Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat have, together with their technology partner Nokia, completed the key technological step in the development of the European Aviation Network (EAN), the world’s first integrated S-band satellite and complementary LTE-based terrestrial network built for Europe. With the set-up of around 300 base stations across all 28 member states of the European Union, as well as Switzerland and Norway, the ground network component of EAN has become the first ever Europe-wide integrated LTE network. The completion of the network follows Inmarsat’s successful launch of its EAN satellite last summer, which has since been extensively tested in orbit and has been fully operational since September 2017.
Unmatched Connectivity for Passengers
Serving the aviation industry and its passengers, the European Aviation Network is a pioneering technological achievement and a truly innovative European project. It provides seamless connectivity over land and water, and offers a high bandwidth service to passengers – currently over 75 Mbit/s connection speed to the aircraft – as airlines using the service do not share network capacity with any non-aviation customers. Passengers will be able to use social media, share pictures and stream high-bandwidth content at speeds they are used to experience at home.
EAN is also designed to fulfill not only current but also future passenger demand for inflight connectivity as the integrated LTE ground network is fully scalable to meet increasing connectivity needs in the coming years.
Game-changer for Airline Industry
The European Aviation Network will be available for airlines to offer commercially from H1 2018, serving as a game-changer for airlines and their customers. The service has been trialed during several flights to test the integrated satellite and complementary LTE ground network. The test flights have confirmed that EAN meets its design performance in practice, providing an unmatched low-latency performance of less than 100 ms.
Airlines will be able to install the small and light-weight EAN equipment quickly and easily, typically during overnight breaks for individual aircraft and turnaround times for entire fleets of just a few months.
International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes airline brands such as British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, is the launch customer for the new service and has already commenced installations of EAN equipment on aircraft.
“With the completion of the first ever integrated pan-European LTE ground network component we are now able to fully support EAN’s satellite connectivity and maximize the performance of the EAN system,” said Rolf Nafziger, Senior Vice President, International Wholesale Business at Deutsche Telekom. “The network is specifically designed to meet future capacity demands for connectivity in the European airspace, with passenger volumes expected to double in the next 15 years.”
“EAN is the world’s first dedicated aviation connectivity solution which effectively combines space and ground-based components, overcoming the traditional limitations of inflight internet,” said Frederik van Essen, Senior Vice President at Inmarsat Aviation. “Bringing connectivity to the skies is a complex effort and we could only realize this through strategic collaboration with our European partners.”
“EAN’s ground network had to meet technical prerequisites that are quite different from ‘normal’ LTE networks: it needs to work at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h, at heights of 10 km and requires large cells of up to 150 km,” said Thorsten Robrecht, Vice President Vertical Network Slices at Nokia. “Our joint endeavor breaks the technological boundaries between ground and air on connectivity”