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September 21, 2015

4G fuses with satellite for aviation wi-fi

Tie up between Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat combines ground-based networks with satellite coverage.

By Alexander Sword

Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat are collaborating to launch a wi-fi network for European airlines.

The solution will combine a new ground-based LTE network of 300 sites built by Deutsche Telekom with Inmarsat’s satellite network to provide connectivity for aviation networks.

Up to 10,000 ft, Deutsche Telekom’s network will cover the planes, but once the aircraft reaches 10,000ft, the ground network will be combined with the satellite connectivity. The switch is automatically managed by the cabin systems with no disruption of service.

One of the first airlines to trial the service will be Lufthansa, offering satellite-based connectivity in 2016 and flight testing the new solution in 2017.

"This bold step will make Deutsche Telekom the first telecommunications operator to take the advantages of LTE technology to the European airspace and fits perfectly into our strategy to become the leading European telco," explains Tim Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom.

"As a groundbreaking innovation we will roll out a powerful terrestrial network based on LTE within the European Aviation Network. This will be the first aviation connectivity network in Europe powered by both LTE and satellite combined."

"With this integrated network we can meet the need for capacity, flexibility and quality of service, including the ability to expand quickly to anticipate growth in demand," says Andy Sukawaty, Chairman of Inmarsat.

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Sukawaty adds: "The integrated satellite and complementary LTE-based ground network will ensure that Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom together deliver the fastest, best and most consistent in-flight broadband experience that meets the needs of airlines in this region.

"Combined with our global GX (Ka-band) and L-band services, we now have connectivity solutions for the cockpit and the cabin of any type of aircraft, flying in any geography."

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