Airbus’ commercial high-altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) unit has signed a deal with new Bermuda-based mobile operator Paradise Mobile.

Aalto HAPS this week announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enter a strategic partnership with Paradise to introduce HAPS-based solutions to the region.

Airbus Zephyr.jpg
– Airbus

The companies said Paradise Mobile will have access to Aalto’s solutions when the company rolls out commercial services in 2024. This will enable Paradise Mobile to provide connectivity services to a wide area from high altitude, and quickly provide additional coverage during emergency events.

Samer Halawi, CEO of Aalto HAPS, said: “We are very pleased to count Paradise Mobile, the next-gen mobile network operator leading digital innovations in the Caribbean region, as one of our pioneering partners looking into HAPS as an efficient, sustainable, and an environmentally friendly new stratospheric layer of connectivity to deliver service; and add new reach beyond current infrastructure. Our solutions offer a service that saves and improves lives.”

Sam Tabbara, Paradise Mobile CEO, added: “We look forward to working with Aalto. Zephyr has demonstrated a high level of maturity as a HAPS platform, and its innovation and sustainability are aligned with Paradise Mobile’s values and objectives in designing the future”.

HAPS – whether they be airships, balloons, or fixed-wing drones – offer a way to provide connectivity to rural and unconnected areas from high altitudes without the upfront costs of cell towers or satellites or the need for specialist receivers.

Zephyr is a solar-powered HAPS platform that is being developed by defense giant Airbus. The latest iteration, Zephyr Z8, has a wingspan of 25m while weighing only 75kg. The HAPS is designed to fly at around 70,000 ft (21 km), above the weather and commercial airlines, and is powered by solar panels - enabling it to fly during the day and recharge its batteries which power it at night.

Originally designed by defense group Qinetiq in 2003, the platform was sold to Airbus in 2013. Since then, Airbus has been developing and testing the platform in order to prepare it for commercial use. 2023 has seen Airbus form Aalto as a new subsidiary for Zephyr’s commercial operations, targeting enterprises and telcos. Aalto has previously signed deals with Saudi telco STC and NTT JV Space Compass Corp.

Paradise is a new telco set to launch in the country later this year. Led by former Bell Canada exec Sam Tabbara, the company aims to compete with incumbents Digicel and One Communications.