Khalid Athar, Chief Editor of TELETIMES International interviews Tom Choi, Executive Chairman of Curvalux
Please tell us about the vision behind Curvalux?
Curvalux is a disruptive innovator of new generation wireless broadband solutions. Our mission is to deliver high-capacity, affordable, and sustainable Internet connectivity to communities around the world that don’t have access to reliable broadband internet.
Through its technological innovation, Curvalux is able to transform the lives of families and businesses by improving their Internet connectivity and enabling them to become part of the world’s digitally based economy.
There are millions of people living in remote areas without adequate telecoms infrastructure. These are often areas where those on lower incomes reside – the very people who cannot afford broadband connectivity via more traditional telecoms solutions.
How is Curvalux and CurvaNet different from other terrestrial and LEO satellite solutions?
By using advanced beam forming technologies, like Curvalux, we can lower power consumption by 95% and reduce CO2 emissions as cell towers are powered by solar. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that more than 3.2 billion people are without Internet access. If these 3.2 billion people in the rural areas are connected via inefficient cell tower 4G/5G technology, it would produce approximately 78 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year. (Source: International Telecommunication Union (ITU) )
As a solution, Curvalux’s ‘Edge Node’ terrestrial solution can be deployed at scale across difficult, off-grid terrains while providing high performance, sustainable connectivity at a cost that is affordable to the low-income families who need it the most.
The current version of the Curvalux Edge Node is a phased array multi-beam antenna that delivers highly efficient, high-speed terrestrial fixed wireless access. Once positioned on existing telecoms towers, each antenna system provides coverage by using 16 separate narrow beams to concentrate radio frequency energy into a tightly focused beam like a laser pointer. The beam isolation means that there is a far lower risk of interference from other sources, leading to vastly improved connectivity at distance in remote areas.
Unlike other solutions, the infrastructure does not need to be connected to the electrical grid and can be powered solely through renewable energy sources including solar panels. This makes the solution not only cheaper but far more sustainable than current 4G and 5G technologies, while providing 10 times the range. Less than 1,000 watts of electrical power is required to send high-powered signals over long distances, in comparison with LTE/5G systems which require 10,000-15,000 watts.
The company is also developing an LEO satellite solution called CurvaNet. This system uses low earth orbiting satellites to reach areas that are beyond the coverage of the existing mobile phone towers. We have designed a user terminal that can be produced for less than $100 which tracks LEO satellites while operating with only 5W of power. The user terminal will be portable, weighing less than 10kg, and powered by solar powered batteries. This means it can be easily transported and installed in remote locations where electricity is unreliable. The equipment will receive Internet access via the CurvaNet satellite constellation and a local Wi-Fi hotspot which users can use their devices to connect the Internet.
Connection terminals and associated equipment added to high connection tariffs makes broadband prohibitively expensive for many people living in isolated communities. The CurvaNet solution has significantly reduced production, installation and on-going operational costs, so we expect tariffs to be one-tenth of the cost of those offered by other LEO competitors, making it an affordable option for telecoms suppliers and customers.
Have you deployed any PoCs?
Curvalux is undertaking a number of proof-of-concept trials around the world. The Curvalux systems have been deployed in locations across Indonesia, Malaysia and Mongolia. Other trials are set to be launched over the forthcoming months in the Brazil, Canada, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, South Africa, the UK and US.
What were the results?
Following the successful completion of commercial trials, Globe Telecoms, a leading telecommunications services provider in the Philippines, has made a significant order for additional Curvalux Edge Node system to expand its network infrastructure. The partnership with Globe Telecom was initially designed to overcome the challenges of implementing large-scale telecoms infrastructure across the archipelagic state, comprising of more than 7,000 islands.
Gerard Ortines, Globe Telecom’s Head of Network Solution & Capex Management, said: “The delivery of reliable and cost-effective broadband services in the Philippines is hampered by an incredibly diverse geography and demographic. Traditional terrestrial Wi-Fi antennas may work well in some areas but are power-hungry, expensive to deploy and have a small coverage area. Curvalux’s Edge Node can be deployed at scale across difficult terrains while providing high performance connectivity at a cost that is affordable to the low-income families who need it the most.”
What kind of products and solutions will you be offering once you are fully operational?
We will offer end-to-end systems for both terrestrial and satellite wireless broadband connectivity. Our principal driver for all our technologies will be affordability and sustainability. This is made possible by our flexible, hybrid solutions that are able to tackle complex challenges, such as geographical barriers and unreliable electricity.
We have recently heard about a couple of MoUs and partnerships being put into place with respect to Curvalux?
More than ten MoUs have so far been signed. For example, see link: https://curvalux.com/telefonica_global_solutions_signed_an_ mou_with_curvalux_for_the_distribution_ of_curvanet/
How would you comment on the current state of the global satellite market?
The Fixed-satellite service (FSS) satellite industry has seen a decline in utilisation as the terrestrial operators look to other solutions to expand their networks. However, satellites will always play a very necessary and complimentary role to terrestrial solutions. This is because there will always be remote areas of the planet where it is not cost effective to connect terrestrially. The satellite industry is constantly evolving, with new concepts, innovations and technological improvements, which is how it will stay relevant to its customers now and in the future.
Which verticals are areas require the most focus and attention from the satellite industry on a global level?
The biggest challenge for the satellite industry is the significant cost and time to build and launch satellites. This has prevented many new operators from entering the market which has pushed up the costs for the end-users. The knock-on effect is that the lack of affordability has limited the number of applications that satellites can support.
Do you feel that the pandemic has affected the satellite industry in anyway?
The ability to digitally connect via the Internet has helped the world function throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without it, businesses and other vital services would have ground to a halt. This recent experience has heightened our awareness of the need to deliver affordable, reliable Internet access to people, wherever they are in the world, to help them compete on an equal footing.
As a result, satellite industry has had to fill an important role to provide connectivity to extremely remote areas that are beyond the reach of any terrestrial infrastructure. As a result, the satellite industry has had to rapidly adapt their operations and services to deliver affordable connectivity services to remote residential communities. Operators and manufacturers are now accelerating their R&D programmes to prevent them from falling behind the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth.
How do you see the next 3 years for Curvalux?
The first few years for any start-up are often the most difficult, from hiring employees to building teams, defining an operational structure to launching a product and securing customers. Unfortunately, many start-ups don’t survive this initial period. However, at Curvalux, we have assembled an incredibly talented team who have been able to develop technology to solve a connectivity issue at a time when the world is becoming ever more reliant of the Internet. This breakthrough is attracting a significant number of customers from around the world in a relatively short period of time.
Do you have any short-term targets to achieve by end of 2021?
We expect to complete the additional PoC trials for Curvalux which will lead to additional system orders going into 2022. We also plan to complete the design and begin production of a number of next generation products that we believe will further disrupt the telecoms market by delivering more than 10 times the capacity of our current fixed wireless access system, as well as having the capability to dramatically increase the capacity of existing LTE networks using our sophisticated antenna technologies.