Deutsche Telekom's European Aviation Network ready for take off

06 February 2018 | James Pearce


Deutsche Telekom and satellite communications company Inmarsat have announced their joint European Aviation Network (EAN) is ready for service.

EAN plane

The network, which provides connectivity for passengers and airlines, includes 300 terrestrial LTE base stations scattered across the 28 European Union countries, and an S-band satellite, which launched last year.

Deutsche Telekom, with its technology partner Nokia, said it has now completed the installation of the LTE base stations across 30 countries, using a specially-developed antenna which points at the sky instead of connecting customers on the ground.

The network, which links up with Inmarsat’s EAN satellite, offers connectivity speeds of 75Mbps with sub-100ms latency to aircrafts, which can then offer an on-board wifi service to its customers.

Rolf Nafziger, SVP of international wholesale business at Deutsche Telekom, said that the market opportunity of in-flight Wi-Fi was “very convincing”.

Europe sees the busiest airspace traffic in the world, he claimed, with more than 22,500 flights per day – over 500 million a year.

EAN Group “With the completion of the first ever integrated pan-European LTE ground network component we are now able to fully support EAN’s satellite connectivity and maximize the performance of the EAN system,” said Nafziger (pictured right, centre). 

“The network is specifically designed to meet future capacity demands for connectivity in the European airspace, with passenger volumes expected to double in the next 15 years.”

The European Aviation Network will be available for airlines to offer commercially from H1 2018. The service has been trialed during several flights to test the integrated satellite and complementary LTE ground network.

EAN network masts

International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes airline brands such as British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, is the launch customer for the new service and has already commenced installations of EAN equipment on aircraft.

It will provide competition with Inmarsat’s own in-flight offering – its Global Xpress Network – which was launched in September 2016 and already has 1,200 planes under contract. Lufthansa, for example, trialled the EAN but then signed a 10-year deal to take services directly from Inmarsat. 

Speaking to Capacity last year, Inmarsat’s CEO Rupert Pearce said: “It is the first ever pan-European network built in Europe – that’s a good thing for Europeans. It is the first time we’ve paired two different technologies and used them in complementary ways. We’ve taken the reach and uniqueness of satellite allied with brute force and surgical focus of terrestrial. It is a very efficient use of spectrum, which couldn’t be auctioned anyway, and it gives us maximum innovation in Europe.”