NTT DOCOMO and Space Compass Invest $100 Million in Airbus Subsidiary AALTO for HAPS Development

A consortium led by NTT DOCOMO and Space Compass, along with Mizuho Bank Limited and the Development Bank of Japan Inc., has committed to a $100 million investment in AALTO HAPS Limited, an Airbus subsidiary. The investment aims to advance the industrial and commercial roadmap for the Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) and establish a strategic alliance for HAPS commercialization in Asia.

AALTO Zephyr. Image: AALTO.

Strategic Partnership and Investment

The investment will be made through the consortium’s vehicle, HAPS JAPAN Corporation. This collaboration seeks to commercialize connectivity and earth observation services using HAPS in Japan and Asia. AALTO’s Zephyr, a stratospheric solar-powered platform, will offer long-duration flights for mobile connectivity and earth observation applications. The partnership is expected to accelerate the launch of AALTO’s services in Japan and globally by 2026.

Takaaki Sato, CTO of NTT DOCOMO said, “NTT DOCOMO continues to improve network quality and has been focused on establishing new technology frontiers that enhance access to connectivity services. Working with our partners Space Compass, AALTO, and Airbus, we are excited by the potential of HAPS-based NTN solutions. This technology brings together unique cutting-edge engineering with economics that are aligned to expand coverage to rural and remote areas, and support our collective response to natural disasters. Alongside our partners in the Consortium, we look forward to working strategically with AALTO to utilize Zephyr to transform customer experiences.”

Shigehiro Hori, Co-CEO of Space Compass Corporation commented, “Non-terrestrial networks have the potential to transform Japan’s communications ecosystem, addressing access to connectivity in hard-to-reach areas while supporting our country’s response to emergencies. Japan has many remote islands and mountainous areas, where there are uneconomic connectivity solutions. Our strategic relationship with AALTO, underpinned by technological innovation and the opportunity of the connectivity market, will help us build a new telecommunications infrastructure in these areas and during an era of population decline.”

Koichiro Matsufuji, Co-CEO of Space Compass Corporation commented, “As the leading HAPS technology of its kind, Zephyr is a unique capability that we will leverage over the coming years. We want to create a successful use case in Japan and expand it to Asia.”

Jean-Brice Dumont, Head of Air Power at Airbus Defence and Space and Chair of the AALTO Board of Directors said, “After a decade of stewardship by Airbus Defence and Space, Zephyr has established itself as a leading HAPS platform in the world. Zephyr plays a key role in the space and defence ecosystem, addressing commercial and government sectors from the stratosphere. With the creation of a dedicated HAPS Services Business in 2022, AALTO has been propelled to a global leadership position in the industry. Airbus Defence and Space has enhanced its partnership with NTT, NTT DOCOMO, and SKY Perfect JSAT, while demonstrating the breadth of its portfolio capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. AALTO now has an excellent investor to help drive its ambitious growth plans over the coming years.”

Samer Halawi, CEO of AALTO commented, “This is a landmark investment for AALTO. It is the natural next step in the roadmap of the Company’s targeted entry-into-service in 2026, as we industrialize and commercialize our technology. With world leaders in aviation and connectivity as shareholders, AALTO now has the combination of technological expertise and global reach to capitalize on the growth opportunities in substantial total addressable markets across connectivity and earth observation. This investment comes as AALTO moves into its next phase of development. This includes launching several customer missions over the coming year, establishing launch and landing sites for Zephyr, and advancing our certification process. We are excited to forge a new frontier in sustainable connectivity and earth observation from the stratosphere, while generating significant value for all our stakeholders.”

Technological and Commercial Developments

The Zephyr platform is capable of flying for months at a time in the stratosphere, providing low latency 5G direct-to-device mobile connectivity services and supporting a range of monitoring, tracking, sensing, and detection applications. The investment and partnership with AALTO will enhance mobile network operator coverage and provide high-capacity connectivity, particularly in remote and rural areas, and during natural disasters.