Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom have successfully completed the first flight trials to test both the satellite and complementary ground network for their European Aviation Network (EAN) service.
EAN is the world’s first dedicated aviation solution to combine space and ground based components to deliver ultra-lightweight, high-speed inflight broadband to airlines.
The recent flights demonstrated that the European Aviation Network meets its design performance in practice; which Inmarsat says is a significant milestone for the project consortium, as well as European airlines and their passengers.
Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom conducted the evaluation with partners Cobham, Thales and Nokia using a Cessna 550 Citation II provided by Dutch company NLR.
The aircraft was flown across Germany, Belgium, France and Spain, covering approximately 5,000 km of European airspace, to test integration of the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) and Complementary Ground Component (CGC) terminals.
Further flight trials are scheduled over the coming weeks.
Inmarsat Aviation President Philip Balaam said: “These flight trials, together with the recent news that Ofcom in the UK is the latest European regulator to authorise the ground-based stations as part of the European Aviation Network, moves the project a step closer to commencing commercial service with our launch customer, which we expect to take place in the first half of 2018.
“This will be a game-changer for the airline market, offering passengers a new gold standard in resilient and scalable inflight broadband, with unmatched high capacity, low-latency performance.”
Inmarsat’s EAN satellite, which completed its in-orbit tests last month after being launched by Arianespace, works seamlessly with a complementary network of around 300 LTE-based ground stations, operated by Deutsche Telekom, using an Advanced Integrated Services Manager (AISM) platform.
International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes airline brands British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, is the launch customer for the new service.
Rolf Nafziger, Senior Vice President, International Wholesale Business at Deutsche Telekom, said: “European airspace is one of the busiest in the world and passenger volumes are expected to double in the next 15 years, with an increasing number of people wanting to stream videos or send e-mails at the same time whilst in the air.
“A combined system that seamlessly integrates satellite connectivity with a complementary LTE-based network on the ground will create the much-needed additional capacity to meet demand now and in the future.”
A recent study quantifying the commercial opportunities of inflight connectivity, ‘Sky High Economics’, forecasted that European airlines which successfully deliver new broadband enabled ancillary services to passengers will benefit from an extra $8.2 billion in revenue.