SmartSky Networks has initiated the deployment of its 4G LTE-based air-to-ground (ATG) inflight connectivity network.
Using 60 MHz of spectrum and patented beam-forming technology, SmartSky says its network will provide more than 10 times the typical speed and capacity of the current industry standard ATG network, and at a lower cost per bit.
It says the design and rollout of SmartSky’s patented infrastructure is being led by its veteran telecommunications team, “building on extensive network and radio technology experience at companies such as Sprint, Nextel and Vanguard Cellular”.
The company recently announced a $170M Series B funding round, which has jump-started the long lead-time implementation processes for roll-out of the U.S. network.
Network data centres have been established and are operational in Ashburn, VA, and San Jose, CA and commitments have been secured for high-bandwidth backhaul resources.
Installations have also been completed of new technologies that provide for secure, very low latency, virtualised evolved packet core (EPC) operations.
The first Supplemental Type Certification (STC) is under development and on track to be submitted to the FAA in the near term, with software for the airborne systems now being flight tested.
FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) and STCs for more than 40 popular business aircraft models will follow the FAA’s approval of the first STC, based on commitments from leading MROs and OEMs;
86% of the selected base station sites nationwide have already passed initial on-site viability testing and are now in permitting and backhaul-connection phases.
The final ground infrastructure is being installed and commissioned upon completion of local permissions. Production activities for radios, antennas and ancillary equipment for both ground stations and aircraft are also under way.
SmartSky Networks says multiple flight test ranges in diverse geographies have also been implemented and field validation testing of the ATG radios, antennas and network infrastructure is ongoing.
The company’s estimate for completing coverage to support the network’s nationwide service launch has been updated to mid-2018, reflecting the additional time being required for STC-related software optimisation and production of base station radios.
SmartSky’s “Early Bird” customers and distribution partners have been notified, as consistent with the company’s commitment to timely updates.
SmartSky’s Chairman and CEO Haynes Griffin said: “Customers are unanimously impressed after experiencing inflight demos, confirming that we have significantly raised the bar for what will constitute best-in-class, future-ready airborne connectivity going forward.
“They seem equally appreciative of the fact that the few months of additional schedule to meet the high standards we have set for this network is ultimately to everyone’s benefit.”