University of Waterloo awarded funding to expand access to the Internet

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Research at the University of Waterloo that has the potential to affordably connect billions of new users to the Internet via intelligent antennas will receive $6.1 million in joint funding from C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. (C-COM) and the federal government.

C-COM and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will each provide funding of $3,055,000 over five years. C-COM will also provide $751,000 of in-kind support to the project, which Professor Safieddin Safavi-Naeini, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Waterloo will lead. Safavi-Naeini is the head of the Centre for Intelligent Antenna and Radio Systems (CIARS) at Waterloo.

Work at CIARS involves the development of low-cost, flat, modular antennas capable of establishing and maintaining links to satellites, even while on the move. That capability would be a breakthrough for C-COM, which presently manufactures and sells robotic antennas for fixed Internet connectivity in 103 countries around the world. The new technology would enable widespread broadband internet service in cars, trains, ships, planes and other vehicles.

“If you imagine there are billions of people out there with no connectivity, and hundreds of millions of cars, trucks, planes, boats, anything that moves, the market potential is exciting,” said Leslie Klein, an alumnus of Waterloo Engineering and co-founder of C-COM.

Existing antennas can connect to satellites in areas as remote as the middle of the Sahara Desert, but they are relatively large and expensive. The next-generation antennas will lie flat, conforming to the contours of a car’s roof, for example, or be attached to buildings and maintain fast, reliable connections by electronically directing their beams to satellites overhead. Once in mass production, the antennas could affordably service huge areas of the world that lack conventional cellular networks on the ground.

“The University of Waterloo has built a global reputation in antenna and wireless communications research,” said D. George Dixon, vice-president, university research at Waterloo. “The establishment of this industrial research chair will support the innovative work taking place at CIARS that will connect people in all corners of the world in the near future.”

Waterloo Engineering has five industrial research chairs who collaborate with industry in a variety of areas, including energy infrastructure, information theory of optical networks, and risk-based life cycle management of engineering systems.

“Digital technologies are playing a major role in what many have referred to as the fourth industrial revolution,” said B. Mario Pinto, president of NSERC. “NSERC is proud to further drive innovation in wireless communications by supporting this research partnership in advanced satellite antenna systems. Dynamic collaborations between industry and academia are vital to transformative advances and breakthroughs in this field.”

An initial product may be on the market within two to three years. Other possible applications for the antennas include use with high-speed, 5G communications networks using millimetre wavelength radio frequencies, which are expected to become reality within about five years, and sophisticated radar imaging for sensor systems in self-driving cars.

About the University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 36,000 students we are home to the world's largest co-operative education system of its kind. Our unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. Find out more at

About C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.

C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. is a leader in the development, manufacture and deployment of commercial grade mobile satellite-based technology for the delivery of two-way high-speed Internet, VoIP and Video services into vehicles. C-COM has developed a number of proprietary Mobile auto-deploying (iNetVu®) antennas that deliver broadband over satellite into vehicles while stationary virtually anywhere where one can drive. The iNetVu® Mobile antennas have also been adapted to be airline checkable and easily transportable. More than 8000 C-COM antennas have been deployed in 103 countries around the world in vertical markets such as Oil & Gas Exploration, Military Communications, Disaster Management, SNG, Emergency Communications, Cellular Backhaul, Telemedicine, Mobile Banking, and others. The Company's satellite-based products are known worldwide for their high quality, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

C-COM is also involved in the design and development of a new generation of Ka-band (communications on the move) antennas, which will deliver satellite broadband solutions into vehicles while in motion. More information is available at:

iNetVu® is a registered trademark of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.


Media Contacts:

Pamela Smyth
University of Waterloo

Leslie Klein
​C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.
613-745-4110 ext.4950

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