services in 2020.”
As part of its regional offer for Africa, it has signed a deal (at AfricaCom 2018) with Liquid Telecom to bundle its equipment with the company’s VSAT services. The announcement said:”Mobile medicine or healthcare vehicles, for example, will be able to deliver screening and remote diagnostics to isolated communities across the continent. It can be used by aerospace, maritime and ground transport customers to create new services and connections across isolated areas. It can even support the growth of IoT capability across a range of vehicles to support a fully connected automotive future including self-driving cars”.
The equipment bundle costs “sub-US$30,000” and Jhanjee says:”We’d like to get it down to US$10,000 and believe that the LEO implementation will be a game changer”. For that, the KALO will deliver a connectivity service for the user of 4 mbps down and 1 mbps up:”There’s no real limitation but it depends on the power of the satellite.”
It can be installed on most moving vehicles including cars, buses, trucks and trains. The unit itself is very low profile and would be hard to see when installed on say, the roof of a car. Using Inmarsat, it’s also possible to install it on ships.
It has low power consumption and the passive array antenna can be either connected to AC power supply or a UPS. The phased array uses 0.5-1 KW of power. The antenna is able to handle extreme temperatures up to C65+. and is 70 cms in diameter:”It is always tracking the satellite and can also track a moving satellite”. The unit weighs 20 kgs and there is support from Gilat, Newtec and iDirect.
The satellite connection can track over 20 degrees per second. It can travel up to 100 kph. In the US it has been tested on shipping at 50-60 knots:”The hybrid version will be better”.
The only limiting factor is that there is only 1 Ghz of Ku spectrum it can currently work in and this limits it to certain satellites. Next year’s model will support the full spectrum band and will be LEO upgradeable. This will be done with internal support boards:”We also have a road map for KA band”.
Currently there’s an African border force that’s using it for border surveillance and a leisure boat company that’s using it on its barges. Interestingly an oil and gas company has used one of its units to replace its C Band solutions on an oil rig. It was finding it cumbersome to move these solutions:” Our installation is fixed but movable”.
“We’ll be rail certified by the end of the year and it will provide operational efficiency”. So who knows? Maybe it will be providing customers Wi-Fi on the move on some of Africa’s newer railways.
It could be used in emergency situations like providing “comms” in hurricane disaster hit areas (like Mozambique) by development agencies. It has a product that is ruggedized, transportable with its own internal Wi-Fi hot-spot.
Once the hybrid version is available it could provide cell coverage on wheels:”You would be able to move from site to site and you don’t have to reconfigure. You could put a cell mast on a truck. The man driving doesn’t have to be a technician”.
in relation to a PPP contract for the operation and resale of the excess capacity of SOGEM’s Optical Fiber Cable
1. Société de Gestion de l’Energie de Manantali «SOGEM», with support of the International Development Association («IDA/AID») of the World Bank Group, has undertaken the implementation of an open-access PPP project aimed at exploiting available fiber pairs on the Optical Ground Wire Network / Réseau du Câble de Garde à Fibre Optique («OPGW Network / CGFO Network»), the management, operation and maintenance of which have been awarded to SOGEM by the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River / Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Senegal «OMVS». A private wholesale operator (the «Wholesale Operator»), selected on the basis of an open and transparent international tender process, will enter into a public–private partnership agreement (the «Partnership Agreement») with SOGEM for the operation and marketing of the fiber pair capacity available on the CGFO Network across the OMVS Member States (the «Project»).
- For this purpose, SOGEM has issued a pre-qualification notice (the «Pre-Qualification Notice») related to the pre-qualification process for Applicants interested in the Project (the «Applicants») on SOGEM's website, and in the following newspapers:
- Jeune Afrique issue n° 3050 printed 23 June 2019
- Le Lynx issue n° 1419 printed 24 June 2019
- L’Essor issue n°18943 printed 28 June 2019
- Le Soleil issue n° 14733 printed 9 July 2019 and
- DG Market printed 24 June 2019
- Interested Applicants are hereby informed that the deadline for submission of applications initially set for 26 July 2019 has now been extended to 25 September 2019 at 11a.m. (Bamako/Mali local hour). The public opening of the applications will take place on 25 September 2019 at 11.30a.m. (Bamako/Mali local hour) in the SOGEM Directorate General Conference room, 3rd Floor ACI 2000 Plot N° 2501 – Bamako/Mali.
- Moreover, interested Applicants should note that in line with the first Pre-qualification Notice, prior to the preparation and submission of applications, a kick-off meeting was held on 18 July 2019 in Dakar. Information documents handed over to the interested Applicants who attended the meeting will be attached to the amended version of the Pre-qualification Document available in accordance with paragraph 6 below.
