European Aviation Network completes test flights for air-to-ground connectivity

The European Aviation Network (EAN), a collaboration between Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom and their technology partners Nokia and Thales, has completed a programme of test flights in the UK. The programme has tested the performance of the EAN system including the onboard equipment being provided by Thales and the ground LTE network provided by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia.

EAN is an integrated S-band satellite and complementary LTE-based terrestrial network across Europe, which is seeking to bring “unprecedented passenger connectivity to the aviation industry”. It is scheduled to go live in mid-2017.

To achieve EAN's live connection of the LTE ground network, Deutsche Telekom and Nokia have adapted Nokia's 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 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 for the Doppler effect due to high aircraft speeds.

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