Inmarsat announced that Alcatel-Lucent has become a technology partner for the development of a new, fully integrated telecommunications network to deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the European Union. The unique network, which places Europe at the forefront of passenger aviation connectivity, is scheduled to enter commercial service by the end of 2016.

The new network represents two world-beating achievements for Inmarsat and its partners. It will be the world’s first truly hybrid aviation network, consisting of an S-Band satellite (Europasat), constructed by Thales Alenia Space, and a Europe-wide S-Band ground network. Over the integrated network, based on state-of-the-art LTE technology and access to sufficient spectrum resources, Inmarsat will be offering airlines the world’s fastest in-flight broadband connectivity service with speeds up to 75 Mbps, far in excess of the limited capabilities of North American ATG systems.

Alcatel-Lucent and Inmarsat will work together to develop the ground infrastructure component of the new Europe-wide network. Alcatel-Lucent has proven expertise in the development of 4G LTE-based air-to-ground technology and was the world’s first company to field trial this technology in 2011. The initial contract awarded to Alcatel-Lucent will see the global telecommunications equipment company adapting their existing 4G LTE technology to support the S-Band spectrum.

Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said, “Together with world leading partners, such as Alcatel-Lucent, Inmarsat is setting a new standard for aviation connectivity, enabling airlines to offer their passengers access to online services for work or leisure using their own devices and with reliability and speeds previously only available on the ground. These enhanced capabilities across Europe will be offered alongside Inmarsat’s GX aviation services, extending Inmarsat’s broadband service coverage for aviation passengers seamlessly, wherever airlines fly; positioning us as the leader in passenger connectivity.

“We selected Alcatel-Lucent as a partner in the development of the ground network component due to their cutting-edge work in 4G LTE-based air-to-ground technology, and we are looking forward to partnering with them throughout the roll-out of this unique aviation service for Europe.”

Michel Combes, CEO Alcatel-Lucent, comments, “Innovation is a core element of our strategy, along with growth enabled by diversification into new, vertical areas where we can apply our technology leadership. The Air-to-Ground technology partnership with Inmarsat brings Alcatel-Lucent’s proven leadership and commitment to innovation to providing ultra-broadband communications services to the aviation market.”

Licenses for the satellite component of the network have been applied for in all EU Member States, and authorisation has already been received in 23 of these. The first ground component licenses have now been received, including from one of the big five EU Member States, and good progress has been made in a number of other Member States. The company is also in on-going discussions with a number of major airlines and other industry partners.