An alliance that looks to use high altitude vehicles for global connectivity has been massively expanded with the addition of new members.
Called the HAPS Alliance, the alliance is made up of telecommunications, technology, aviation, and aerospace companies that seek to eliminate the digital divide and bring connectivity to more people, places, and things worldwide.
Among the members are some well known high altitude players such as Alphabet’s Project Loon, which is Alphabet’s balloon-based communications platform spun out of its X innovation lab.
Loon intends to provide LTE communications between stations on the ground by linking them to high-altitude balloons equipped with airborne repeaters.
A transceiver on a balloon would get an LTE signal from a cell phone or a wireless company’s cell site and relay it from one balloon to another to complete the connection. This worked for emergency communications in Peru following an earthquake there.
Other members of the HAPS Alliance include SoftBank’s HAPSMobile; AeroVironment; Airbus Defence and Space; Bharti Airtel; China Telecom; Deutsche Telekom; Ericsson; Intelsat; Nokia, SoftBank, and Telefónica.
“The HAPS Alliance is being created so member companies can collectively advocate for High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) business development with the relevant authorities in various countries, build a cooperative HAPS ecosystem, develop common product specifications and promote the standardisation of HAPS network interoperability, it said.
“All of these activities will be key to the Alliance’s aim of addressing diverse social issues and creating new value by providing telecommunications network connectivity worldwide through the utilization of high altitude vehicles,” it added.
The Allianc was originally an initiative from HAPSMobile and Project Loon.
So how will it work?
Well, 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, the alliance said.
These advantages make such vehicles a promising solution for expanding mobile coverage to areas where connectivity is lacking – such as mountainous terrain, remote islands, marine regions and developing countries – as well as for IoT and 5G use-cases.
“The HAPS Alliance seeks to create an ecosystem to support next-generation global connectivity needed to revolutionise the world’s mobile networks,” it said.
“We are very encouraged that many leaders from across the communications and aerospace industries are joining us in our mission to bridge the digital divide with high altitude vehicles,” explained Junichi Miyakawa, CTO of SoftBank, and also CEO of HAPSMobile.
“Together with our Alliance partners, we will lay the groundwork for an ecosystem that fosters HAPS connectivity solutions around the world,” Miyakawa said.
“The stratosphere represents an enormous opportunity to bring the benefits of connectivity to more people around the world,” added. Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth. “But we will only be successful in harnessing the potential of the stratosphere if we come together to advocate for and collaborate on the technologies that will make this possible. This HAPS Alliance is an important step forward in building an established industry that will help us realize the promise of the stratosphere to connect people everywhere.”
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