More Wi-Fi in the Sky

Wi-Fi Network for Airlines Uses LTE and Satellite Connectivity

This week, Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat together with technology partner Nokia, announced the completion of the LTE ground network for the European Aviation Network (EAN).

The EAN is designed to provide connectivity to airline passengers in Europe through two distinct components. The first is a dedicated EAN satellite, which has been in operation since Inmarsat launched it in summer 2017. The second element is a terrestrial LTE network, consisting of 300 base stations spread throughout the 28 EU member states as well as in Norway and Switzerland. Nokia and Deutsche Telekom recently completed the deployment of this infrastructure. The combined LTE and satellite systems aim to offer seamless connectivity over land and water.

The newly completed ground network uses specialised antennas, built in conjunction with Nokia. Two antennas will be installed on the aircraft: one at the top for satellite connectivity and one at the bottom to access the LTE network. Working with Inmarsat’s EAN satellite, it provides an Internet connection with speeds of 75 Mbps and latency below 100 milliseconds, used to offer a Wi-Fi service to passengers.

The International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways among other airlines, will be the first commercial customer of the EAN. It has already begun deploying EAN equipment on its fleet. The service is expected to launch during the second half of 2018.

Dr Rolf Nafziger, senior vice president of the international wholesale business at Deutsche Telekom, said the EAN is also designed to fulfil current as well as future passenger demand for inflight connectivity, as the integrated LTE ground network is fully scalable to meet growing connectivity needs in the coming years.

Larger airlines have been installing Wi-Fi on airplanes for long-haul flights, with coverage more widespread in the US. In Europe, Lufthansa’s Eurowings rolled out a Wi-Fi network on short-haul routes this month, and Norwegian Air Shuttle also offers this service.

With 22,500 flights per day and 500 million passengers per year, Europe’s airspace is the busiest in the world. Wi-Fi access on board planes is becoming an expectation among passengers, who want to be able to go online during flights. We believe the EAN will allow airlines to generate additional revenue, potentially billions of dollars, by offering high-quality Wi-Fi services to passengers.