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High-speed broadband in cars moves closer

Consumers can already access broadband and media via smartphones whether they’re sat in a car, on a train and increasingly in the air. However, a new link between Toyota and Kymeta Corp has come up with a satellite antenna that’s capable of handling very high-speed data to cars at domestic-type broadband rates.

The technology was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show on January 11th. The prototype communication system is capable of downloading satellite data at 50 megabits per second, which is significantly better than typical cellular feeds. The speed is expected to rise past the gigabit-per-second mark within a few years.

Kymeta adds that a Japanese-based investment fund (Mirai Creation Inv. Partnership) is providing a strategic investment to help develop the technology. Kymeta said at the Show that it had closed a $62 million financing round with cash from Mirai. Mirai is the Japanese word for ‘future’.

Kymeta has investors in the shape of Bill Gates, Liberty Global, Lux Capital and other well-known media names.

Satellite giant Intelsat is working with Kymeta on the technology behind the project’s delivery system, and according to Intelsat “on a global basis”.

“Satellite connectivity can best address the capacity, coverage and security concerns of conventional solutions to car connectivity. Better yet, these assets are available now. We don’t have to wait 10 years for a next generation cellular network to be invented and deployed,” said Dr. Nathan Kundtz, Chief Executive Officer of Kymeta. “This will be crucial because five years from now, every car that comes off a production line should be connected. In fact, we should stop calling it the ‘connected car’, and just call it ‘the car’ because this is the future of automotive.”

Currently, the test vehicles have a suite of 6” six-sided receivers built into the roof of the test car. The antennas can then pick up satellite signals without having to be ‘pointed’ to a satellite. The embryonic testers include youngsters who seem to appreciate receiving TV programming, games and communications and at the rate of a target 100 movies a month!

The plan is to complete testing of the system and start rolling out to the industry in about 2 years.

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