The small Rosh Haayin company challenging Elon Musk

Tamir Pardo   credit: Ran Biran
Tamir Pardo credit: Ran Biran

hiSky Satellite has been operating under the radar since 2015, but now things have changed. Experts are drawing parallels with Musk's Starlink.

Since its founding almost a decade ago, in 2015, hiSky Satellite’s activity has remained almost completely under the local media radar. That situation is now changing. hiSky, which provides satellite communication services to industries such as agriculture, critical infrastructure providers, the fishing industry, and shipping, is being repeatedly mentioned by the global media, and compared to none other than Starlink, Elon Musk's satellite communication services venture.

Late last April, CNH, the second largest supplier of agricultural vehicles in the world, announced a collaboration with Intelsat, one of the world’s largest satellite communication networks operators. Intelsat will provide satellite communication services for the agricultural vehicles distributed by CNH.

A few months earlier, in December 2023, in shadow of the current war, Intelsat itself signed an investment and cooperation agreement with Israel’s hiSky, under which the former will use the platform that hiSky has developed. Some satellite communication companies, such as Intelsat and Starlink, own their communications satellites, but the story is different with hiSky. The company develops terminals that can be installed on agricultural vehicles, for example, and that can connect to the satellite service via wireless network, without being dependent on a particular satellite network. According to "The Wall Street Journal," today, only about 19% of all agricultural areas have wireless network access.

hiSky versus Starlink

Agriculture, like other industrial sectors, is investing more and more in satellite communications, which facilitates communications in areas not covered by cellular networks. "Satellite technology helps solve complex connectivity challenges for hard-to-reach farms," Marc Kermisch, chief digital and information officer for London-based CNH, told "The Wall Street Journal" last week.

Last January, US-based agricultural vehicle giant John Deere signed a similar agreement with Starlink, to provide satellite connectivity for its equipment.

Going head-to-head with Musk in that deal was none other than Intelsat, accompanied by hiSky. Starlink also competed in the CNH tender, which, as mentioned, was ultimately won by Intelsat.

The Starlink satellite communication service operates through its own satellites, and is focused mainly on communications satellites that operate close to the atmosphere, in a lower and shorter orbit than traditional communications satellites. Low orbit satellites are able to collect and transmit more data faster. However, hiSky explains, not every company needs the mass of data, and low orbit satellite communications are higher-priced.

"We allow our customers more flexibility," hiSky explains. "Low orbit satellites are closer to the antennas on the ground, facilitating higher data rates, but tractors, for example, don’t need these data rates… The service we offer is more versatile for the customer. What's more, it's cheaper."

Another difference, hiSky notes, is the way the communications network works. "Starlink has a closed network. All data go to Starlink's data center, and from there to the customer. With us, it's different. We don't touch the customer's data, and customers can set up their own private network on the back of our infrastructure."

Multinationals and governments

A review by US market research firm Markets and Markets of the global commercial satellite IoT (Internet of Things) industry in 2023 found that this market was forecast to grow almost threefold, from $1.1 billion in 2022, to $2.9 billion dollars by 2027.

According to the report's findings, demand for communications services based on low-orbit satellites, along with the continuous growth of many industries, are the main market drivers. In addition, major enterprises are expected to make up the largest market share. Industry sources explain that the satellite market as a whole, (not just low-orbit), has a far larger capacity. A Business Research Company report about the overall commercial satellite industry estimates this market will grow by approximately $2 billion this year.

Future growth will be even greater, according to the report, which estimates that the market will grow to $37 billion over the next four years. The report also states that investment by large enterprises and governments is increasing.

As proof, there is the largest-ever satellite launch deal, signed in April 2022, with Amazon. According to "Bloomberg," more than 3,000 commercial satellites will be launched into space for Amazon's satellite network. Also, "Bloomberg" reports, the Chinese government is itself building a fleet of low-orbit satellites.

A number of leading European satellite and aviation companies have also banded together in a €6 billion project, called IRIS², to launch a network of commercial satellites. It is believed that by the end of the current decade, more than 100,000 commercial satellites will be launched into space, more than 20 times the number at the beginning of 2022, according to "Bloomberg."

Raised $60 million

Last April, Starlink had 5,874 satellites, of which 5,800 were active, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell. Intelsat currently operates and maintains over 72 satellites, of which 52 are self-owned, and 20 are owned by its customers.

hiSky was established in 2015 by Shahar Kravitz, who serves as CEO, CTO Moti Litochevski, and Yaron Shachar. To date, the company has raised $60 million, and has 70 employees, mostly in Israel. In addition to Intelsat, the company's main investors are Singapore-based ST Engineering's Corporate Venture Capital, and UAE-based SDF (Strategic Development Fund), the strategic investment arm of the UAE's venture capital fund Tawazun.

Investors also include Reuben Brothers (David and Simon Reuben). The company president is Tamir Pardo, a former head of the Mossad. After retiring, Pardo was among the founders of hybrid cloud cybersecurity company XM Cyber, which was acquired in 2021 by German multinational Schwarz Group. Pardo was also among the founders of OSEG, a holding company that, among other things, invests in green energy companies.

"The satellite communications industry is developing at top speed, and facing enormous technological challenges," Pardo told "Globes". "hiSky is ahead of all its competitors with particularly creative thinking that has met these challenges, and resulted in unique breakthroughs, earning it international recognition, and promising contracts with huge companies in the sector." Pardo adds that hiSky has gone "from a small company in Rosh Ha'Ayin to a byword in the industry."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 16, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

 
Tamir Pardo   credit: Ran Biran
Tamir Pardo credit: Ran Biran
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