transcelestial is on a mission to make the internet more accessible by building a network of shoebox-sized devices that send lasers at each other, creating a fiber-like network. Today, the Singapore-based startup announced that it has raised $10 million, with the goal of expanding its wireless laser communications system in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States. Eventually, it has its eyes in space, deploying 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, along with returning investor In-Q-Tel. This brings Transcelestial’s total raised since it was founded in 2016 to $24 million. Some of his past sponsors 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 that “connectivity is a human right” and improving internet connections for at least a billion people drives all of their business and technical decisions.
The two say that 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-distance terrestrial networks provide good coverage to Tier 1 cities, but leave smaller cities and towns behind. Middle mile and last mile distribution is often costly and faces right-of-way issues.
Transcelestial’s laser communications systems eliminate underground cables, which are expensive to install and maintain, and radio frequency-based devices, with their complicated spectrum licensing regulations. As a result, Jha said Transcelestial can offer a significantly lower cost-per-bit option. Transcelestial’s shoebox-sized devices, called CENTAURI, have already been rolled out in South and Southeast Asian markets.
The startup recently demonstrated that its laser technology can offer 5G connectivity during a demonstration at the University of Technology Sydney. Their next stop is space: Transcelestial is working to bring its technology to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation, with the goal of deploying its wireless fiber optics from orbit directly to cities and valleys.
In the meantime, it plans to go beyond its markets in Asia and begin expanding early market access in the US, where Pew Trust research found that 27% of people in rural areas and 2% of cities lacked available Internet connections. Transcelestial plans to enter the US by exploring collaborations with government, business and telecommunications over the next 12 months. Jha said the company is already secretly working with some ISPs and a major enterprise cloud and data center company on the West Coast.
Part of Transcelestial’s new funding will be used to prepare Terabit Factory, its production facility, for uncertainties in the supply chain. The facility has the capacity to manufacture up to 24,000 CENTAURI devices per year, which, according to Trancelestial, is the largest deployment volume of any laser communications producer globally.
In a statement about the funding, In-Q-Tel’s managing director, Clayton Williams, said: “Transcelestial’s CENTAURI laser communications platform is a best-in-class solution for low-cost, high-bandwidth terrestrial communications. We are excited to help expand this capability to enable a space-based data backhaul for secure peer-to-peer communications from the US and anywhere in the world.”