SoftBank to build 150MW AI data center at Sharp's Sakai plant

The Japanese telco operator plans to start construction of the AI data center around the autumn of 2024, with full-scale operations set for 2025.

Gigi Onag, Senior Editor, APAC

June 11, 2024

2 Min Read
Abstract AI hand graphic

SoftBank is set to build an AI data center with a total land area of 750,000 meters and power capacity of more than 150MW at Sharp Corporation's LCD panel plant in Sakai City located in the Osaka Prefecture. The facility is targeted for full-scale operation in 2025.

The two Japanese companies said on Friday that they have signed a memorandum of understanding that allows SoftBank to acquire about 60% of the total land area of Sharp's Sakai Plant – taking over the plant's buildings, electric power supply facilities, cooling systems and other resources to rapidly construct the data center.

Neither party disclosed the value of the acquisition.

The Japanese telco operator plans to start construction around the autumn of 2024, with full-scale operations in 2025.

SoftBank intends to use the data center for its own generative AI (GenAI) development and other AI-related business. It also plans to provide data center space to universities, research institutions and outside companies that are engaged in developing and running AI applications.

Furthermore, SoftBank is eyeing clean energy sources to minimize the data center's environmental impact as the company expects to increase the power capacity of the data center to over 400MW in future.

Meanwhile, under the agreement, SoftBank and Sharp will consider future collaboration in AI-related business.

SoftBank will be investing 170 billion yen (US$1.1 billion) by 2025 to strengthen its computational infrastructure for GenAI, according to Nikkei Asia. The report added that SoftBank is putting up data centers in major cities across Japan, with the one planned at the Sakai plant site serving as a hub for the Kansai region.

Sharp's AI data center deal with KDDI

A few days before its agreement with SoftBank was announced, Sharp revealed that it is in discussions with another telco operator KDDI – along with Super Micro Computer and Datasection – to build an AI data center at its Sakai Plant.

KDDI, in its own press release, said the facility will be the "largest AI data center in Asia," equipped with Nvidia's AI computing platform.

The four companies will collaborate to construct the AI data center with the goal of starting operations as early as possible. Sharp will be providing the site, KDDI will be responsible for network infrastructure and the operation of the AI data center, Super Micro will deploy a platform capable of managing heat generation efficiently, and Datasection will support the operation of the AI data center.

Media reported in May that Sharp will close its LCD panel factory in Sakai in September after struggling against fierce competition from Chinese and Korean rivals. Sharp spent about JPY400 billion ($2.55 billion) to build its Sakai plant in 2009.


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About the Author(s)

Gigi Onag

Senior Editor, APAC, Light Reading

Gigi Onag is Senior Editor, APAC, Light Reading. She has been a technology journalist for more than 15 years, covering various aspects of enterprise IT across Asia-Pacific.

She started with regional IT publications under CMP Asia (now Informa), including Asia Computer Weekly, Intelligent Enterprise Asia and Network Computing Asia and Teledotcom Asia. This was followed by stints with Computerworld Hong Kong and sister publications FutureIoT and FutureCIO. She had contributed articles to South China Morning Post, TechTarget and PC Market among others.

She interspersed her career as a technology editor with a brief sojourn into public relations before returning to journalism, joining the editorial team of Mix Magazine, a MICE publication and its sister publication Business Traveller Asia Pacific.

Gigi is based in Hong Kong and is keen to delve deeper into the region’s wide wild world of telecoms.

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