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Satnews Daily
October 15th, 2018

Kepler Communications Garners Series A Round Financing 

Kepler Communications has raised US$16M in a Series A round of financing led by Costanoa Ventures, with participation by Deutsche Bahn’s (DB) Digital Ventures as a strategic investor.

The round also included a number of returning investors, such as IA Ventures who led their Series Seed. This brings the cumulative total raised to over US$21M.

The Kepler team.

Rather than pursue the more typical approach of launching a massive constellation prior to delivering customer services, Kepler already delivers services for customers operating in the poles who are currently completely devoid of connectivity options. Despite being the size of a breadbox, their first satellite KIPP, a 3U cubesat, delivers upwards of 40 Mbps to 60 cm. diameter VSAT antennas for their customers where the bulk of alternative satellite services peak around 1 Mbps. This is an improvement similar to the jump from 3G to 4G data speeds. KIPP will soon be joined on orbit by its sister satellite, CASE, when the latter is launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in mid-November of 2018.

Kepler's KIPP smallsat. Image is courtesy of Clyde Space.

Demand for connectivity at the poles is poised to increase, as tourism activities flourish and ice-covered shipping lanes melt as a result of global warming. One of Kepler’s early customers is F. Laeisz, one of the world’s oldest shipping companies that operates an icebreaking vessel, the Polarstern, which can support over 100 crew members and spends the majority of its operational lifetime outside of traditional satellite coverage.

After KIPP and CASE, Kepler is planning to deploy their third satellite TARS in H2 2019 that will be used to demonstrate their Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity service. The focus on IoT connectivity led to the strategic investment by DB Digital Ventures, who has a need for IoT connectivity among their business units.

Kepler will be using the new capital to grow revenues, and to launch its GEN1 constellation, which will be put into service by the end of 2020 and includes up to 15 additional nanosatellites. The focus of their GEN1 constellation will be on delivering their high-capacity and affordable store-and-forward services beyond the capabilities offered by KIPP, CASE, and TARS.

Kepler's ultimate goal is of in-space connectivity, and achieving this sustainably. GEN1 and GEN2 constellations predominantly focus on store-and-forward and IoT services, but will have the necessary technology to lead to in-space connectivity. Kepler’s accomplishments are a result of being able to build, launch, and operate highly capable communication satellites quickly. A principal desire for Kepler is to continue to build new and strengthen existing relationships in the space industry, using Kepler’s core competency, to be able to reach their goal of in-space connectivity collaboratively.

Kepler is a satellite telecommunications provider based in Canada, backed by Costanoa Ventures, IA Ventures and other leading investors. Kepler aims to build an in-space telecommunications network through an incremental deployment of products and technologies.

Executive Comments

Mina Mitry, CEO of Kepler, said that the company has spoken with icebreakers, oil tankers, tourism companies, maritime operators, and scientific organizations that all operate at the poles. They told the firm of the frustrations with the complete lack of high-bandwidth coverage in these regions. This is what led Kepler to roll out PolarConnect, the world’s only high bandwidth solution designed for the poles.

Thomas Liebe, Chief Operator of the Polarstern, added that with the Kepler system, for the first time the company is able to send massive files such as operational data, scientific data, videos, or photos. These are bandwidth intensive and the firm has other way to send the data if traditional systems were used. Kepler’s store-and-forward service is designed to work with a wide variety of VSATs, meaning that customers with existing Ku-band steerable antennas will be able to make use of the service without the need to install new ground antenna.

Greg Sands, Founder and Managing Partner of Costanoa Ventures and also joining Kepler's Board of Directors, noted that the company is excited by Kepler as compared with all the recent smallsat communication companies as they have demonstrated that their satellites are filling global gaps in connectivity. Kepler has incredible technology, with KIPP having already demonstrated the highest data throughput ever achieved in a smallsat. The firm has strong customer traction, with early polar customers already making use of PolarConnect.

Boris Kühn, Managing Director at DB Digital Ventures, commented that the firm is excited about the novel connectivity solutions that Kepler is bringing to market and look forward to implementing their service within the company's business units at DB. Kepler represents a market leader for connectivity when compared to other smallsat connectivity options the firm has explored.