WASHINGTON — A startup planning a constellation of small satellites to link Internet of Things devices says a recent test using another operator’s spacecraft will help it compete with more advanced startups despite not having any satellites in orbit.
OQ Technology of Luxembourg used GomSpace’s two GOM-X4 cubesats in low Earth orbit to demonstrate waveforms for a future constellation. The tests began in July and will continue until the end of the year.
In an interview, Omar Qaise, founder and CEO of OQ Technology, said the tests showed how the company could leverage satellites from other operators by reprogramming their onboard software-defined radios to link with sensors, machines and other Internet of Things devices.
“If we find a flying [software-defined radio] on any other satellite that fits our requirements, we could simply use that to provide IoT machine-to-machine services by uploading our software,” Qaise told SpaceNews. “If we don’t find that, then the next step is a hosted payload. If we don’t find that, then the third step is really building and launching our own satellites.”
OQ Technology is one of around two dozen companies hoping to capture a piece of the Internet of Things market. Many of its competitors, including Kepler Communications in Canada, Australian startup Fleet, Dutch ventures Astrocast and Hiber and U.S. startup Swarm already have their first few smallsats in low Earth orbit.
Qaise said OQ Technology’s phased approach to getting IoT payloads deployed will help the eight-person startup keep its costs low. He declined to say how much the company, founded in 2016, has raised.
GomSpace of Denmark and Sweden launched the GOMX-4A and-4B satellites in February 2018 on a Chinese Long March 2D rocket. The Danish Ministry of Defence financed the first satellite, which carries an imaging payload. The European Space Agency funded the second satellite, which carries several tech-demonstration payloads.
In a news release, OQ Technology said it tested 5G IoT technologies on the six-unit GOMX-4 spacecraft.
Qaise said OQ Technology is basing its satellite system on the narrowband IoT radio standard developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Program, 3GPP, an international standards body, instead of LoRa or Sigfox — standards several other operators have rallied around.
“There will be a lot of candidate technologies, but history has shown that with mobile technology, what survives at the end is what follows and supports the global standard,” Qaise said. “That’s why we decided to take a different approach from others and really align ourselves with the 3GPP narrowband IoT standard.”
OQ Technology will seek partnerships among cellular communications companies, he said, particularly mobile network operators and chipset manufacturers.
Qaise said OQ Technology will announce plans for its first batch of payloads or satellites “very soon.” He declined to say how many payloads and/or dedicated satellites OQ Technology desires.