SmartSky is offering lifetime unlimited data on its upcoming 4G air-to-ground (ATG) network for business aircraft operators who commit by early next year to its $4,500 per-month Enterprise plan, which normally provides 25 gigabytes. The company said its 4G ATG network, which uses “beam forming” technology to provide high data-transmission rates, is on schedule to provide 95 percent Continental U.S. coverage in mid-2018.
This is about the same time it expects hardware installations for several midsize to large-cabin business jets to be STC’d—the first being for the Cessna Citation Excel. SmartSky is initially focusing on this upper end of the business aviation market.
Meanwhile, the company is manufacturing antennas and ground stations, and deploying them nationwide on existing cell towers as the equipment rolls off the production lines. SmartSky expects to have approximately 200 towers online by the official service launch in mid-2018, and currently has test towers in New York City, Las Vegas and Melbourne, Florida.
During a media demonstration flight aboard a Citation Excel testbed last week in Melbourne, the SmartSky 4G ATG system provided actual peak speeds of up to 14.1 Mbps, allowing enough data throughput for live-streaming videos and other high-bandwidth applications. In addition, there were more than 50 seamless beam handovers during the 45-minute flight, proving that the engineering aspect of the system works.