Inmarsat’s planned satellite-powered in-flight broadband service is to be strengthened by an LTE ground network built and operated by Deutsche Telekom, with Lufthansa to be the first airline to be connected as part of a trial next year.
The ‘European Aviation Network’ will eventually cover all major European air routes, providing commercial and business airlines with connectivity that promises to be as good as passengers’ home broadband.
Inmarsat’s holds S-band spectrum licences across all 28 EU member states and will work with 300 LTE sites managed by Deutsche Telekom. Each of these sites will have a range of 80km – eight times the standard range of an LTE site – and is capable of transmitting data at the operating altitude and speed of an aircraft.
“Combined with our global GX (Ka-band) and L-band services, we now have connectivity solutions for the cockpit and the cabin of any type of aircraft, flying in any geography.”
Lufthansa will start offering satellite connectivity on board European flights from 2016 and has committed to test the European Aviation Network in 2017. British Airways is also among the airlines that have signed up to provide passengers with Inmarsat’s service.
Air travel has long been considered the final refuge of those wishing to avoid phone calls, text messages and the Internet, but this sanctuary is slowly being eroded as more airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi.
A number of US carriers and Australia’s Qantas have offered connections for some time, while Virgin Atlantic already offers high speed connectivity on some transatlantic flights from Europe after the Branson-branded airline agreed a deal with Gogo late last year. Budget carrier Ryanair is also considering offering Wi-Fi as part of its push to attract more business passengers.
However some security researchers have raised concerns that such systems might be used by hackers to control aircraft systems.
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