talksatellite   AMERICAS    

Daily news





Kepler & Catapult to Speed up Launch of IOT Capable Satellites


Kepler has been awarded the 5th In-Orbit Demonstration Mission (IOD 5) by the Satellite Applications Catapult, a UK space innovation company, to begin delivering narrowband connectivity to billions of Internet of Things (IoT) products next year - a need that still remains unsatisfied by terrestrial networks and existing satellite solutions.

The partnership with the Catapult will allow Kepler to deliver our final prototype satellite before we begin launching our constellation of upwards of 140 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. TARS, our third satellite, will demonstrate the capacity and performance required to deliver narrowband services globally, while augmenting the high-capacity store-and-forward capabilities provided by our first satellites KIPP and CASE.

Seamless connectivity remains a challenge for many IoT developers, solution providers, businesses, and governments alike whose needs are still largely unmet despite advancements in wireless technology. Although terrestrial wireless infrastructure remains widespread, variations in frequency bands and network technology creates challenges when solution providers seek to deliver globally-connected products.

For instance, there are 50 different LTE frequency bands available worldwide, with no single wireless module able to simultaneously connect to all. Moreover, there are multiple and oftentimes competing network standards in different countries or regions. GSM networks, which are a favorite for IoT services, are being shut down in the US, but remain active elsewhere. European and Chinese mobile operators have decided to start with deployments of Cat-NB1 for their IoT networks, whereas US operators are now rolling out Cat-M1. All this means that what might work as a connectivity solution in one region does not work in another, making it incredibly difficult to deliver IoT products with inter-regional connectivity.

What we are ultimately looking to deliver with TARS is a demonstration of cellular-like connectivity from a globally available satellite solution. Cellular-like doesn't just mean it's inexpensive (although that is a necessity). It means that size of the ground hardware is similar to cellular, which is often difficult for satellite systems using lower frequencies and thus bigger antennas. Cellular-like means that the performance of the system is similar to cellular, not only in terms of data volumes but also by ensuring the link is bi-directional. Lastly, cellular-like means we can support billions of devices globally, allowing us to reach the economies of scale needed to drive prices down.

Satellites are the only viable means of addressing the need for seamless global IoT connectivity. For us, achieving a cellular-like solution can only be done in Ku-band. It allows us to shrink the user hardware, gives us plenty of bandwidth for a large number of devices, and gives the performance needed to provide cellular-like connectivity.

TARS will follow-on the success of KIPP and CASE, our first two satellites. KIPP was launched this past January, and is now starting to deliver proof-of-concept services for our high-capacity data store-and-forward service. CASE will be joining KIPP in orbit later this summer, adding to our store-and-forward capacity.

Through our partnership with the Catapult, Kepler will also be establishing new technology and distribution partnerships in the UK, integrating our company within the UK supply chain. Kepler will also be establishing our first European presence, initially with a sales and distribution facility in the UK.

We are incredibly fortunate to have been selected for the IOD 5 award and to be given the opportunity to work with some pretty incredible people at the Catapult. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Catapult, and ultimately to a successful launch of TARS.