Japanese Telecommunications Giants Unveil Plans to Expand Space Businesses; KDDI Hopes to Create Environment for 5G Use on Moon

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A model of a high-altitude platform station, which NTT Corp. aims to commercialize, is seen in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Monday.

NTT Corp., KDDI Corp. and other telecommunications giants have unveiled their plans to expand their space businesses as more companies are making moves to develop space telecommunication services to increase revenue.

NTT announced Monday it will build a communications network that will link space and the ground through a combination of satellites and unmanned vehicles, aiming to generate ¥100 billion in sales from its space business in fiscal 2033.

NTT intends to launch a new service using high-altitude platform stations, or HAPS, in 2026. These stations will be unmanned aircraft that will remain about 20 kilometers in the air and send radio signals, enabling communication on remote islands or out at sea, among other areas.

NTT Docomo Inc. and other NTT group companies plan to invest up to $100 million (¥15.7 billion) in a startup, which develops unmanned aircraft, under the umbrella of Airbus SE.

NTT also intends to join Amazon.com Inc.’s Project Kuiper, a planned network of low-earth-orbit satellites, and launch two satellites for Japan by the end of 2024 and hopes to begin a service using them as early as 2025.

“We will create new services by maximizing the potential of space,” NTT President Akira Shimada said at a press conference.

KDDI announced Thursday that it will build an environment in which high-speed, high-capacity 5G technology can be used on the moon in 2030. In cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and other organizations, KDDI will develop the communication technology using lasers and other technology to construct base stations.

SoftBank Corp., for its part, is looking to put HAPS into practical use in or after fiscal 2027.

Rakuten Mobile, Inc., a Rakuten Group, Inc. company, said it will launch a satellite-to-smartphone service as early as 2026. Rakuten Mobile will use the satellites from AST SpaceMobile, Inc., a U.S. startup in which Rakuten Group has been investing.

The telecommunications giants are focusing on their space businesses, partly due to the Japanese government encouraging private companies to enter the space industry.

The government set a goal of expanding the domestic space-related market to ¥8 trillion in the 2030s, double its current market size.