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NTT’s Space Compass JV to launch in two years

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NTT and partner SKY Perfect JSAT have taken the next step in the creation of their space data centre business, setting up a JV company called Space Compass Corporation.

And commercial services could be available sooner than we thought.

The Japanese telco and the satellite provider announced their intention to work together to build an integrated computing network in space just under a year ago.

Now, the new venture is just about a reality. NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT have hammered out the details of Space Compass, which is due to be formally established in July. The firms will each hold a 50% stake in the new company, which will be based in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, under the leadership of co-CEOs Shigehiro Hori and Koichiro Matsufuji, currently executives at NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT respectively.

At launch, Space Compass will have capital of 6 billion yen, or around US$47 million, including its capital reserve, but this will be gradually increased to JPY18 billion ($141 million), its owners said. Given the 50:50 ownership split, we can probably assume they’re responsible for JPY9 billion each.

The capital at the establishment of the new company will be 6 billion yen (including capital reserve) and will be gradually increased.

That might not seem like a huge sum for a new outfit promising extensive data processing in space, but many of its assets are already in place.

As the firms outlined in May last year, the plan is to bring together NTT’s network and computing infrastructure with SKY Perfect JSAT’s space assets to create a network of satellites connected to each other and to the ground via optical wireless technology to form a constellation and to facilitate distributed computing in space. Sizeable amounts of data can be collected by satellites and analysed in space, rather than on the ground, which reduces both data traffic and power consumption.

In May last year the companies said their intention was to start technical demonstrations this year for the development of the new technologies they will need for the project. At the same time, they aimed to get ready for the launch of commercial satellites that would enable services to launch “from around 2025.”

Now it seems the first services could be available from the year after next.

Step one will see Space Compass roll out its space data centre offering. In 2024 it plans to launch an optical data relay service for high-speed transmission to the ground via a geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite.

The second element will be the space radio access network business, which will use high altitude platform stations (HAPS) to provide low-latency communication services in Japan in 2025, supporting high-capacity comms for ships and aircraft, disaster services and communications services to remote places. In addition, mobile operators could expand coverage by combining HAPS with terrestrial base stations. NTT is already doing plenty of research on HAPS-based connectivity.

“Space Compass will start the two businesses/services mentioned above as the first step in the space integrated computing network initiative and then gradually strengthen them,” the companies said.

For the space data centre offering, that means increased numbers of satellites and ultimately a global launch. The space RAN business will boost coverage and capacity with new – or newly-integrated – geostationary orbit satellites and low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, while Space Compass said it also plans to study the provision of image sensing using HAPS.

For many, the creation of Space Compass means a greater unwelcome impact on the night sky. But while that is certainly a consideration, it is good to see a telecoms operator taking the impetus and getting in on the cutting edge of new technology, as well as making good on its lofty ambitions.

 

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