While this is nothing for long-haul flights across the ocean, in that case airlines might better rely on satellite links, Deutsche Telekom, Alcatel-Lucent and Airbus have successfully tested direct data communication - using LTE technology between an aircraft and a wireless network on the ground. When commercial, this solution will be able to provide in-flight mobile voice and broadband data communications services cost-effectively. These tests represent the first steps on the road toward future commercial implementation of in-flight wireless services for passengers over continental Europe leveraged by a terrestrial cellular LTE network. Current solutions target international routes and are based on satellite systems.
These can now be supplemented with a number of improvements. When made available in the future, LTE technology can provide a more efficient, cost-effective alternative to satellite, offering high-speed connections for passengers via onboard WiFi and onboard cellular services. This approach offers an attractive way to give traveler's access to the Internet along with the huge range of services that are now available via home and office broadband networks.
The first flight test took place in November 2011 over the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is a part of the joint R&D project between Airbus, Alcatel-Lucent and the Innovation Laboratories of Deutsche Telekom. Airbus provided an A320 test aircraft equipped with test equipment and Alcatel-Lucent was responsible for the overall technical solution. This included an "onboard unit" installed in the test aircraft to send and receive mobile data signals, for which Alcatel-Lucent developed special algorithms. On the ground, Alcatel-Lucent provided its end-to-end LTE solution including radio access and core network. Deutsche Telekom prepared a ground network of two base stations positioned about 100 kilometers apart. The base stations were connected to Alcatel-Lucent's LTE test center in Stuttgart via Deutsche Telekom's data transport network.
Neither Airbus nor Deutsche Telekom or Alcatel Lucent have yet lost a word when a commercial implementation might be expectable.
Cheers ~ Arne