u-blox teams for global GNSS augmentation

u-blox teams for global GNSS augmentation

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Swiss satellite navigation module maker u-blox is teaming up with Softbank to develop a global GNSS augmentation service by using high altitude unmanned aircraft.

SoftBank, which currently owns UK processor IP developer ARM, mobile phone networks around the world and HAPSmobile, launched the ichimill GNSS augmentation service in Japan in 2019. Its subsidiary ALES operates the business that generates and delivers positioning correction data in the region.

u-blox provides the PointPerfect GNSS augmentation service in Europe, the US and other countries and regions a well as positioning and location services for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets and electronic components for wireless communications.

The collaboration will see SoftBank, ALES and u-blox build GNSS augmentation infrastructure for Europe, Japan  and the US as well as develop more accurate GNSS receivers and devices, and expand service areas, partly by using high altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS).

These services use a separate real time kinematics (RTK) wireless network to provide correction data to GNSS receivers to improve the accuracy. However these tend to be offered separately by country and region with different data formats. This means client companies such as global automotive manufacturers and agricultural machinery manufacturers have to sign up for separate service contracts in each country and region with different firmware in the GNSS modules.

So the three groups will develop a global correction data delivery infrastructure delivers unified correction signal formats for use in any country or region. With this infrastructure, companies using ichimill or PointPerfect will be able to conduct GNSS augmentation if they are in range of both services, which will eliminate the need for separate service contracts by country or region.

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SoftBank developed its own GNSS receivers for ichimill and is offering them in Japan at affordable prices for easy implementation. The three companies will consider jointly developing GNSS receivers and modules that can be used globally.

The companies will also collaborate closely to ensure that the performance of the services in all the regions covered are comparable. This is important to provide a consistent customer experience across all the regions. Furthermore, the three companies plan to study service expansion into other areas, including the Asia region.

SoftBank is promoting the deployment of Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions that encompass satellite- and stratospheric-based telecommunication platforms using high altitude unmaned aircraft to provide connectivity to the sea, the sky, developing countries and rural areas lacking Internet infrastructure. The three companies will consider the development of NTN-linked services, such as correction data delivery using small amounts of data in a way that is suitable for NTN bandwidths.

“Breaking down the geographical fragmentation of the market for high-precision GNSS solutions will allow SoftBank to market the same product in the USA, Europe, and Japan,” said Makoto Noda, Vice President, Enterprise Business Unit (in charge of Solution Engineering) at SoftBank and President of ALES. “As a one-stop-shop for all the required hardware and service components, including their GNSS augmentation service, u-blox is the ideal partner to help SoftBank and ALES achieve our vision of global expansion.”

“Our customers, which include automotive OEMs and Tier 1s, depend on globally consistent GNSS augmentation services to sell vehicles across multiple markets. So do the manufacturers of industrial IoT devices and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles. We are confident that our collaboration with SoftBank will help us provide the level of service our customers need for true global high precision applications,” said Franco De Lorenzo, Principal Product Manager, Services, at u-blox.

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