SoftBank puts $7.5 million behind Altaeros to expand internet access



Four billion people — more than half the world’s population — lack reliable internet access, while 1.5 billion don’t have mobile-broadband reception.

Altaeros, a company out of MIT, is developing lightweight, blimp-like balloons to bring high-speed mobile internet service to remote areas. The company says the balloons can deliver broadband up to 70% more cheaply and use less energy than conventional towers.

Altaeros will begin trials in 2018. In addition to the investment from Softbank, Altaeros has received funding from the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, a Mitsubishi investment fund and RNT Associates, a fund linked to Indian manufacturer, Tata.

Technologies that expand low-cost internet and mobile access have been drawing investors’ eye.

Last month, Nigeria-based Tizeti raised $2.1 million to expand its solar-powered mini-towers to improve urban connectivity.

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