Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) selected four local companies including NTT Docomo and Space Compass to develop direct-to-device mobile services using high-altitude platform stations (HAPS).

The companies jointly stated research on high-speed, high-capacity technology and TDD communication aims to expand the business scope and application of HAPS services as the industry prepares for 6G.

NTT and Sky Perfect JSAT will join a project led by Space Compass that aims to launch HAPS services in fiscal 2025 (the period commencing on 1 April 2024), and will define network service requirements and evaluate demonstrations.

Docomo will develop ground base stations and HAPS-equipped sites for mobile communications, with a focus on maximising service-link efficiency and capacity, while NTT will provide control technology for the HAPS feeder link.

Sky Perfect JSAT plans to deliver services over a space-based non-terrestrial network by connecting satellites and HAPS networks to multi-terrestrial networks. It will develop alternative feeder link methods including satellite backhaul and improve connection rates through the connection of ground gateway stations.

The undertaking is part of an NICT project named Beyond 5G, which aims to deliver nationwide connectivity regardless of location.

All four companies are currently working on a space-based RAN, with HAPS serving as key component to support ultra-wide mobile communication services over air, sea and space.

Last week, Project Kuiper signed a deal with NTT, NTT Docomo, NTT Com and SKY Perfect JSAT for the provision of broadband services via its satellite network to Japanese enterprises and government.

In early 2022, Docomo, Airbus and Sky Perfect JSAT commenced a feasibility study on the potential of partnering on HAPS connectivity.