Startup in-flight connectivity service provider SmartSky Networks has received an additional $25 million from funds managed by the Global Credit Opportunities team at BlackRock after completing a network deployment milestone. Global Credit Opportunities previously committed to a $75 million credit facility, with $50 million drawn initially and the final $25 million contingent on “substantial progress on the nationwide network rollout,” which SmartSky said it achieved in November.
SmartSky is now predicting commercial launch of its network over the continental U.S. in the second quarter, a six-month slip from the company’s most recent previous estimate. When announced in October 2014, the network was expected to be available for both business aviation and airline use in 2016.
The company is building a new-generation network that employs beamforming technology using both 4G LTE and emerging 5G spectrums. Its airborne connectivity network has been in development for eight years, with more than 1,000 hours of flight testing to date by aircraft owners, airlines, and fleet managers.
“Customers have a huge pent-up demand for a fully capable airborne network that provides a 10x-better experience in the sky while also opening significant possibilities for advancing aviation in maintenance, environmental, operational, financial, and other areas,” said SmartsSky president Ryan Stone.