SoftBank & Alphabet join hands to increase coverage of internet in underserved areas

While there are several competitors in the fray to provide internet access to underserved areas, SoftBank and Alphabet opine collaboration could be the key to their solution gaining wider traction and broader adoption.

In a significant development, SoftBank Corp stated, it will be investing $125 million in one of Alphabet Inc’s spinoff working to find ways to fly cellphone antennas high in the atmosphere to provide internet in underserved areas.

SoftBank’s 1-old HAPSMobile and Alphabet’s Project Loon, have both been working on finding means to fly networking equipment at high altitudes in order to provide high-speed internet where ground-based towers are unreachable.

While Alphabet’s Project Loon has researched on ways to carry gear in a large balloon, HAPSMobile’s solution involves a large drone.

Despite internet coverage gaps in rural areas or during natural disasters, mobile network operators, governments and other potential customers have yet to demonstrate much enthusiasm for buying Skyborne Technologies.

The duo are not alone to fill this coverage gap, several billionaire entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are also in the fray. Each one is backing separate early-stage startups that aim to beam up internet from satellites in near-Earth orbit.

Both Loon and HAPSMobile have stated, collaboration could be the key to adoption.

They have now begun discussing the possibility of using each others’ technology, standardizing their airborne and ground networking gear and combining forces in regulatory discussions, they said in a statement.

“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,” said Junichi Miyakawa, SoftBank’s chief technology officer and HAPSMobile’s chief executive, in the statement.

Miyakawa went on to add “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”.

Loon has tested balloons for nearly a decade and expects to hold its first commercial trial in Kenya this year.

Loon said it has the option to invest later $125 million in HAPSMobile.

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