Kymeta and Airbus go on the road in Peru to demonstrate ‘SmartBus’ satellite links

SmartBus configuration
Kymeta installed flat-panel antennas shaped like white stop signs on top of TEPSA interprovincial buses in Peru. (Kymeta / Airbus Photo)

Kymeta Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other investors, has demonstrated the performance of its flat-panel satellite antennas in an unlikely setting: on top of buses traveling throughout Peru.

With the aid of partners including Intelsat, Cubic Telecom and Cradlepoint, Kymeta worked with Airbus to create a pilot project called SmartBus. The project involved outfitting interprovincial buses operated by TEPSA — the Peruvian analog to Greyhound Lines — with Kymeta’s satellite terminals.

SmartBus is designed to gather up-to-the-minute data on road safety and other indicators to improve Peru’s transportation system while connecting people in remote areas of the country.

The system leverages satellite bandwidth capacity from Intelsat, cellular coverage from Cubic Telecom and a software-defined WAN solution from Cradlepoint to establish real-time data connections along a 460-mile bus route through Peru.

The World Bank and Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications lended crucial support to SmartBus.

“This project is making a tangible contribution to development by connecting people in an extremely difficult geographical region of Peru,” Alberto Rodríguez, director of the World Bank for Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, said in a news release. “The critical insights we unearth from this trial will be used by research centers, universities and leading technology companies, helping them to identify problems and possible solutions relating to road safety, meteorology and transport logistics.”

Kymeta said the SmartBus pilot project could open the way to a variety of industry applications for its mobile connectivity platform, including commercial agriculture, fleet management, public transportation and emergency response.

“We are an end-to-end services provider with reliable mobile connectivity that also captures mission-critical data for a variety of industries,” said Benjamin Posthuma, Kymeta’s connectivity solutions manager. “With Kymeta, users no longer need to choose between satellite and cellular – they are just connected.”

Kymeta also announced the release of a white paper titled “A Hybrid Network Solution for Reliable, Wide-Coverage First Responder Communications.” The white paper highlights two field trials demonstrating how satellite-cellular hybrid networks can add resiliency to communication systems for first responders in the face of infrastructure failures and network congestion.

Kymeta’s flat-panel antenna takes advantage of metamaterials, specially designed electronic arrays that make it possible to “steer” the antennas using software rather than mechanical movements. The company was spun out from Bellevue, Wash.-based Intellectual Ventures and made its public debut in 2012.

In addition to Bill Gates, Kymeta’s investors include Intelsat, Lux Capital and Liberty Global. Total investment is thought to amount to more than $200 million.

Over the years, Kymeta has partnered with Intelsat and Airbus as well as other big-name players, such as Microsoft, Nomad GCS, Toyota, Inmarsat and Honeywell Aerospace, Panasonic, Sharp and Aurum Security. In league with Intelsat, Kymeta began offering a mobile satellite data service called KĀLO in 2017. The company is also selling antennas for satellite communication at sea as well as for field applications ranging from construction site management to emergency response.

Satellite equipment on bus
A drone’s-eye view shows the SmartBus satellite terminal equipment mounted on top of a bus. (Airbus Photo)

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