France’s ARCEP approves Inmarsat EAN network

An LTE ground station for the EAN. Image: Deutsche Telekom.
An LTE ground station for the EAN. Image: Deutsche Telekom.

France’s ARCEP telecommunications regulator has published its decision authorising Inmarsat to operate the complementary terrestrial relay antennas for its 2 GHz MSS satellite system and European Aviation Network (EAN).

The authorisation enables it, as part of the EAN project, to offer internet access services on aircraft thanks to dual connectivity: via satellite and through the complementary use of relay antennas on the ground

EAN is a hybrid LTE (ATG) and S-band satellite solution. Inmarsat says the combined complementary air-to-ground and satellite system will provide seamless connectivity over land and water, with a more than 75 Mbit/s connection speed to the aircraft.

Around 300 base stations across all 28 member states of the European Union, plus Switzerland and Norway, form the ground network for the EAN. The completion of the network follows Inmarsat’s successful launch of its EAN satellite last summer, which has since been tested in orbit and has been fully operational since September 2017.

Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat, together with technology partner Nokia, announced the completion of the ground network component of the LTE-based European Aviation Network (EAN) earlier this month. Inmarsat says the system is on target for the first passengers to use the service by the end of the first half of 2018.

ViaSat, Eutelsat and Panasonic had previously lodged a complaint with the European Court of Justice seeking an injunction on the proposed EAN service.

They say Inmarsat is violating the terms of its license by “passing off a terrestrial network as a satellite system”.

But Inmarsat said the claim lodged by ViaSat Inc. against the European Commission was “based on arguments previously put forward to the European Commission and national regulators without success”.

At last September’s Apex Expo in Long Beach, California, Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, said Inmarsat saw no merit in their arguments. “We are confident that it will go nowhere,” he said.

Van Essen added: “They presented similar arguments to OfCom during last year’s UK consultation

“We consider ViaSat’s claims to be entirely without merit and fundamentally misconceived. Their strategy has had no impact on our preparations and we remain on course to commence commercial services with our launch customer in the first half of 2018.”

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