Bringing connectivity to the skies, through the innovative EAN – Arqiva Case Study

Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom are preparing to launch the European Aviation Network (EAN) – the world’s first integrated satellite and air-to-ground network dedicated to delivering a true in-flight connectivity service for aviation businesses and their passengers.

Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, with help from technology partners Nokia and Thales, recently completed a successful programme of test flights in the UK, marking a major milestone in the project’s development. These tests were achieved with the support of Arqiva, and more specifically, our industry-leading Site Share services.

The challenge

The flight trial was set up to analyse the performance of on-board connectivity equipment, and test the system’s ability to link up with infrastructure on the ground.

The vital ground network comprised various base stations and Remote Radio Heads (RRH), which needed to be deployed to suitable sites around the UK. This requirement was managed by T Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

Unlike typical LTE setups, the European Aviation Network (EAN) had to be capable of working at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h, at cruising altitudes requiring cells of up to 150 km.

This was no ‘normal’ network, and no simple feat.

The solution

The necessary ground equipment was installed at several Arqiva sites around the UK. These locations were chosen carefully by T Systems in collaboration with our experts amongst Arqiva’s c.8k active towers, to ensure connection stability throughout the tests and beyond.

The subsequent installations were then handled by Arqiva, and the newly set-up ground network thoroughly prepared for the programme of tests ahead.

The results

The EAN trial was a resounding success, with the on-board systems successfully connecting to the ground network at all four of the chosen test sites in the south west of the UK.

The test team achieved multiple handovers between sectors in the sky and cell towers below, while maintaining a stable connection throughout.

The transfer of data to and from the aircraft was also tested as part of the programme, with great results. It all bodes extremely well for aviation businesses and connectivity-dependent passengers.

Overall, the outcomes of the EAN test flights – and Arqiva’s work on the project – have exceeded all expectations:

Leo Mondale, President of Aviation, Inmarsat:

“EAN is progressing extremely well, both on the ground as well as in the air, to achieve the world’s 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.”

Nicolas Ott, MD Telecoms & M2M Arqiva:

“We are living in an increasingly connected world; people expect to connect wherever they are, and from whatever device they have in their hands. EAN will deliver true in-flight connectivity service for aviation businesses and their passengers and we are very pleased to be providing site share services thanks to our c.8k active towers to support this initiative; it demonstrates that telecoms towers are ever more relevant to a vibrant digital society.”

We continue to work closely with T Systems on the remaining EAN roll-out in the UK, with a launch expected in mid-2017.

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