Rakuten Mobile teamed with the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering to jointly expand the reach of IoT networks by using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to enable long-distance communications with existing narrowband (NB) devices.

The partners explained in a statement they will combine their respective expertise in satellite communications technology and NB-IoT, aiming to build an LTE network which can collect data directly from IoT sensors using LEO birds to achieve total geographical coverage.

Rakuten Mobile and the university will focus on stabilising and optimising LTE satellite communications, developing relevant NB-IoT software and exploring use cases for what they call “IoT ultra coverage”.

The collaboration runs to end-March 2025.

Improving IoT coverage using satellites is one of the themes of Japan’s Beyond 5G R&D Promotion Project managed by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, which recently called for proposals on the topic.

Earlier in the month, Rakuten Mobile revealed it was working with Oki Electric and Nagoya University on autonomous mobile networking technology using AI. The partnership forms part of the Japanese 5G programme.

Rakuten Mobile is collaborating with AST SpaceMobile to build a communications network using LEO satellites.