A number of major telecom operators and vendors joined forces with Alphabet and SoftBank subsidiaries Loon and HAPSMobile, forming the HAPS Alliance to speed adoption of high-altitude network infrastructure.

Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Ericsson, and Nokia all backed the effort, which expands on an earlier collaboration between Loon and HAPS Mobile announced in April 2019.

Aerospace company Airbus Defence and Space, and satellite service provider Intelsat were also listed among the group’s members.

Announcing the move, the companies said they will work to accelerate development and adoption of High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) by promoting unified standards, interoperability guidelines and regulatory policies across the telecommunication and aviation industries. The group will also lobby regulators to harmonise global spectrum allocation for HAPS services.

The operators said the ultimate goal is to use HAPS to offer connectivity in hard-to-reach locations in a bid to close the digital divide.

Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said the alliance represents “an important step forward in building an established industry that will help us realise the promise of the stratosphere to connect people everywhere”.

David del Val, CEO of Telefonica R&D, highlighted the operator’s previous work with Loon in Latin America: “We want to contribute our experience to the HAPS Alliance to help other operators”, he explained, adding the operator “is convinced that the HAPS Alliance will help the ecosystem move faster and reach industrial scale”.