Lufthansa and partners to bring LTE to European skies

A triumvirate of Lufthansa, Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat are to offer a combined LTE-based ground network and satellite network dedicated to aviation passenger connectivity in Europe.

Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat are working to develop the European Aviation Network (EAN), which willl seamlessly combine satellite connectivity from a new Inmarsat S-band satellite with an LTE-based ground network developed and run by Deutsche Telekom. Lufthansa will be the first European airline to use the platform, launching a state-of-the-art satellite-based broadband service on board its short and medium-haul European flights,in early 2016.
Speaking at the announcement, Carsten Spohr, chairman of the executive board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, commented, "This underlines once again that we are pioneers when it comes to digital services on board. Together with Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat, we are thinking further ahead. We want to engage in the development of next generation technology to further strengthen our innovative and leading role in this field.”
Spohr confirmed that a pricing structure for the on-board service has been developed reflecting the fare, class and type of passenger (i.e. frequent flyer).
The EAN will provide multi-beam pan-European coverage. The satellite is custom-designed to offer innovative mobile satellite services (MSS) to commercial and business airlines flying over the dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states.
Retrofitting Lufthansa’s 180 aircraft fleet is expected to take 90 weeks, with two aircraft a week taken out of service in order to undergo the installation. Lufthansa Technik will integrate all systems and components into the aircraft including installation activities, as well as all tasks required in terms of aviation and licensing law. Lufthansa Systems will provide the technical infrastructure including establishing network operations in the aircraft and providing the software required for the operation of an internet portal.
In addition, both companies are planning a long-term global partnership in order to offer other airlines a modern on-board IT platform (BoardConnect) with broadband internet access.
“As a ground-breaking innovation we will roll out a powerful terrestrial network based on LTE within the European Aviation Network. This will be the first aviation connectivity network in Europe powered by both LTE and satellite combined!” explains Tim Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, which will build and manage 300 LTE sites across Europe.
The sites will have a range of more than 80km (while conventional LTE sites have a range of 10km or less), will be able to transmit data to the operating altitude of passenger planes, and are flexible enough to deal with the speed of a plane. Once the aircraft has reached 10,000ft, Deutsche Telekom’s ground network will be combined with Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity. The switching between the satellite and the ground will be automatically managed by the cabin systems, creating no impact or interference with the service delivered on-board.

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