SoftBank Corp.-led Proposal toExpand Spectrum Use for HAPS Base Stations Agreedat World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23)

SoftBank Corp. (President & CEO: Junichi Miyakawa, “SoftBank”) is conducting international standardization activities related to High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) spectrum for stratospheric-based wireless communication systems at the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT). SoftBank announced that the expansion of HAPS spectrum use was formally agreed upon at ITU-R’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 20 to December 15, 2023. SoftBank has been leading discussions in ITU-R and APT to represent Japan, and the decision to add three additional mobile spectrum bands, namely 700-900MHz, 1.7GHz, and 2.5GHz, came following deliberations at WRC-23. As a result of this decision, operators in different countries and regions will be able to choose spectrum with greater flexibility when they introduce HAPS-based mobile broadband communication services, and thereby enable seamless usage with existing smartphones and other devices.

After the resolution to make the expansion of spectrum for HAPS base stations an agenda item at WRC-23 was successfully adopted at ITU-R’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19)*1, SoftBank has been leading related discussions at ITU-R and APT with the aim of realizing the proposal. Representing Japan, SoftBank also actively participated in technical studies and regulatory discussions related to the candidate global mobile spectrum bands*2 (700-900MHz, 1.7GHz, and 2.5GHz) within ITU-R, and engaged in discussions and the drafting of the APT Common Proposal on modifications to the Radio Regulations submitted to WRC-23. SoftBank’s activities during this period greatly contributed to the decision made at WRC-23 to expand spectrum use for HAPS base stations.

Under previous ITU-R stipulated regulations, it was possible to operate HAPS mobile base stations using the 2GHz mobile spectrum band, but the usage of other global mobile spectrum bands (700-900MHz, 1.7GHz, and 2.5GHz) was prohibited. The decision at WRC-23 to modify ITU-R’s Radio Regulations to expand HAPS spectrum bands to global mobile spectrum bands outside 2GHz will give operators and governments in different countries and regions around the world more flexibility when they study and prepare for the introduction of HAPS services. Consequently, it is expected that even more countries and regions will be able to implement services that utilize direct communications between HAPS base stations and users with existing smartphones. The added spectrum will particularly help enable the provision of stable communication networks in unconnected areas—such as the sky, remote islands, mountainous regions, and in developing countries—which are difficult to cover with ground base stations, as well as assist the prompt restoration of communication services when terrestrial network communication services are disrupted by large-scale disasters.

Utilizing HAPS technologies to help realize its vision of “a world where all things, information and minds are connected,” SoftBank will—in collaboration with countries and regions and concerned regulatory authorities—continue to conduct international standardization activities for HAPS spectrum bands, and advance research and development activities to prepare for commercialization.

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