Saudi-backed SoftBank invests $125 million in Alphabet venture to put cellphone antennas in the sky

Japan's SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 25 April 2019

Saudi-backed SoftBank invests $125 million in Alphabet venture to put cellphone antennas in the sky

  • SoftBank’s year-old HAPSMobile and Alphabet’s Loon separately have been trying to fly networking equipment at high altitudes
  • The goal is to provide high-speed Internet where ground-based towers are unreachable

SAN FRANCISCO, USA: A SoftBank Corp. business seeking to find a way to fly cellphone antennas high in the atmosphere to provide internet in underserved areas said on Wednesday it was investing $125 million in an Alphabet Inc spinoff working on the same problem.

SoftBank’s year-old HAPSMobile and Alphabet’s Loon, which spun out last July from the research incubator of the Google parent, separately have been trying to fly networking equipment at high altitudes to provide high-speed Internet where ground-based towers are unreachable.
Loon carries the gear with a large balloon, while HAPSMobile uses 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.
Also in the competition to fill the coverage gaps are several billionaire entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Each is backing separate early-stage ventures that want to beam Internet from satellites in near-Earth orbit.
Loon and HAPSMobile said on Wednesday that collaboration could be the key to adoption. They are discussing the possibility of using each others’ technology, standardizing their airborne and ground networking gear and joining forces in regulatory discussions, they said in a statement.
The companies described their partnership as a “long-term” tie-up of one of Japan’s top three wireless carriers and one of the world’s biggest tech companies.
“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,” Junichi Miyakawa, SoftBank’s chief technology officer and HAPSMobile’s chief executive, said in the statement.
“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,” Miyakawa added.
Loon has tested balloons for nearly a decade and expects to hold its first commercial trial in Kenya this year.
HAPSMobile emerged from technology developed by dronemaker AeroVironment Inc, which owns 10 percent of the SoftBank subsidiary.
Loon said it has the option to later invest $125 million in HAPSMobile. 


 


Philippine jobless rate hits record 17.7% in April due to pandemic

Updated 05 June 2020

Philippine jobless rate hits record 17.7% in April due to pandemic

  • The Philippines is facing its biggest economic contraction in more than three decades
  • April’s 17.7 percent unemployment rate equivalent to 7.3 million people without jobs

MANILA: The Philippines’ unemployment rate surged to a record 17.7 percent in April, the statistics agency said on Friday, as millions lost their jobs due to a pandemic-induced lockdown that battered the economy.
The Philippines, which before the pandemic was one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, is facing its biggest contraction in more than three decades after the new coronavirus shuttered businesses and crushed domestic demand.
April’s unemployment rate, which is 7.3 million people without jobs, compares with 5.3 percent in January and 5.1 percent in April last year.
“We should not lose sight of the fact that this loss in employment is really temporary,” Economic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said in an online news conference.
The lockdown in the capital, Manila, which was one of the world’s longest and strictest, was relaxed as of June 1 to allow much-needed business activity to resume and soften the economic blow of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 20,000 in the country.