A group of global industry leaders today announced that they are forming the HAPS Alliance, an association of world-leading telecommunications, technology, aviation, and aerospace companies that are united in promoting the use of high altitude vehicles in the Earth’s stratosphere to eliminate the digital divide and bring connectivity to more people, places, and things worldwide.
Members who have committed to join the HAPS Alliance include SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”), Alphabet’s Loon LLC (“Loon”), AeroVironment, Inc. (“AeroVironment”), Airbus Defence and Space, Bharti Airtel Limited (“Bharti Airtel”), China Telecom Corporation Limited (“China Telecom”), Deutsche Telekom AG (“Deutsche Telekom”), Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“Ericsson”), Intelsat US LLC (“Intelsat”), Nokia Corporation, SoftBank Corp., and Telefónica S.A. (“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 standardization of HAPS network interoperability. 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. The Alliance, originally an initiative from HAPSMobile and Loon, will have members from participating leading companies across the aerospace, technology and telecom industries to carry out the Alliance’s activities.
The launch of the HAPS Alliance follows a previous April 2019 announcement between HAPSMobile and Loon where the companies formed a strategic alliance to advance the use of high altitude vehicles.
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. 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 revolutionize the world’s mobile networks.
Junichi Miyakawa, Representative Director & CTO of SoftBank Corp., and also President & CEO of HAPSMobile 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. Together with our Alliance partners, we will lay the groundwork for an ecosystem that fosters HAPS connectivity solutions around the world.”
Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth said, “The stratosphere represents an enormous opportunity to bring the benefits of connectivity to more people around the world. 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.”
AeroVironment President and CEO Wahid Nawabi said, “Harnessing the stratosphere as a global resource to improve the human condition is a goal AeroVironment has pursued for decades, and one that spans borders and languages. We enthusiastically join our global partners in the HAPS Alliance to develop an ecosystem around our innovative solar HAPS unmanned aircraft system and make the promise of global connectivity a reality.”
Dirk Hoke, Airbus Defence and Space CEO, said, “HAPS systems fill a capability gap between satellites and UAVs, being complementary to each other as part of a constantly growing market. Working across industry to create a HAPS ecosystem is the next logical step in the evolution of the HAPS market. Having an aircraft which is flight proven is just the first step, having an ecosystem in which it can operate with common standards will bring us even closer to delivering HAPS services from the stratosphere to unlock potential around the world.”
Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said, “We are excited to be a part of this visionary alliance. We look forward to collaborating with member companies towards building a viable ecosystem that helps in bringing digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”
Chen Yunqing, VP of Research Institute at China Telecom, said, “For China Telecom, the primary purpose of HAPS applications is to provide broadband services in remote areas that lack terrestrial telecommunication infrastructure. HAPS can also provide emergency communications services to the public when other types of communication infrastructure are not functioning. So we are pleased to join the HAPS Alliance to promote greater connectivity and better emergency preparedness by using HAPS technologies.”
Claudia Nemat, Board Member for Technology & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, said, “High altitude network connectivity platforms are an innovative alternative solution to expand network coverage and bridge coverage gaps in underserved areas. Deutsche Telekom is honored to collaborate with global partners in the HAPS Alliance, bringing our connectivity service delivery expertise to the team to realize the vision of ubiquitous coverage.”
Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Group CTO at Ericsson, said, “Ericsson drives innovation, technology, and sustainable business solutions for an all-connected world. With 5G we extend the mobile innovation platform from consumers to industries and enterprises. The HAPS Alliance brings together industry leaders from the communication and aerospace industries to provide cutting edge technology pushing the boundaries on coverage to reach users anywhere.”
Stephen Spengler, Intelsat CEO, commented, “Intelsat is excited to be an integral part of the HAPS Alliance, and we look forward to the cross-industry cooperation that will foster adoption of this innovative technology. As the foundational architects of satellite technology, Intelsat sees HAPS and the stratosphere as a complimentary step towards furthering our mission to connect people and devices with hybrid networks even in the most challenging locations. The key to our collective success will be a coordinated public and private advocacy for standards, interoperability and regulations.”
Kathrin Buvac, President of Nokia Enterprise, said, “At Nokia, we create the technology to connect the world. Nowhere is that mission more evident than our participation in the HAPS Alliance and strong partnership with Loon and SoftBank’s HAPSMobile. We will bring our unique combination of skills, expertise and technology to help overcome the demands associated with high-altitude network infrastructure and contribute to the Alliance’s goal of connecting the unconnected. Nokia believes that with enhanced LTE wireless networking now, and 5G connectivity next, we can help deliver major economic and societal benefits to underserved communities, particularly in remote and challenging environments.”
David del Val, Telefónica R&D CEO, said, “In Telefónica, we’ve been working on solving the digital divide for years realizing that terrestrial solutions were not enough. We are proud to have partnered with HAPS pioneers like Loon since the early days, trying to reach the most remote areas of our Latin American footprint. We want to contribute our experience to the HAPS Alliance to help other operators in the world realize their full potential. We are convinced that the HAPS Alliance will help the ecosystem move faster and reach industrial scale.”
About the HAPS Alliance
- Address diverse social issues and create new value by providing telecommunications network connectivity worldwide through the utilization of high altitude vehicles.
- Accelerate the development and commercial adoption of HAPS technology by promoting and building industry-wide standards, interoperability guidelines and regulatory policies in both the telecommunication and aviation industries.
- Liaise with industry organizations including standards and regulatory authorities to complement the work of other industry organizations.
- Create a forum for cross-industry collaboration to coalesce the voices of HAPS industry leaders into a compelling message to the broader industry, regulators and the general public.
- Advocate for global harmonization of HAPS spectrum, including the adoption, improvement and acceleration of global spectrum standardization for High Altitude IMT Base Stations within the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The Alliance will also work to influence emerging commercial standards, including 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Networks.
- Promote industry-managed cooperative separation in the upper airspace.
- Demonstrate the industry’s viability to potential customers and build a robust and cooperative HAPS ecosystem.
- Develop product specifications and promote the standardization of interoperable HAPS network elements.