Rohit Jha co-founded Transcelestial in 2016 with researcher Mohammad Danesh. Transcelestial’s device, CENTAURI, was designed to deliver high-speed internet via laser beam, eliminating the need for wires. Having raised $14 million from investors like Wavemaker Partners, 500 Global, and Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel, the firm started manufacturing its shoebox-sized devices in 2021. The company currently operates in 10 markets, including India, Indonesia, and Australia.

What’s the story behind Transcelestial?

Transcelestial is built on the principle that connectivity is a human right. The vision to improve [that] experience for at least a billion people is the central driver for [us].

I met my co-founder, Mohammed Danesh, at the program Entrepreneur First. One hour into the first day, Danesh and I started discussing how using lasers in deep space, to communicate between planets and interstellar distances, would be fundamental and transformational. We needed the equivalent of an undersea cable in space. 

Step one was figuring out how to build this technology to first solve connectivity issues on this planet. After all, 99% of the world’s data goes through a network of fiber-optic cables under the oceans and across continents. This is where the Internet Distribution Problem lies — in providing affordable, high-speed internet to everyone. 

This was made especially poignant when we crossed borders around Southeast Asia. Most of these places are within less than an hour of flying distance from Singapore, where we’re based. [But] in some places, we have found that people are just 1 kilometer to the nearest fiber-optic line and still, for years, are suffering from poor connectivity. This isn’t even unique to Southeast Asia — some of the most developed nations in the world, like the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, struggle with the same connectivity hurdles.

How does your tech work?

Wireless Fiber Optics is not a new technology. The original patents on lasers included this for use cases, deployed by Bell Labs in the U.S., across the country-wide radio towers for AT&T. Unfortunately, the laser hardware was too big, and hence, the fiber optic cable was created to carry the laser signal.

In the last five years, various subsystems needed to make the technology work wirelessly have emerged. For instance, we can take the laser from inside a fiber-optic cable and make it shoot wirelessly between buildings, cell towers, continents, satellites, and eventually, planets.

We have built the first version of CENTAURI, capable of delivering 10Gbps — the minimum backbone needed to power a 5G cell tower — at 3-kilometer distances, all via a shoebox-sized device that consumes the energy equivalent to a light bulb. In terms of cost-per-bit, this is roughly an order of magnitude cheaper than laying out fiber-optic cables in cities.

How else could Transcelestial technology be applied?

We have extensive deployments of our CENTAURI devices across the Asia Pacific, in industries as diverse as defense, towers, education, airports, maritime ports, manufacturing, oil and gas, as well as our core clientele — telecoms and ISPs. 

With our tech, you can essentially connect a few buildings in less than a day. Not only are the laser links easy to set up, but they can also withstand tough weather conditions like humidity and rain.