Inmarsat has joined forces with Deutsche Telekom to provide in-flight broadband services for European airlines and passengers, with Lufthansa set to become the first airline to trial the LTE/satellite-based service in 2017.
The London-based mobile satellite communications service provider is collaborating with the German operator to develop the European Aviation Network, which aims to combine satellite connectivity from a new Inmarsat S-band satellite with a new LTE-based ground network run by Deutsche Telekom in the same frequency.
The satellite utilises Inmarsat's 30 MHz (2 x 15 MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, while Deutsche Telekom will build and manage around 300 LTE sites on the ground. Each site will have a range of more than 80 km and will be modified to transmit data to the operating altitude and speeds of passenger aircraft.
Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said this "bold step" aligns with the German operator's strategy "to become the leading European telco".
"This will be the first aviation connectivity network in Europe powered by both LTE and satellite combined," said Höttges, who added that Deutsche Telekom will become the first telecoms operator "to take the advantages of LTE technology to the European airspace."
In November last year, Alcatel-Lucent said it was jointly developing ground equipment for Inmarsat's Europe-wide aviation telecoms network. The equipment manufacturer said it would provide the LTE-based air-to-ground technology to communicate with the S-band satellite being constructed by Thales Alenia Space. A spokesperson for Inmarsat said Alcatel-Lucent would be working with Deutsche Telekom on the network.
Inmarsat also noted that the collaboration with Lufthansa on the European Aviation Network would build on an existing strategic relationship that will also see the German airline become the first in Europe to trial the satellite company's Global Xpress (GX) satellite-based broadband service.
Following the launch of the third Global Xpress Ka-band satellites in August, Inmarsat said it is on schedule to offer global commercial service by the end of 2015. Lufthansa will launch the broadband service on board its European flight from the summer of 2016.
The satellite company said the new GX network will be able to provide downlink broadband speeds of up to 50 Mbps and uplink speeds of up to 5 Mbps. The services will be primarily targeted at customers on the move on land, at sea and in the air. Inmarsat describes Global Xpress as the "first high-speed broadband network to span the world."
- see this Inmarsat release
- see this Deutsche Telekom release
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