Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and British satellite company Inmarsat are working together to offer high-speed internet access to airline passengers in Europe that’s faster than Gogo.
The partnership has created a hybrid solution that combines an LTE-based ground network with an S-band satellite network. Gogo, the major in-flight internet provider in the US, debuted its own hybrid service utilizing the Ku-band a few years ago. But Inmarsat’s head of aviation Leo Mondale described the speeds offered by its partnership with Deutsche Telekom as "4G style speeds, in tens of megabits per second," and will be "far faster" than those currently provided by Gogo, according to FT.
"Far faster" than Gogo
Deutsche Telekom will provide the LTE sites that will transmit data to the operating altitude of passenger planes, and are flexible enough to deal with the speed of planes crossing the EU’s 28 member states. Once the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet, the ground network will combine with satellite connectivity — the switching between satellite and ground will be automatically managed by the cabin systems, according to Inmarsat.
Gogo last month received final approval to begin in-flight testing of its own second generation satellite connectivity system and hopes to begin service this year. The company said it signed seven commercial airlines and expects to provide peak speeds of more than 70 megabits per second to aircraft. It plans to begin installing the system to 500 planes next year.
Lufthansa announced that it will be the first European airline to offer broadband on board its short and medium-haul flights starting in the summer of 2016. However, those flights will use Inmarsat’s Ka-band satellite technology. Lufthansa said it will take part in the S-band / LTE hybrid trial program in 2017, with the expectation that it will ultimately be a more cost effective and flexible solution.