An artist’s conception shows HAPSMobile’s Hawk30 aircraft in flight. (HAPSMobile / SoftBank Illustration) , a joint venture created by Japan’s and California-based , is jumping into the race to provide global broadband access from above, alongside SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb and Telesat. Unlike those four companies, HAPSMobile plans to use high-flying, solar-powered planes rather than satellites to transmit signals wirelessly over a wide swath of the planet’s surface. In that respect, the concept has more in common with the aerial broadband concept that Facebook was pursuing . Like Facebook’s plan, HAPSMobile’s concept relies on high-altitude platform stations, or HAPS. The venture’s ultralight Hawk30 airplanes would fly above the clouds at an altitude of 13 miles (20 kilometers) for months at a time. Each aircraft would have a wingspan of roughly 260 feet (78 meters) and sport 10 electric-powered propellers. Average flight speed would be about 70 mph (110 kilometers per hour), . The plan calls for signals to be sent in the same frequency ranges used for terrestrial mobile telecom, making for a “seamless handover” between ground-based and aerial networks. HAPSMobile says it’s entered into a technology licensing agreement with Facebook for their advanced communication system. AeroVironment, which specializes in the development of unmanned aircraft systems for military and commercial applications, for testing. The ceiling value for HAPSMobile’s design development agreement with AeroVironment was recently raised by $39 million to reach a total of $126 million. HAPSMobile is targeting 2023 for mass production of the Hawk30 planes and the launch of commercial service. In the meantime, the venture will be working with Alphabet’s Loon, which started out as a Google project and is deploying balloon-based platforms to provide wireless telecommunications services. In an unusual arrangement, HAPSMobile says it has decided to invest $125 million in Loon, with the intention of using Loon’s balloon platforms and technology to build out a global broadband network. Loon has the right to invest the same amount in HAPSMobile sometime in the future, and will be able to use Hawk30 aircraft once they go into production. Loon and HAPSMobile will work on a common gateway or ground station network that could be deployed globally and used by both companies to provide connectivity over their respective platforms. The two companies could also share network connectivity in the air. Representatives of the two ventures said the linkup would further their shared vision of providing high-speed connectivity to billions of people around the world who are currently underserved. “Through HAPS, we aim to eliminate the digital divide and provide people around the world with the innovative network services that they need,” Junichi Miyakawa, who is the president and CEO of HAPSMobile as well as representative director and chief technology officer at SoftBank Corp., . Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth hailed “the beginning of a long-term relationship based on a shared vision for expanding connectivity to those who need it.” “We see joining forces as an opportunity to develop an entire industry, one which holds the promise to bring connectivity to parts of the world no one thought possible,” he said. HAPSMobile and Loon aren’t the only ventures that have a vision of providing broadband access from above. Here are some of the other contestants in the race: aims to put up hundreds of satellites to create a broadband constellation in low Earth orbit. The . OneWeb expects to demonstrate its service in 2020 and offer global, 24-hour coverage to customers starting in 2021. SoftBank Group and other investors just last month, and HAPSMobile says it could take advantage of OneWeb’s backhaul communication capability. eventually plans to have about 12,000 satellites in its . Two prototype satellites have been in orbit since last year, and the first operational satellites are due for launch as early as next month. Service could begin in the 2020-2021 time frame. SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., has taken a lead role in the satellite development effort. , Canada’s biggest satellite operator, had the first prototype satellite for its broadband constellation launched into low Earth orbit last year. The company expects to offer first-generation data services in the early 2020s. to use a data delivery platform that’s based on the system that Loon uses for its fleet of high-altitude balloons. has its own plan to deploy a 3,236-satellite broadband constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, . Many of the details surrounding the venture, including how and when the satellites would be deployed, have not yet been revealed. But Amazon already has . Virtually all of those jobs are based in Bellevue, Wash. The list doesn’t stop there: , and Luxembourg-based have laid out plans for space-based internet access as well. Even Lockheed Martin has mentioned the idea of having a And Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing subsidiary, is working on a that looks a lot like the Hawk30. How many satellites, balloons and signal-beaming drone aircraft can the world handle? How many of these ventures will come to fruition? In the next five or 10 years, we may well find out.
