Nokia Fielding European Air-to-ground Data Network

 - September 19, 2017, 9:56 AM

Nokia's new air-to-ground (ATG) connectivity network will begin operation in Europe later this year, and the company is targeting airlines and business aviation operators, it announced Septermber 18. The initial network will cover 30 countries in the region and offer LTE-equivalent speed, with throughput capability of 75 Mbps. This is as fast or faster than existing satellite high-speed connectivity systems and faster than U.S. ATG systems such as Gogo and the upcoming SmartSky network.

Thorsten Robrecht, Nokia’s vice president of advanced mobile networks solutions, claims that his company’s ATG network will be the “world’s first and only home-like Internet experience on board.” However, Inmarsat’s now-operational GX broadband satcom can deliver around 50 Mbps given a large enough antenna on the aircraft; in most business jet applications, antenna size limits speeds to closer to 15 Mbps. Gogo’s new Avance L5 ATG network in the U.S. provides high enough speeds for video streaming, and the company’s next ATG offering will deliver speeds of 100 Mbps. Like Avance, Nokia’s ATG system will require dual antennas on the aircraft. Thales is manufacturing the airborne equipment for the Nokia system, which will require 300 base stations to cover all of Europe.

Nokia is also pitching the benefits of ATG for operational uses such in-flight planning changes and electronic flight bag updates and cabin service functions. One version of the ATG system will be combined with satcom to provide “hybrid” airborne connectivity that will also work over oceans and outside of Europe, something that Gogo also offers for airlines and more recently for business aircraft.

“Europe is just a starting point,” said Robrecht. “We’re seeing demand all over the world. In our opinion, there is a huge opportunity beyond Europe.”