SmartSky Networks, a new air-to-ground 4G LTE airborne connectivity platform that is scheduled to go live later this year, has published equipment and service pricing. “Early bird” customers will be able to begin using SmartSky in the fourth quarter, according to company president Ryan Stone. But they won’t be charged, he added, “until we have achieved sufficient continental U.S. coverage to deliver a 4G experience in most of the country [expected by mid-2017].”
The airborne hardware will cost $93,000, not including installation. That includes a cabin wireless access point (single-network router with Wi-Fi capability), a duplex blade antenna and high-performance blade antenna and the transceiver. Buyers will be able to choose other qualified multiple-network routers from Kontron, ICG/Rockwell Collins, TrueNorth Avionics and Satcom Direct, which cuts $3,000 off the purchase price.
Service will be sold in three monthly packages. These include five gigabytes (GB) basic for $2,500 and $1 per additional megabyte (MB); 15 GB for $3,800 and 75 cents per additional MB; and enterprise with 25 GB for $4,500 and 50 cents per additional MB. These package rates equate to roughly 50 cents per MB for the basic plan to 18 cents per MB for the enterprise option.
The first SmartSky STC is expected in the fourth quarter, and multiple partners are developing installations for a variety of aircraft. Typical installation weight is 34 pounds, not including the router and wiring. Full U.S. coverage in 2017 will be provided by 250 ground stations, and the company plans to expand coverage into Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and other parts of the world.
SmartSky doesn’t provide network speed information, but Ryan told AIN, “Customers will have a true 4G experience anywhere in our network; [they will] be able to stream movies, conduct live video calls, send/receive large files, make phone calls, text and surf the Web.”