SoftBank Corp., ALES Corp. and u-blox AG have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in GNSS augmentation services for global markets. Through this business collaboration, SoftBank, ALES and u-blox will construct GNSS augmentation infrastructure for Japan, Europe and the United States, develop GNSS receivers and devices, and expand service areas.
SoftBank provides the “ichimill” GNSS augmentation service in Japan, its subsidiary ALES operates a business that generates and delivers positioning correction data, and u-blox is a global provider of positioning services for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets. U-blox also provides electronic components for wireless communications and the PointPerfect GNSS augmentation service in Europe, the United States and other countries and regions.
Since November 2019, SoftBank has been offering ichimill, a GNSS augmentation service that offers highly accurate positioning with a margin of error of a few centimeters in the Japan market. In addition to providing technology that enables the generation and delivery of correction data, ALES has been offering a centimeter-level positioning service to consumers in Japan since August 2020.
In July 2021, u-blox began providing PointPerfect, a PPP-RTK-based GNSS augmentation service, which is now available in the contiguous United States and Europe.
GNSS augmentation services like these are mainly offered separately by country and region. Client companies, which include global automotive manufacturers and agricultural machinery manufacturers, sign up for separate service contracts in each country and region, making GNSS receiver configuration more complex.
To offer global GNSS augmentation services, SoftBank, ALES and u-blox will study the following initiatives.
- Develop a global correction data delivery infrastructure. GNSS augmentation services use correction methods that differ by country and region, and there is a wide variety of correction signal formats. In 2022, the three companies will consider developing a correction data delivery infrastructure that delivers unified correction signal formats for use in any country or region. With this infrastructure, companies using ichimill or PointPerfect will be able to conduct GNSS augmentation if they are in range of both services, which will eliminate the need for separate service contracts by country or region.
- Jointly develop global-compatible devices. In addition to correction data delivery, an environment that allows for the easy implementation of GNSS receivers and other devices is necessary for GNSS augmentation services. In conjunction with the launch of ichimill, SoftBank developed its own GNSS receivers and is offering them in Japan. The three companies will consider jointly developing GNSS receivers and modules that can be used globally.
- Greater GNSS augmentation accuracy and service area expansion. The companies will collaborate closely to ensure that the performance of the services in all the regions covered are comparable. This is important to provide a consistent customer experience across all regions. Furthermore, the three companies plan to study service expansion into other areas, including Asia. SoftBank is promoting the deployment of non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions that encompass satellite- and stratospheric-based telecommunication platforms to provide connectivity to the sea, the sky, developing countries and rural areas lacking internet infrastructure so everyone around the world has access to the internet. The three companies will consider the development of NTN-linked services, such as correction data delivery using small amounts of data in a way that is suitable for NTN bandwidths.