Ofcom gives license to Inmarsat to support the EAN in-flight broadband network

Thursday, October 12th 2017

Ofcom has granted Inmarsat, the satellite firm, a license that will allow them to use ground-based masts across UK to support its European Aviation Network (EAN), over the 2GHz band, that aims to provide seamless Wi-Fi in-flight for passengers on board European aircraft.

The EAN is the first broadband network to serve airline travellers and a dedicated aviation network. EAN uses a combination of satellites in space, with ground-based network (CGC) with DA2G links to airplanes. The majority of the 300 or so masts for the job are practically in place. Deutsche Telekom is building the ground-based network. However, the rollout would run into the next year. According to Ofcom, each mast has an 80 to 150 kilometres range. The build has gained support from airline companies and British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling will all be using it to deliver Wi-Fi services on board their aircraft in 2018.

Inmarsat sees Ofcom's grant of license as an important milestone for the EAN. Following the successful testing on-board (IAG) aircraft, the service is scheduled to be commercially deployed in the beginning of 2018. The satellite component has been built by Thales Alenia Space, the aerospace manufacturer, and was launched from French Guiana last June. Chief Executive of IAG, Willie Welsh, said connectivity is essential and demanded by customers and they will be giving the fastest connectivity available on any aircraft. IAG is the first European airline group, he pointed out, to offer on short-haul flights air to ground Wi-Fi service of high quality.

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