Everett Memorial Stadium north of Seattle is now Funko Field. (Flickr Photo / Chase N) The Seattle Mariners will be playing in a hometown stadium with a new name this season, and so will the team’s Class A affiliate up north. , the Everett, Wash.-based makers of pop culture products, announced that Funko Field will be the newly named home for the Everett Aquasox minor league baseball team. Funko bought the naming rights for the next six years, and will add signage around the stadium and branding on ballpark staff uniforms. The that the deal will cost the company up to $1.1 million and required approval of the Everett School Board. (Funko Image) “Funko has been a prominent fixture in the community since moving to downtown Everett,” Brian Mariotti, chief executive officer of Funko said in a news release. “Our commitment to the community and our employees has never wavered. This partnership is a terrific opportunity to further engage with our fans and neighbors by cheering on the home team together.” The company said Friday home games will be designated “Funko Fridays,” and will include promotions and giveaways for AquaSox ticket holders. The Herald said a 15-foot figurine will be featured in right field. Funko is well known as the creators of Pop! collectibles, the figurines with wide eyes that capture the likenesses of characters across the pop culture spectrum. The company went public in 2017 and near $825 million in 2019. called Funko stock “a steal” in recent comments. Funko Field opening day is June 21, when the AquaSox meet the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In Seattle, the Mariners will be playing at T-Mobile Park staring on March 28. The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier bought naming rights after a 20-year-deal with Safeco Insurance came to an end.
TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: A new football league controlled by fans is the latest endeavor to make use of blockchain technology. The begins play next year and will allow fans to be apart of everything from play-calling to hiring general managers. The FCFL will feature eight indoor football teams playing one hour-long games in a production studio on a 50-yard field. Games will air on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform whose video overlay technology will allow fans to call plays in real-time. The league is also using helmet cameras, embedded chips in balls, drones, and other tech. The league this week that it has partnered with , a Seattle-based blockchain consulting group, to implement a first-of-its-kind blockchain token system. Fans will be able to earn Fan Access Network (FAN) tokens built on the Ethereum blockchain; the more tokens collected, the more power they’ll have to make decisions. , co-founder of FCFL, told GeekWire that his team wanted to use blockchain for three reasons: Voting transparency: “We’re letting fans dictate the careers of coaches and players, and the plays on the field,” he said. “We need to be able to provide true transparency in the voting process so there are no questions about the results.” Tokenization: “We’re building a ‘real-life video game’ so it’s a natural fit to have tokens in the game,” he said. “We’re tokenizing voting power in the league so the more FAN tokens a fan owns/earns, the more voting power the fan will have.” Digital collectibles: “We’re going to be tokenizing the players in the league and creating non-fungible digital ‘collectible tokens’ for each player, similar to trading cards,” he said. “We’re working with New Alchemy on some interesting ways to incorporate the collectible player tokens into fantasy sports games for the league.” New Alchemy is also an investor in the league, making a “low seven-figure” investment, Farudi said. Farudi and his colleagues tested an initial version of FCFL last year , an Indoor Football League team, and letting fans control plays with an app. FCFL is the latest evolution, expanding the format to an entire league with partners like Twitch and IMG Original Content. Highlights from the week in sports tech Amazon bought up more live sports rights, this time to stream the U.S. Open in Ireland and the U.K. on Prime Video. The NFL is investigating what it alleges as widespread fraud related to its $1 billion concussion settlement, reports . Amazon-owned Twitch from the NBA’s new 2K esports league. reports that MLB and the NBA are in talks to divest their stakes in DraftKings and FanDuel. Seattle startup Vicis for safe football helmets. Seattle esports betting startup Unikrn made another acquisition, to create the first “crypto gaming platform.” Another Seattle startup, IdealSeat, to integrate its ticketing intelligence platform. University of Pittsburgh awarded two projects for its first : tech that improves swimming technique, and a bio-screening platform that measures a user’s nervous system. Did you sign up for ESPN+? In case you missed it, on ESPN’s new $5 per month streaming service. Mobile Sports Report is out with . Blockchain-based startups are . Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper