Companies including Ericsson, Nokia, Softbank, Airbus, and Telefonica are joining forces to promote stratospheric connectivity

The use of high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) could be the key to connectivity – at least, this is the hope of the newly formed HAPS Alliance, which announced its formation on Friday.
In April last year, HAPSMobile (a joint venture between SoftBank and AeroVironment) announced an investment of $125 million in Loon, allowing both stratospheric specialists to benefit from a strategic partnership.
Now, a myriad of additional partners have signed up for a largescale partnership to accelerate the development of HAPS connectivity solutions. Dubbed the HAPS Alliance, the project has attracted a host of major players from the telecoms, tech, and aviation industries.
Current partners include HAPSMobile, Loon, AeroVironment, Airbus Defence and Space, Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Intelsat, Nokia, SoftBank Corp., and Telefónica.
HAPS operate in the stratosphere, much lower than traditional satellites, offering a wide range of connectivity benefits, including low latency and avoidance of troublesome geography and structural interference. Such stations would be excellent solutions for regions where establishing terrestrial connectivity can be difficult and costly, such as rural regions, remote islands, and mountainous areas.
"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,” said Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth.
The new HAPS Alliance will work together to build a cooperative stratospheric ecosystem, collaborating to standardise HAPS network interoperability, create product specifications, and liaise with international authorities to ensure their seamless deployment.
"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," said Junichi Miyakawa, representative director and CTO of SoftBank Corp., and also president and CEO of HAPSMobile.
While it is still much too early to judge the validity of this potential stratospheric ecosystem, the combination of some of the world’s biggest companies certainly lends it some credibility. As countries around the world race to deploy fibre beneath the earth, perhaps the real future of connectivity is waiting above their heads. 
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