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SoftBank to Promote Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Solutions

SoftBank announced that it will start promoting the deployment of Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) solutions that provide connectivity from space and the stratosphere. For those who may not know, we made an introductory tutorial on NTN here

The press release explained:

SoftBank's NTN solutions will encompass the Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting (GEO) satellite NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) services provided by Skylo Technologies, Inc. (“Skylo”), which recently agreed to partner with SoftBank to provide satellite connectivity services in Japan. SoftBank's NTN solution portfolio will also include Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications to be provided by OneWeb Ltd. (“OneWeb”) and High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS)-based stratospheric telecommunication platforms to be provided by SoftBank subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”).

The respective services of Skylo, OneWeb and HAPSMobile in SoftBank's NTN solutions lineup will offer unique advantages to meet the diverse needs of customers. Skylo's GEO satellite NB-IoT services are providing IoT connectivity for fishing, mining, shipping and other industries at more affordable prices than traditional GEO satellite services. OneWeb's LEO satellite-based services make it possible for governments, businesses and consumers around the world to enjoy faster communication services with less latency compared to traditional GEO satellite services. HAPSMobile's stratospheric telecommunications platform will be able to directly provide LTE and 5G connectivity, making it possible for customers to use their smartphones and other mobile devices without the need for special equipment, even if their region lacks traditional communications infrastructure.

To digitalize and transform analog industries without access to communication networks, SoftBank will aim to provide advanced and seamless connectivity services and Digital Transformation (DX) solutions in Japan and around the world.

We wrote a detailed post about OneWeb megaconstellation here. OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global, announced back in January that it has secured additional funding from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems, bringing OneWeb’s total funding to $1.4 billion. The capital raised to date positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022.

I first wrote about HAPSMobile back in 2019. HAPSMobile also had a tie up with Alphabet Loon but as Loon has now shut down, HAPSMobile is talking actively to other HAPS Alliance members. 

Softbank News talked about HAPS Alliance holding their first member meeting. A news article said:

Founded in April 2020, Alliance membership has grown to over 40 companies, organizations and educational institutions. Current members include Airbus, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Intelsat and Nokia.

To mark its first year and to further build the HAPS community, the Alliance held its first annual member meeting on April 27 and 28, 2021. The two-day conference brought together 90 people from 35 member companies, representing 15 different countries. Members were able to hear the latest news about HAPS and learn about how the Alliance is working to utilize the stratosphere for telecommunications, earth observation, weather forecasting and other applications.

HAPS Alliance President Ken Riordan opened the meeting by underlining the stratosphere’s potential. “We know that the opportunity for HAPS is broader than just telecoms – but the focus is there, and over the past 12 months and even before, the narrative within our industry has very much been about 5G and IoT. The challenges that some of these new use cases represent can be, we believe, very meaningfully enhanced by a stratospheric HAPS layer,” Riordan said.

He added, “At the same time, it’s even more important that solutions like HAPS can be brought to commercial viability, to address the digital divide and to meaningfully improve upon coverage in developing countries. In areas like North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, there still exist huge challenges that HAPS is fundamentally well-targeted to pursue.”

With so many HAPS and LEO megaconstellation projects going on, we are going to see more such announcements and deployments in the coming years, if not the coming months.

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