Internet connectivity while traveling by plane has always been a rather difficult option. Most planes offer in-flight Wi-Fi to their users if possible, although it is usually very expensive. Thankfully, a new solution seems to be in the making, as 4G connectivity will be possible soon. The European Aviation Network, as this project is called, will provide plane passengers with broadband Internet speeds during their flight come 2017.
European Aviation Network Offers In-flight 4G
Mobile internet connectivity has come a very long way over the past few years. With internet speeds improving nearly every year, a lot of users can now enjoy a broad connection on the go wherever they are. But bringing this technology to public transportation, or even plane flights, has been quite the challenge to date.
Thanks to a joint collaboration between various organizations, that latter option will soon become a lot easier. A test flight has taken place in the south of the United Kingdom to conduct a real-life test of the European Aviation Network. One of the partners is Nokia, who provided dedicated cell towers to broadcast the signal sent out by Deutsche Telekom.
Using in-flight Internet connectivity hinges on satellites providing the service, communication on a frequency between 2 and 4 GHz. The cell towers are modified to broadcast the 4G signal 150 km into the air, well in range of virtually every commercial flight in existence. Moreover, the signal needs to keep up with the average flight speed of 1,200 km/hour, ensuring that customers will not drop off the network when pinging between towers.
The satellite and 4G network should complement one another, and offer Internet connectivity to all EU member states. This means that users who fly from Brussels to Berlin, for example, will have access to a 4G network for the entire flight. For now, it remains unclear what type of Internet speeds passengers can expect, though.
During this UK test flight, the EAN connection between the plane and the ground-based network has been successfully established. A video conference call was set up, which performed “adequately”, even though no further specifics were provided at this time. Moreover, the network successfully kept its connection while switching between different regions and cell towers.
Having an in-flight internet connection will help with long flight durations and keep people entertained. The bigger question is whether or not these signals will interfere with the plane’s mechanics. Considering that phones and tablets need to be put into airplane mode when boarding a flight, it remains to be seen how EAN will affect the ecosystem as a whole.
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