SmartSky Networks is advancing next-gen connectivity and bettering passenger experience

SmartSky Networks has reached a milestone number of 130 patents to support its development of an air-to-ground (ATG) network. This milestone patent is not to be the last, as the company says it has another 91 still in a pending state. The amount of innovation and new technology going into this ATG network is astounding and bodes well for a revolutionary 5G ready network launch.

SmartSky Networks
SmartSky Networks have secured their 130th patent. Photo: SmartSky Networks

Ryan Stone, president of SmartSky Networks, said in a press release,

“SmartSky is focused on launching our U.S. ATG network and providing the best-connected experience in the sky, and our relentless pursuit of new and patented solutions is driving much of the technology leadership and innovation behind the SmartSky advantage. With 91 additional patents currently pending, our development pipeline will continue to deliver the high-performance network that passengers want and need aboard their business and commercial flights.” 

Based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, SmartSky Networks has been in operation since 2011. Their 4G LTE network began nationwide deployment some years ago, but is now ready to launch as a 5G capable network in the next few months.

The latest patent

The 130th patent is entitled “Architecture for Simultaneous Spectrum Usage by Air-to-Ground and Terrestrial Networks”. Essentially, this is part of a portfolio of exclusive rights covering the spectrum usage and network architecture of their ATG system. The overarching aim of this is to ensure the ATG network operates harmoniously with other users of the same frequencies.

The specifics of this patent are less important than the sheer number of patents secured by SmartSky through their development of ATG. The use of 5G technology and the bespoke design of their network means the system is futureproofed and can evolve as new advancements become available.

SmartSky Networks
Image: SmartSky Networks

Their next gen 5G ready ATG network uses many components of 5G technology which are being used in terrestrial builds. These include things like software defined radios, network slicing, beamforming, low latency architecture and primary internet gateway relocation.

Their aim is to bring inflight connectivity to airborne passengers which is competitive with the quality of connections on the ground. Chairman and CEO Haynes Griffin spoke of their mission in a previous press release, saying,

“We are able to provide customers an experience in-flight comparable to their in-home experience,” 

As its president said in the latest media communication, SmartSky have no less than 91 more patents pending in relation to their system. This goes to show just how much innovation is going on behind the scenes in order to create an ATG network that is fit for the future.

When will we see the launch of next gen ATG?

The SmartSky network delivers super secure, low latency connections to every aircraft on the network. Their unique beamforming technology delivers communications to just one aircraft at a time, rather than sharing the delivery among several aircraft at once.

Smartsky beamforming
Beamforming means no loss of quality or congestion issues. Image: SmartSky

This means that passengers will enjoy inflight connectivity that is on a par with that in their homes and offices. Currently, the network is delivered through 4G LTE, but as 5G comes online, the system is completely ready to upgrade. Griffin said of this,

“The 5G technology already demonstrated in our network is a clear competitive edge in the market. Now that we’re in the final stages of deployment, all the hard work and years of effort are about to pay off as customers will be able to use the network in a matter of months.”

Back in May, the company announced it was entering the final phase of deployment of the next gen ATG network. It is expected to roll out and be available for use in the next few months.

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