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Ofcom gives thumbs up to European in-flight broadband network

Tuesday, October 10th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A broadband network that will serve airline passengers across Europe has reached a milestone in its construction.

Ofcom today licensed satellite firm Inmarsat to use UK masts as part of its European Aviation Network (EAN), which will deliver seamless wi-fi on board European aircraft.

EAN is the first dedicated aviation network to use a combination of satellites and a ground-based 4G network to offer what Inmarsat says will be a “seamless wi-fi experience” for passengers.

The satellite component, built by aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, was launched in June from French Guiana.

The majority of the 300 or so masts needed to complete the ground-based network, which is being built Deutsche Telekom, are also in place but the rollout will continue into the new year.

Each mast will have a range of between 80 and 150km, according to Ofcom’s latest document.

International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, will start offering wi-fi services on its aircraft next year.

A spokesperson for Inmarsat said the company was “delighted to learn of Ofcom’s decision on the authorisation for the use of ground-based stations as part of the EAN.

“Ofcom’s decision represents a further important milestone for EAN, which is scheduled to officially enter commercial service in the first part of 2018, following completion of testing on-board [IAG] aircraft.

“Inmarsat’s EAN is formed of an S-band satellite, which was launched in June and a complementary ground component, being built by our partner Deutsche Telekom.

“Both remain on course to be operationally available by the end of 2017.”

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, said: “We are giving our customers the fastest connectivity you can get on any aircraft.

“Connectivity is essential because it's what our customers demand and IAG will be the first European airline group to offer high-quality air to ground wi-fi on short-haul flights.”

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