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Tue, 29 November 2016

European Aviation Network Takes to the Skies

The European Aviation Network (EAN) has taken to the skies.

Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, together with their technology partners Nokia and Thales have successfully conducted a programme of test flights in the UK.

This is a major milestone in the development of EAN, an integrated satellite and air-to-ground network dedicated to providing a true in-flight broadband experience for the European aviation industry and for millions of passengers travelling across Europe.

EAN is planned for introduction in mid-2017. The flights serve to test the performance of the EAN system including the onboard equipment being provided by Thales and the ground network provided by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia.

As a precursor to the test flight series, Deutsche Telekom and Nokia jointly achieved the first EAN live over-the-air connection, in Nokias Stuttgart laboratory. There, all components of the LTE ground network were thoroughly tested and validated. The first live connection in the field was accomplished in a broadband video conference with both parties connected via the dedicated EAN LTE mobile network.

Leo Mondale, President of Aviation, Inmarsat, said, EAN is progressing extremely well, both on the ground as well as in the air, to achieve the worlds first integrated service providing true in-flight broadband experience. The actual performance and quality of the in-flight datalink exceeds design expectations and is truly game changing for European airlines. We look forward to further successful testing milestones working with all the EAN partners to bring together this integrated system. 

To achieve EANs live connection of the LTE ground network, Deutsche Telekom and Nokia have adapted Nokias LTE base stations and Remote Radio Heads (RRH) to the frequency used for EAN, provided by Inmarsat, and build a specific base station antenna to cover the sky.

The LTE ground network for EAN differs from normal LTE networks as it needs to work at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h, at cruising altitudes requiring cells of up to 150 km. Nokia will manage the operations for this advanced network from its global delivery centre in Romania.

In addition to the live network, Nokia and Deutsche Telekom set up a full end-to-end ground network reference system in Stuttgart, Germany, including all components and integrated on-board equipment from partner Thales, to prepare for technical challenges, for example compensation of the Doppler effect due to high aircraft speeds.

The flight trial tested the performance of the onboard equipment being provided by Thales and the ground network provided by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia. Tests were performed to see if the network could successfully attach to the ground system, which it did at all four test sites located in the south west of the UK.

The systems performed multiple successful handovers between sectors and cell towers, and maintained a stable connection. The transfer of data to and from the aircraft was also tested. The outcomes have exceeded expectations for this early flight trial and provided valuable data for the development teams.

See other recent news regarding: Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Thales.

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