- As a reminder, interested Applicants must demonstrate they meet the following technical, financial and legal qualification criteria in accordance with the pre-qualification document (the «Pre-Qualification Document»):
5.1 Technical criteria
The Applicant, or if applying as a consortium, at least one member of the Applicant consortium (the «Operator»), shall demonstrate that it has the required experience and technical ability to carry out and manage the Project by submitting the following documents and meeting the following technical criteria:
(i) Submission of references of the Applicant during the past five (5) years, within the area of activity considered, concerning design, implementation and technical and commercial operation of backbone-type optical fiber networks for the provision of open-access SDH and Ethernet bandwidth services, hosting and IP transit services, with a minimum of one (1) attested similar reference (report or certificate of service provided) within the last five (5) years;
(ii) Submission of description of the available technical and human capabilities of the Applicant in order to ensure the operation, marketing and the continuity of service of the CGFO Network, which is the subject of the Partnership Agreement.
5.2 Financial criteria
The Applicant, or if applying as a consortium, all members in respect of criteria set out in (i) to (ii) below, and at least one of the members of the Applicant consortium (the «Financial Partner»), in respect of the criterion set out in (iii) below, shall demonstrate that it has sufficient financial resources to carry out its missions under the Project by satisfying the following financial criteria:
(i) Submission of all turnover statements, both general and specific to services similar to those envisioned by the Partnership Agreement, dating back three (3) years (or the latest fiscal years for Group Members Applicants who have existed less than three (3) years);
(ii) submission of all accountant-certified balance sheets and profit loss accounts, along with the related audit report, or certification by any other entity performing an audit in compliance with the practices of its country of registration, for the last three (3) fiscal years (or the latest fiscal years for Applicants or members of an Applicant consortium which have existed less than three (3) years);
(iii) The demonstrated ability to raise internal and/or external funding at least equivalent to the amount of investments to be borne by the Partner under the Partnership Agreement, i.e. at least equal to one million five hundred thousand Euros (EUR1,500,000).
5.3 Legal criteria
The Applicant, or if applying as a consortium, each member of the Applicant consortium, shall provide documents and certificates demonstrating its legal capacity to participate in the tender and to carry out the Project as provided for in the Pre-Qualification Document.
- Furthermore, SOGEM reminds those Applicants willing to pre-qualify, and having the required experience, of the availability of the Pre-Qualification Document at the Directorate General/Direction Générale in Bamako (Mali). The Pre-Qualification Document will be handed over physically or electronically, as preferred by the Applicant, against the payment of a non-refundable lump-sum fee of 200,000 CFA or 300 Euros or the equivalent of 200,000 CFA in any other freely convertible currency, by the interested Applicants. Payments shall be made by direct deposit to bank account N°: 026703016628 - Bank: BDM – under the name of Société de Gestion de l’Energie de Manantali (SOGEM) – Bank Code: ML016 – Sort Code: 01201 – RIB: 24, or by cash payment at SOGEM’s financial services for which receipts will be issued.
- Applicants are also reminded that request for disclosure of the Pre-Qualification Document may be done by writing to the Director General of SOGEM at the address indicated in paragraph 11.1 below. Applicants needing clarifications regarding the Pre-Qualification Document or the Project, after the publication of the Pre-Qualification Notice, must submit these questions in writing to SOGEM by post or by email, to the addresses provided in paragraph 11.1 below, and in accordance with the Pre-Qualification Document.
- Only those Applicants having acquired the Pre-qualification Document will have access to the Data room where other relevant Project information will be made available.
- Applicants having received a Pre-Qualification Document are invited to submit their duly completed and signed application (the «Application»), in accordance with the provisions of the Pre-Qualification Document, at latest by the date and time indicated in point 3 above, under seal, clearly mentioning «PROJET RESEAU CGFO SOGEM» as well as the name and address of the Applicant, in accordance with the requirements of the Pre-Qualification Document. The Application must be delivered by hand, against signature or addressed to SOGEM at the address listed in paragraph 11.2 below (only address authorized for the Applications). Late Applications (submitted after the deadline) will not be accepted and will be returned unopened. Electronic Applications will not be allowed.
- Applicants deemed pre-qualified, after the evaluation of the Applications by the Ad Hoc Commission, will be invited to participate in the bidding stage of the Project.
- The authorized addresses are:
11.1 For requests for disclosure of the Pre-Qualification Document and requests for clarification:
Monsieur le Directeur Général de la SOGEM
ACI 2000 Parcelle N° 2501, 3ème étage
BP E-4015 – Bamako – République du Mali
Tel.: 00 223 75 99 98 98 / 00 223 72 41 43 69;
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org with mandatory copy to
11.2. For Applications only (only authorized address):
To the attention of :
Monsieur le Directeur Général de la SOGEM/Secrétariat de la Direction Générale de la SOGEM, 3ème étage, ACI 2000 Parcelle N° 250, BP E-4015 – Bamako – République du Mali
11.3. For the opening of Applications only:
SOGEM Directorate General Conference room, 3ème étage, ACI 2000 Parcelle N° 2501, BP E-4015 – Bamako – République du Mali
Bamako, August 06th, 2019
The Director General of SOGEM
For a version of the above in French please click here.