NTT Docomo, Space Compass invest in Airbus HAPS solution

NTT Docomo, Space Compass invest in Airbus HAPS solution

Airbus AALTO HAPS.jpg

Airbus subsidiary AALTO has $100 million of investment from a consortium led by NTT Docomo and Space Compass in its high-altitude platform station (HAPS) solution.

The investment is paired with a commitment from NTT Docomo, a Japanese MNO, to act as the lead in the direct to device connectivity sector, as Japan seeks to become the first country to commercialise HAPS for connectivity.

The other consortium members are Mizuho Bank and the Development Bank of Japan.

While far from a new technology, (HAPS has been promising to change mobile connectivity for close to 30 years), Dr William Webb, CTO at Access Partnership, a public policy consultancy, believes the HAPS is making steady progress towards commercial service as market dynamics favour the tech.

The idea resolves around flying an unmanned vehicle in the stratosphere that provides spotted or regional connectivity to a specific area.

AALTO manufactures one of these vehicles, the Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station.

It said that the investment marks the beginning of a “strategic alliance to commercialise connectivity and earth observation services” using HAPS in Japan and across Asia.

The investment will also support the industrial and commercial roadmap for AALTO’s services, targeting launch in Japan and a global entry-into-service in 2026.

Zephyr is solar powered and can fly in the stratosphere for months at a time. AALTO claim it has already broken a number of records and offers “game-changing capabilities that will be transformative for mobile connectivity.”

As a payload agnostic platform, Zephyr can transform into a multi-functional tower in the sky to provide low latency 5G direct-to-device mobile connectivity services. Its owners claim that just one vehicle offers the connectivity opportunities of 250 terrestrial mobile towers.

This investment deepens the long-standing collaboration between AALTO, NTT DOCOMO and Space Compass, a joint venture between NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT that offers satellite communications and pay TV services.

The three companies are all focused on establishing a space integrated computing network, that HAPS will play a role in.

Takaaki Sato, NTT Docomo’s CTO, said that he was excited by the potential of HAPS-based solutions

“NTT Docomo continues to improve network quality and has been focused on establishing new technology frontiers that enhance access to connectivity services,” he said.

“[HAPS] technology brings together unique cutting-edge engineering with economics that are aligned to expand coverage to rural and remote areas, and support our collective response to natural disasters.”

Samer Halawi, AALTO’s CEO said the company is moving into the next phase of its development.

“This includes launching several customer missions over the coming year, establishing launch and landing sites for Zephyr, and advancing our certification process,” he said.

“This is a landmark investment for AALTO. It is the natural next step in the roadmap of the Company’s targeted entry-into-service in 2026, as we industrialise and commercialise our technology.”

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