In the U.S., browsing Facebook and sending emails during a flight isn’t that big of a deal anymore, but in-flight Wi-Fi in Europe is harder to get.
That might change soon if a new partnership between UK satellite company Inmarsat and operator Deutsche Telekom gains traction. Today the two companies launched the European Aviation Network, a system that combines LTE and satellite networks to give travelers high-speed internet in flights across the continent.
This network won’t be anything surprising to people in the US. Multi-beam satellites will use Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum to cover the 28 EU member states. And Deutsche Telekom will use 300 specially-modified LTE sites ranging up to 80 kilometers (normal masts offer around 10 kilometers) and can accommodate the speed of a plane.
In the announcement, Tim Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said that they want to be the first to use the combination of LTE and satellite technology to bring connectivity to European airspace.
Andy Sukawaty, Chairman of Inmarsat, added that the partnership will make each group stronger and allow them to “deliver the fastest, best and most consistent in-flight broadband experience that meets the needs of airlines in this region.”
When can people in Europe expect to update Instagram mid-flight? Lufthansa is the first European airline to have a trial with the European Aviation Network -- and that will start in 2017. Before then Lufthansa’s aircrafts will be updated with the equipment needed to connect to both the S-band satellite and the high-speed broadband ground network. Inmarsat says that the systems will switch automatically between the two to make sure passengers have consistent and fast Wi-Fi.