Inmarsat has announced that Alcatel-Lucent has become a technology partner for the development of a new, fully integrated telecommunications network to deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the European Union. The network is scheduled to enter commercial service by the end of 2016.
According to the parties, the network represents two major achievements for Inmarsat and its partners. Firstly, it will be the world’s first hybrid aviation network, consisting of an S-band satellite (Europasat), constructed by Thales Alenia Space, and a Europe-wide S-band ground network. Over the integrated network, based on LTE technology and access to sufficient spectrum resources, Inmarsat will be offering airlines the world’s fastest in-flight broadband connectivity service with speeds up to 75Mbps, which it says are far in excess of the limited capabilities of North American ATG systems.
Alcatel-Lucent and Inmarsat will work together to develop the ground infrastructure component of the new Europe-wide network. Alcatel-Lucent has proven expertise in the development of 4G LTE-based air-to-ground technology and was the world’s first company to field trial this technology in 2011. The initial contract awarded to Alcatel-Lucent will see the global telecommunications equipment company adapting its existing 4G LTE technology to support the S-band spectrum.
Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said that the network will provide “reliability and speeds previously only available on the ground.”
Licenses for the satellite component of the network have been applied for in all EU Member States, and authorization has already been received in 23 of these. The first ground component licenses have now been received, including from one of the ‘big five’ EU Member States, and good progress has been made in a number of other Member States, according to Inmarsat. The company reports that it is also in on-going discussions with a number of major airlines and other industry partners.