German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom (DT) and UK-based Inmarsat have unveiled a strategic partnership designed to deliver in-flight internet connectivity to European travellers via a combined LTE-based ground network/satellite network. DT and Inmarsat are working together to develop the European Aviation Network, combining satellite connectivity from a new Inmarsat S-band satellite with an LTE-based ground network of around 300 sites developed and run by DT. In early summer 2016 Lufthansa will offer satellite-based connectivity on board its European flights and has committed to a flight test programme for the European Aviation Network from 2017 onwards.
‘This bold step will make Deutsche Telekom the first telecommunications operator to take the advantages of LTE technology to the European airspace, and fits perfectly into our strategy to become the leading European telco,’ commented Tim Hoettges, CEO of DT. ‘As a groundbreaking innovation we will roll out a powerful terrestrial network based on LTE within the European Aviation Network. This will be the first aviation connectivity network in Europe powered by both LTE and satellite combined. Our technology leadership provides a solid foundation for the best customer experience possible – be that on the ground or in the skies – and enables us to work with the finest partners in Europe and beyond.’