European Aviation Network: High-speed surfing above the clouds

Together with Deutsche Telekom, Inmarsat, and Nokia, Deutsche Funkturm has built an innovative broadband platform for European aviation.

Nowadays internet communication is such a normal part of everyday life that passengers on domestic and international flights don’t want to dispense with it. For business travelers, it enables access to websites, emails, and company servers so they can work productively while flying.

Therefore, Deutsche Telekom, Inmarsat, and Nokia have jointly developed a broadband network that provides fast internet access above the clouds to passengers of European flights: the European Aviation Network. It combines intelligent satellite communication in what is known as the S band with a ground-supported LTE network. With this combination, airlines can offer their passengers in Europe a completely new broadband experience – faster, better, and more stable than previously possible. Deutsche Funkturm contributed significantly to the planning and realization of the base stations required for this project.

Thanks to their extensive know-how and our specialized software tools, our experts could determine which sites are required to provide internet access based on the LTE standard to commercial airplanes flying at altitudes between 3 and 10 kilometers. One of the factors they had to consider was the high travel speed of airplanes, which can reach up to 1000 km/h above ground. The on-board hardware administers both connections – to the satellite and the LTE base stations on the ground.

Internet at 10-kilometer altitude and 1000 km/h speed

For the planning and setup of the stations on the ground, experts from Deutsche Funkturm calculated the specific antenna and radiation characteristics required to operate the LTE component of the European Aviation Network. And this not only in Germany but in all European countries in which the European Aviation Network operates.

Around 300 base stations are currently in operation for this purpose throughout Europe, each of which have a range of about 80 kilometers. Compared to this, the typical range of a “normal” LTE cell is just 10 kilometers.

Several European airlines are preparing to use the European Aviation Network in the future – including the German Lufthansa and its subsidiaries, British Airway, Iberia, Air Lingus, and many others. The airspace above Europe is already one of the most congested in the world. The European Aviation Network offers airlines the opportunity to utilize their economic potential even more. Deutsche Funkturm helps them to achieve this.