MONTAIN VIEW, Calif.-Dutch company Hiber is scrapping plans to deploy an internet constellation of small things, choosing instead to offer similar services through a third-party system.
In a Sept. 24 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, the company said it was handing over its market access authorization, in fact a license to provide communications services in the United States. It is also granting a license to operate 10,000 terminals that those satellites would have used.
“Hiber will not further develop its authorized satellite system and is currently in the process of submitting the space system license to the Dutch administration,” the company said in the dossier.
Hiber was authorized to operate a 24-satellite system, with four released to date. The first two started at the end of 2018 as a payload on the PSLV and Falcon 9 travel missions A third was launched on another Falcon 9 travel mission in January 2021 and the fourth as a secondary payload on a Soyuz-2 launch on March 2021.
However, Hiber said in the dossier that two of the four satellites are no longer operational. The other two, the company, have suffered technical problems that “prevent Hiber from establishing its intended commercial service”. The company did not elaborate on those problems, but stated that “diagnosing and dealing with technical issues would be costly”. The company did not say which of the four satellites were no longer operational and which two had encountered technical problems.
The lack of operational satellites has prevented the company from generating revenue, she said. Moreover, the pandemic “has been devastating to Hiber’s ability to make additional investments to support the construction of the remaining satellites” because its executives in the Netherlands have been unable to travel to the United States to meet with potential investors.
Hiber, however, raised 26m euros ($ 30m) from the European Union Innovation Council Fund and private investors in March. The company said at the time that it was working on “its constellation of home-developed satellites” for IoT services. “The funds will be used to further expand the satellite network and increase its customer base,” the company said in a March 30 statement.
Recently, however, the company has called itself an “industrial IoT start-up as a service” in statements, including that of September 13 announcing an agreement with power company Shell to provide good monitoring services. Those services use “satellite technology,” the company said in a statement, but did not mention Hiber’s own satellites.
Hiber said in its FCC registration that it is relying on other satellite networks to provide IoT services. “Hiber has set in motion its business operations and aims to provide Internet of Things services through leased capacity on a third-party satellite network,” the company said. The company did not disclose that network to third parties on paper, or in a statement to SpaceNews.
“Historically, we have provided IoT connectivity solutions through our satellites and third-party networks,” Roel Jansen, Hiber’s chief executive, said in a statement on October 6. “After reviewing our operations and our customers’ requests, we have decided to discontinue our satellite activities and offer connections exclusively through the best third-party providers.”
Hiber admitted in its letter submitting its license that it owes the FCC a default payment of $ 1.92 million, paid out of a guarantee. The company urged the FCC to waive that payment, arguing that it made a bona fide effort to deploy its satellite constellation, spending about 28m euros in the process. If the FCC refused to waive the payment, Hiber demanded that it be reduced by a third, reflecting the fact that it launched four satellites out of the minimum of 12 it needed to avoid the obligation of guarantee.
Hiber was among several startups planning small constellations to deliver IoT services, seeking part of what they believe is a growing market for connecting devices, especially in remote locations not served by terrestrial networks.
Others in the field are developing partnerships to provide service to the satellites of other companies in addition to launching their own satellites. Myriota, an Australian company that provides IoT services via satellite, announced a partnership with Spire Global on September 22, where Myriota will use Spire’s small constellation to expand its network. The deal, Myriota said, would allow it to “accelerate and cost-effectively its IoT services to meet growing global demand”.