Megaconstellation startup Mangata Networks joins T-Mobile-backed 5G incubator
WASHINGTON — Mangata Networks, a broadband megaconstellation venture created by former OneWeb Satellites CEO Brian Holz, is one of 16 startups newly added the 5G Open Innovation Lab, an ideas-and-partnership incubator founded earlier this year by T-Mobile, Intel and NASA to help unleash the potential of 5G mobile networks.
Mangata said Sept. 16 that inclusion in the nontraditional accelerator will help the company develop 5G applications for its planned satellite network.
Holz formed Mangata in March with the aim of providing global internet connectivity through a constellation of 791 satellites spread across medium and highly elliptical orbits. Two veterans of O3b Networks, Robert Morris and Ken Mentasti, have joined the company, which is starting well behind other megaconstellation ventures.
SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and Amazon are all building megaconstellations of low Earth orbit satellites with the aim of providing abundant, high-speed internet on a global or near-global basis.
Holz, in an interview, said Mangata is differentiated from those competitors by its higher orbits, which require fewer initial satellites to start service.
“If you compare us to the large megaconstellations, they need to have a large number of satellites launched and operational before they can start revenue,” he said. “That requires a huge capital ask to the market pre-revenue. One of the biggest differentiators with us is that we only need eight satellites to start the business, and that requires a lot less capital.”
Mangata aims to launch those first eight satellites into a highly elliptical orbit in 2023 or 2024, Holz said. Another 24 satellites would follow in 2024 or 2025 in medium Earth orbit — the same region of space where SES operates the O3b fleet — with later satellite batches added every 12 to 18 months, he said.
Holz said Mangata wants to enter the market by stitching into 4G and 5G networks, which makes working with T-Mobile particularly important. T-Mobile, Intel and NASA formed the 5G Open Innovation Lab in May to create a space where businesses, academics and government institutions can work together with startups to develop new 5G capabilities.
The 5G Open Innovation Lab selected Mangata and 15 other startups for its “second cohort,” giving its members time with chief technology officers from its founding members, access to T-Mobile’s 5G testing facilities, and introduction to a network of venture capitalists. Mangata is the only satellite company in the cohort.
“This is a fantastic program giving entrepreneurs and developers — the folks that make the magic happen — direct access to our engineers and business leaders,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile president of technology, said in a Sept. 16 news release.
Holz said Mangata will work closely with T-Mobile on technology and business development, and potentially receive its help raising capital.
Holz was the chief technology officer of O3b Networks, and helped develop the company before it was purchased by SES in 2016. He was also an early employee of OneWeb, eventually becoming chief executive of OneWeb Satellites, the Airbus-OneWeb joint venture formed to build OneWeb’s megaconstellation of 648 satellites. O3b Networks and OneWeb in the past had both expressed a desire to bring the internet to the world’s poorest regions. Mangata also has this goal, but Holz said it’s a long-term objective.
“There’s got to be a better way to provide capacity at high performance and make it more affordable, not only to serve the current markets, but to solve the dream we had at the beginning of O3b,” he said. “O3b meant the ‘Other 3 Billion.’ Today, there’s more than 4 billion that aren’t connected.”
Holz said Mangata’s early satellites in highly elliptical orbit will be well suited for mobility applications, he said. Direct-to-home consumer broadband is not a company focus, he said.
Mangata filed for spectrum in March with the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations body that regulates spectrum, Holz said. Its satellites will use Ka- and V-band frequencies to provide broadband with less than 100 milliseconds of signal lag. Holz said Mangata’s satellites will weigh around 600 kilograms and have 10-year design lives.
Mangata raised a seed investment round Holz declined to quantify from the Bellevue, Washington-based Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Science Fund earlier this year, and hopes to close a Series A round in 2021. The company currently numbers 10 people and is based in Phoenix, Arizona, he said.