SoftBank, Alphabet team up on internet-in-the-sky
Both companies want to provide networks based on aerial platforms to provide access to the internet in mountainous terrain, remote islands and across developing countries.
Loon is planning to launch a number of communications-capable balloons to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere to create a mesh network. HAPSmobile Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) has a similar plan but based on solar-powered aircraft that would form the eponymous high altitude platform station (HAPS). HAPSmobile makes the point that because such aerial platforms are much closer the earth compared to GEO and LEO satellites low-latency communications are possible.
In return for its investment HAPSmobile is gaining access to, and the right to adapt, Loon’s fleet management system and software-defined networking technology as part of broader collaboration.
As part of the mutually supportive partnership HAPSmobile is investing $125 million in Loon and Loon has obtained the right to invest the same amount in HAPSMobile in the future. Meanwhile the two compnies will explore active collaboration on mobile internet penetration, enabling IoT applications and assisting in the deployment of 5G.
The two firms have agreed to allow use of each other’s platforms, to develop communications payloads and ground stations together.
Next: Out of this world
HAPSmobile, a joint venture between SoftBank and AeroVironment Inc., has completed the development of its HAWK 30, its aircraft-like stratospheric telecommunications platform.
Loon already has a high altitude vehicle and communications system that has already connected hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
“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,” said Junichi Miyakawa, CTO of SoftBank and CEO of HAPSMobile, in a statement. “Through HAPS, we aim to eliminate the digital divide and provide people around the world with the innovative network services that they need.”
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