The European Aviation Network completed its first test flight in the UK during November of 2016. The event marked the introduction of a new era in aviation history whereby LTE bandwidth up to 75 megabits per second is made available to flight passengers across Europe through an air to ground communications link. This technology achievement, which required significant development and customization to enable the technology to work on commercial airplanes flying at high speed, was made possible by the combined efforts of world-leading technology companies, Nokia, Thales, and Sequans. Nokia is the provider of the network equipment on the ground, Thales is the provider of the on-board access devices and integrated aeronautical system software, and Sequans is the provider of the tiny but powerful LTE chip at the heart of the Thales on-board devices, enabling them to communicate securely with the ground based LTE network.
Network operators Deutsche Telecom and Inmarsat joined forces in 2015 to build the EAN. Together with Nokia and Thales they set out to build an integrated communications network that combines S-band satellite with a complementary 4G LTE mobile terrestrial network. The EAN is the first such combined satellite and terrestrial network ever to appear in the world.
The LTE ground network consists of several network elements developed and operated by Nokia. Prior to the test flight, Nokia built a complete end-to-end ground network, using a dedicated frequency, and integrated it with the Sequans-powered onboard devices of Thales. The base stations include customized remote radio heads and specific antenna elements to receive data over the air and cover the sky.
Sequans, as one of the world’s leading LTE semiconductor companies, worked closely with Nokia and Thales during the months leading up to the successful first test flight. For its part, Sequans customized its chip technology to deliver advanced capabilities, enabling the data connection in the on-board access devices to stay on, and the system to operate with smooth handoffs between large cells, even at the high speed of an airplane.
The EAN offers the bandwidth needed for video-conferencing or social networking. Imagine the freedom and productivity this provides to airline passengers on long-haul flights. By mid-2017 the EAN will be available to the airline passengers of Lufthansa, British Airways, and other European airlines.
Video: European Aviation Network-A Look Behind the Scenes, December 14, 2016
Press release: European Aviation Network (EAN) is Airborne, November 28, 2016
Video: First Test Flight of the European Aviation Network, November 28, 2016
Press release: Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat Partner to Deliver European Aviation Network, September 21, 2015
Press release: Sequans’ LTE Technology Selected by Thales for the European Aviation Network, May 4, 2016