SoftBank, Alphabet team up on internet-in-the-sky

April 25, 2019 // By Peter Clarke
Loon balloon
HAPSmobile, a subsidiary of SoftBank, is investing $125 million in Loon, part of Google-parent Alphabet, as part of a partnership to develop high-altitude network connectivity.

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.

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