Imagine having access to all the streaming entertainment and data in your car as in your home, regardless of where you drive.
That’s the goal of a partnership Toyota announced on 12 January 2016 with Kymeta, a 4-year-old Redmond based company that wants to take connectivity well beyond its current state. The Japanese automaker announced the partnership using a demonstration version of its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car.
Less than 10% of the earth is covered by 4G/LTE wi-fi service, and the wireless spectrum it covers is very expensive.
Toyota is investing $5 million in Kymeta, whose CEO and President Nathan Kundtz said the venture is still in the research stage.
The tangible goal is to deliver all the processing power of a obtrusive satellite dish in a flat antenna that is small enough to not detract from a vehicle’s aerodynamics.
Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota senior managing officer, said satellite networks are more stable and secure than wireless communications. They also can handle vastly more data, but there will still be geographic limits, at least in the early years.
Kundtz estimated that the technology could be market ready between 2020 and 2025 when 5G LTE is expected to be available.
“When 5G does roll out it’s likely to follow a similar trajectory as 4G LTE,” Kundtz said. “In San Francisco and New York you’ll get great data. In Africa you won’t.”
He estimated that much of the planet — about 4 billion people — have no wireless access today.
So how will it work if it comes to fruition ?
“What we’re doing is deploying a tremendous amount of data into the car,” Kundtz said. “Whether the software has updated all functions and you don’t have to wait for an update or you have movies and games delivered right to you in every seat. That pipe will enable all sorts of content that isn’t currently available.”
Another key potential use would be to update 3-dimensional maps needed for fully autonomous vehicles to navigate.
Intelsat S.A., a Luxembourg provider of about 50 satellites already in orbit, is also a partner in the project.
By Greg Gardner