Japan telecom SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile and Alphabet’s Loon said they’ve formed a long-term relationship to advance the use of high altitude vehicles, such as balloons and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to bring connectivity to more people, places, and things worldwide. HAPSMobile is investing USD$125 million in Loon. Loon has obtained the right to invest the same amount in HAPSMobile in the future.
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth called the agreement the beginning of a long-term relationship based on a shared vision for expanding connectivity to those who need it.
Junichi Miyakawa, Representative Director & CTO of SoftBank Corp., also President & CEO of HAPSMobile Inc. said, “Building a telecommunications network in the stratosphere, which has not been used by humankind so far, is uncharted territory and a major challenge for SoftBank. Even in this current era of coming 5G services, we cannot ignore the reality that roughly half of the world’s population is without internet access.”
To strengthen the relationship, the companies are exploring commercial collaborations to accelerate the deployment of high altitude network connectivity solutions, with a focus on expanding mobile internet penetration, enabling internet of things (IoT) applications, and assisting in the deployment of 5G. The companies entered into formal negotiations on a number of areas of potential technical and commercial collaboration.
High altitude network connectivity platforms operate in the stratosphere, which is above ground infrastructure, but below satellites, allowing for near ubiquitous coverage that avoids ground clutter and significant latency issues. These advantages make such vehicles a promising solution for expanding mobile coverage to those who need it as well as IoT and 5G use-cases.
April 26, 2019