Taking to the Sky SoftBank’s Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Concept for Providing Communication Networks Everywhere

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Toward a society where everyone
around the world is connected
We are up for the challenge

The Internet has changed our lives
dramatically for the better.

Still, roughly half the world’s population
still has no access to the internet.

In areas where the communication environment
is not well developed,
businesses and industries are
lagging with digital technologies
and their problems remain unresolved.

SoftBank is taking to the sky
to create a society
where anyone can connect to the Internet,
from anywhere.

SoftBank's NTN Solutions

Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) deliver telecommunication connectivity from space and the stratosphere. SoftBank will offer three different NTN solutions: Skylo, OneWeb, and HAPS.

Skylo provides narrow-band satellite communications for IoT applications from geostationary satellites at an altitude of 36,000 km, while OneWeb delivers high-volume, low-latency communication from satellites in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 1,200 km. HAPS, meanwhile, flies in the stratosphere at an altitude of 20 km and delivers connectivity to conventional mobile handsets.

SoftBank will take advantage of the three solutions’ different communication speeds and methods to offer users applications that suit their particular needs. SoftBank will promote the deployment of its NTN solutions in Japan and globally.

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NTN solutions
Narrow-Band Satellite Communication Service for IoT

「Skylo」

A low-cost communication service from space

Skylo's low-cost, narrow-band satellite communication service for IoT addresses the needs of users for whom the cost of access has been prohibitive. By utilizing communication links that operate via existing geostationary satellites, the service avoids the need to launch satellites and their associated costs. Skylo also reduces costs through the use of proprietary technologies that make efficient use of radio spectrum.
The compact user terminals combine a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) antenna and nine-axis sensor, with versatility further enhanced by the ability to connect to external sensors.

「Skylo」
Bringing communications to the ground

Bringing communications to the ground

The user terminal collects external sensor information via interfaces such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and RS-485 and transmits it via the satellite link to an Earth station. SoftBank solutions can provide the IoT platform as well as the satellite communication service and terminals.

Skylo Application Examples

Commercial fishing

  • Use of boat position information for the onshore management and tracking of fishing boats
  • Use of Skylo terminal to issue SOS distress messages in an emergency

Logistics

  • Tracking of position and operational data from trucks and other vehicles, even outside conventional coverage areas
  • Remote monitoring of freight, including tracking of container environmental conditions, such as vibration or internal temperature and humidity

Skylo

Skylo Technologies, Inc. is a US startup established in 2017 with SoftBank Group among its investors. The first commercial service was launched in India in 2020 and further services are being rolled out targeting a variety of different industries, including fishing, agriculture, and logistics. Following a partnership agreement reached between SoftBank and Skylo in June 2021, preparations are currently underway for launching the service in Japan.

Low Earth Orbit Satellite Communication Service

「OneWeb」

Communication service delivered via 648 satellites in low Earth orbit

OneWeb operates its communication service using 648 satellites that it launched into 12 polar orbits at an altitude of 1,200 km. Placing large numbers of satellites in low Earth orbits that are much closer to the ground than a geostationary satellite enables the service to offer high-speed communications with low latency compared to past satellite communication options. In addition to the use of parabolic antennas for high-volume communications, the user terminals can also be miniaturized thanks to advances in the development of small planar antennas that look like electronic components.

「OneWeb」
High-speed communications with low latency

High-speed communications with low latency

The communication service provided by OneWeb’s low Earth orbit satellites is able to offer speeds of up to 195 Mbps (downlink) and 32 Mbps (uplink) combined with latency that has significantly reduced delay compared to geostationary satellites. Using the satellite link as a relay network makes it possible to establish cellular communication networks outside existing coverage areas.

OneWeb Application Examples

Shipping

  • Provision of broadband communications to vessels at sea out of range of onshore base stations
  • Provision of the real-time communications essential to the coming proliferation of autonomous driving systems

Construction

  • Provision of communications to construction sites located outside existing coverage areas to facilitate the adoption of ICT practices such as remote monitoring or the remote operation of equipment

Disaster response

  • Provision of backup communications when disasters impair the operation of terrestrial networks

OneWeb

OneWeb Ltd. was established to pursue the vision of using its own satellite network to eliminate the digital divide. Following its acquisition by the UK government and Bharti Group in November 2020, further investment was provided by SoftBank Group, Eutelsat, Hughes Network Systems, and Hanwha Systems in 2021. Having successfully launched a total of 358 satellites as of November 2021, the company plans to start initial testing and service in the region north of 50° latitude in 2021 with global services in 2022.In May 2021, SoftBank and OneWeb entered a business partnership, and they are currently working to roll out the service in Japan.

High-Altitude Platform Station

「HAPS」

Compatible with conventional smartphones

High-altitude platform station (HAPS) is a means of providing communication services from unmanned aircrafts that remain aloft in the stratosphere at an altitude of 20 km. Because HAPS uses the same frequency as terrestrial communications, HAPS does not require special-purpose terminals, unlike with satellite communication, and enables direct communication with smartphones and other standard mobile devices.

「HAPS」
Three benefits of flying in the stratosphere

Utilizing the stratosphere for stable communications

The stratosphere is an unexploited area at very high altitude, well above that of commercial aviation. Relatively light winds allow the aircraft to circle within a defined area and operate a stable communication service. Providing connectivity from an altitude of 20 km, one HAPS aircraft can cover a much wider area than ground base stations, with a diameter of about 200 km per aircraft.

HAPS Application Examples

Coverage area expansion

  • Provision of communication services to mountainous regions, islands or other remote areas where terrestrial communication networks are not in place.

Disaster recovery

  • When terrestrial communication facilities are impaired by natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis, HAPS can provisionally restore communication by flying aircraft over the affected areas.

Network for IoT

  • By providing communications from the stratosphere, it is possible to build a three-dimensional network, including in mid-air, and provide communication services for IoT devices such as drones, which are expected to become widespread in the future.

HAPSMobile

HAPSMobile Inc. was established by SoftBank in December 2017 to pursue its HAPS business.
The company conducted its first test flight into the stratosphere on September 21, 2020, reaching an altitude of about 19 km. Just three years since the start of aircraft development, the company has already achieved stratospheric flight and successfully tested Internet communications with stratosphere-ready communication payloads.
HAPSMobile will proceed with development, working toward a pre-commercial launch around 2026.