German telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom (DT) has announced it has successfully carried out tests of direct data communications using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology between an aircraft and a wireless network on the ground with Alcatel-Lucent and Airbus. When commercial, the solution will be able to provide in-flight mobile voice and broadband data communications services cost-effectively. Using a direct-air-to-ground communication system based on LTE, the technology will be able to provide a more efficient, cost-effective alternative to satellite, offering high speed connections for passengers via onboard Wi-Fi and onboard cellular services. ‘We’re very pleased with the successful outcome of the test flight,’ stated Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO at DT, adding: ‘Based on our inflight experience, we know that in-flight surfing at broadband speeds is very popular. Expanding the service to cover flights within Europe would therefore be a natural extension and is being requested by the airline passengers. The anticipated lower costs can be an important factor for establishing the offering, and I’m looking forward to the evaluation of the results.’
The first flight test took place in November 2011 over the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. Airbus provided an A320 test aircraft equipped with test equipment and Alcatel-Lucent was responsible for the overall technical solution. On the ground, the French-US vendor provided its end-to-end LTE solution including radio access and core network, while DT prepared a ground network of two base stations positioned about 100km apart. The base stations were connected to Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE test centre in Stuttgart via DT’s data transport network.