EAN airline broadband service moves closer to reality

The European Aviation Network (EAN), a hybrid satellite and 4G LTE network built by Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat to serve airlines with in-flight broadband services across Europe, has moved a step closer to full commercial launch with the completion of in-orbit testing of Inmarsat’s S-band satellite.

The six tonne HellasSat 3/Inmarsat-S-EAN (EuropaSat) was launched in June 2017, with part of its mission to deliver Wi-Fi networking services to airline passengers across the 28 European Union (EU) member states.

When fully deployed, the 50Gbps capacity EAN will enable the first in-flight broadband service to use space-based and ground-based networks through the satellite and 300 LTE antennae across Europe, managed by Nokia from its global delivery centre in Romania.

This means that passengers using the service should be able to transfer from the 4G mobile network to the in-flight Wi-Fi at take off, and back to 4G on landing, without noticing a break in service.

As previously announced, International Airlines Group (IAG) will be the launch customer for the service, and has been retrofitting 341 Airbus A320 family aircraft across its Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling brands with the equipment needed to run the service. IAG hopes to offer EAN on 90% of its aircraft by 2019.

“Connectivity is essential because it is what our customers demand and IAG will be the first European airline group to offer high-quality air-to-ground Wi-Fi on short-haul flights,” said IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

Inmarsat has already seen some commercial success in the in-flight connectivity market, where it has only been active for the past year, when it introduced GX Aviation, a worldwide service powered by a constellation of Global Xpress Ka-band satellites.

A number of airlines are already using the Global Xpress constellation, including German flag-carrier Lufthansa, which has installed the service on 150 planes under a deal struck in 2016. Other users include Air New Zealand, Avianca, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

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