SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile and Alphabet’s Loon have formed a long-term
strategic 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. As part of
the new relationship and HAPSMobile’s financial and investment strategy,
HAPSMobile has made a decision to invest $125 million USD in Loon. Loon
has obtained the right to invest the same amount in HAPSMobile in the
future. Furthermore, to strengthen the relationship, the companies are
actively 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.
Specifically, the companies have entered into formal negotiations on a
number of areas of potential technical and commercial collaboration,
A wholesale business that would allow HAPSMobile to utilize Loon’s
fully-functioning vehicle and technology. Likewise, Loon would be able
to utilize HAPSMobile’s aircraft, which is currently in development,
upon its completion.
A jointly developed communications payload that is adaptable to
multiple flight vehicles and various ITU compliant frequency bands.
A common gateway or ground station that could be deployed globally and
utilized by both Loon and HAPSMobile to provide connectivity over
their respective platforms.
Adapting and optimizing Loon’s fleet management system and
temporospatial SDN for use by HAPSMobile.
Creating an alliance to promote the use of high altitude
communications solution with regulators and officials worldwide.
Enabling flight vehicles from each party to connect and share the same
network connectivity in the air.
With the deployment of such technology, people will be reachable in
areas where connectivity is lacking; such as mountainous terrain, remote
islands, and developing countries.
Each company brings important and complementary strengths to the table.
HAPSMobile, SoftBank’s subsidiary, is a joint venture with
AeroVironment, Inc. HAPSMobile has completed its development of HAWK 30,
its aircraft-type stratospheric telecommunications platform. SoftBank is
one of Japan’s telecommunication carriers and has significant experience
in network planning, operations, and bringing connectivity solutions to
Loon brings technical leadership through an existing, fully-functioning
high altitude vehicle and communications system that has already flown
over 30 million kilometers and connected hundreds of thousands of users
worldwide. In addition, Loon has nearly a decade of experience
developing, launching, flying, and managing a high altitude platform.
High altitude network connectivity platforms operate in the
stratosphere, which is above ground infrastructure, but below
satellites, allowing fornear 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. HAPSMobile and Loon,
cooperating with strengths and technology from each party, seek to
provide next generation global connectivity and revolutionize the
world’s mobile networks.
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 utilized by humankind so
far, is uncharted territory and a major challenge for SoftBank. Working
with Alphabet’s subsidiary Loon, I’m confident we can accelerate the
path toward the realization of utilizing the stratosphere for global
networks by pooling our technologies, insights and experience. 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.
Through HAPS, we aim to eliminate the digital divide and provide people
around the world with the innovative network services that they need.”
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said, “We see joining forces as an
opportunity to develop an entire industry, one which holds the promise
to bring connectivity to parts of the world no one thought possible.
This is the beginning of a long-term relationship based on a shared
vision for expanding connectivity to those who need it. We look forward
to what the future holds.”
Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at X said, “From the very beginning,
Loon’s mission has been to connect the unconnected. While at X the team
made incredible technical progress. We’re delighted to now be cheering
them on as they collaborate with SoftBank’s HAPSMobile to bring the
benefits of connectivity to more people around the world.”
About HAPSMobile (www.hapsmobile.com)
HAPSMobile is a joint venture between SoftBank Corp. and AeroVironment,
Inc. formed in December 2017 to plan and operate the HAPS business with
the aim of bridging the world’s digital divide. HAPSMobile is mainly
engaged in network equipment research and development for the HAPS
business, construction of core networks, new business planning and
activities for spectrum usage.
About SoftBank Corp. (https://www.softbank.jp/en/corp/)
SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO:9434), a subsidiary of SoftBank Group Corp.
(TOKYO:9984), provides mobile communication, fixed-line communication
and Internet connection services to customers in Japan. Leveraging
synergies with other companies in the SoftBank Group, SoftBank Corp.
aims to transform lifestyles through ICT and expand into other business
areas including IoT, robotics and energy.
About Loon (www.loon.com)
Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and
integrating audacious technologies. By leveraging these advanced
technologies, Loon is making it possible to expand internet access to
the billions who currently lack it. Loon works with a range of partners
to expand and supplement existing networks and enable new solutions that
will meet the connectivity needs of the future. To date, Loon’s
stratospheric balloons have travelled more than 30 million kilometers
around the world and connected hundreds of thousands of people. Loon is
a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.