Singapore-based Transcelestial Uses Lasers to Build Affordable Internet Networks • TechCrunch

Members of the transcelestial team install the CENTAURI device on a building

Members of the transcelestial team install the CENTAURI device on a building

Transcelestial’s mission is to make the Internet more accessible by building a network of shoebox-sized devices that send lasers to each other, creating a fiber-like network. Today, the Singapore-based startup announced it has raised $10 million aimed at expanding its wireless laser communications system in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. After all, it has its eyes on space and deploys its wireless fiber optics from orbit.

The company’s A2 round was led by aerospace venture firm Airbus Ventures, with participation from Kickstart Ventures, Genesis Alternative Ventures, Wavemaker, Cap Vista and Seeds Capital, as well as returning investor In-Q-Tel. This brings Transcelestial’s total to $24 million since its inception in 2016. Some of his past contributors include EDBI, Entrepreneur First, 500 Global, SparkLabs Global Ventures and Michael Seibel.

CEO Rohit Jha told TechCrunch that he and co-founder Mohammad Danesh believe “connectivity is a human right” and that improving Internet connections for at least a billion people guides all of their commercial and technical decisions.

The two say the current internet infrastructure is the main reason many people lack reliable internet access. Submarine cables, for example, are expensive to build and only connect two points. Long-haul terrestrial networks provide good coverage for Tier 1 cities but outpaces smaller cities and towns. Middle and last mile distribution is often costly and creates right-of-way problems.

Transcelestial’s laser communications systems eliminate the need for underground cables, which are expensive to install and maintain, and radio frequency-based devices with their complicated frequency licensing requirements. As a result, according to Jha, Transcelestial can offer an option with a significantly lower cost per bit. Transcelestial’s shoebox-sized devices, called CENTAURI, have already been deployed in the South and Southeast Asian markets.

A CENTAURI installation

A CENTAURI installation

The startup recently demonstrated that its laser technology can deliver 5G connectivity at a demonstration at the University of Technology Sydney. Its next stop is space: Transcelestial is working to bring its technology into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation, with the goal of deploying its wireless fiber optics from orbit directly to cities and depths.

In the meantime, the company plans to expand beyond its markets in Asia and expand early market access in the United States, where research from the Pew Trust found that 27% of people in rural areas and 2% of people in cities did not have readily available internet connections. Transcelestial plans to gain a foothold in the US by exploring partnerships with government, corporate and telecom operators over the next 12 months. Jha said the company is already secretly working with some ISPs and a large enterprise cloud and data center company on the west coast.

A portion of Transcelestial’s new funding will be used to prepare Terabit Factory, its manufacturing facility, for supply chain uncertainties. The facility has the capacity to produce up to 2,4000 CENTAURI devices annually, which according to Trancelestial is the largest deployment volume of any laser communications manufacturer worldwide.

In a statement on the funding, Clayton Williams, Managing Director of In-Q-Tel, said: “CENTAURI, Transcelestial’s laser communications platform, is a best-in-class solution for low-cost, high-bandwidth terrestrial communications. We’re excited to expand this capability to enable space-based data backhaul for secure point-to-point communications from the US and anywhere in the world.”

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