LTE is set to fly in Europe, Deutsche Telekom claims – quite literally, after the telco completed a series of tests of the 4G technology from a moving aircraft.
The operator teamed with infrastructure firm Alcatel-Lucent and airplane-maker Airbus to trial direct air-to-ground mobile broadband communication via terrestrial LTE networks. Deutsche Telekom states the trial is the first step towards enabling commercial high-speed mobile Internet connectivity for passengers flying over mainland Europe.
Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Deutsche Telekom’s chief technical officer, says in-flight web browsing is already popular, and that extending that to cover European flights “would therefore be a natural extension,” and one that is already “being requested by the airline passengers.”
Airbus head of cabin and cargo Jörg Schuler says LTE could replace current satellite-based connectivity services on aircraft, helping the firm to optimize the weight and drag of its planes. “[T]his R&D project represents a key demonstrator of what could shape airline passenger experience in the near future,” he explains, adding that the “low integration efforts for the airborne part of the system could be very attractive for our customers.”
Although the test flight took place in November, the firm is only now publishing details as part of its evaluation of future in-flight services, a spokesman explained to Telecoms Europe.net. The staffer confirmed three successful tests were carried out during the flight, and the firm is also looking into connecting passengers via Wi-Fi connections.