Nokia found a new opportunity to deploy its air-to-ground inflight connectivity hardware. The company behind the ground station antennae for Inmarsat‘s European Aviation Network secured a deal with EE, part of the British Telecom group, to deploy a nationwide, dedicated, airborne communications network for Great Britain’s emergency services.
We’re thrilled to partner with Nokia to build a first-in-class and ground-breaking 4G Air-to-Ground network for emergency services across the UK. Our deployment of this reinforces our network leadership as the UK’s biggest and fastest mobile network, and harnesses Nokia’s deep expertise in network equipment and installation of an Air-to-Ground solution.– Richard Harrap, Managing Director ESN at EE
The new network will provide 4G LTE connectivity to people, sensors, aircraft, and helicopters on a dedicated, high speed network. The groups estimate over 300,000 emergency service personnel will benefit from the Emergency Services Network designed to facilitate uninterrupted coverage allowing emergency services the capability to communicate with their airborne colleagues.
While similar ATG connectivity for commercial aircraft targets operations above 10,000 feet altitude the British emergency services network will focus on operations between 500 feet and 10,000 feet. Most notably, the lower altitude network requires a change in tower locations and density to ensure proper coverage.
The initial trial will include seven ground stations in North Wales and London. Following the trial, EE will deploy the network equipment to more than 80 cell sites across the UK. The UK’s Home Office is responsible for acquiring access to the sites. Nokia will provide design support, network equipment, installation and commissioning services to ensure timely delivery of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network.
Compared to the initial EAN network design, with a few hundred covering the entirety of Europe, 80 towers just for the UK is a significantly higher hardware density.
Developing the hardware to support an inflight connectivity network is no easy task. And the opportunities to scale that work to new deployments is relatively limited. After all, there are only so many markets where a commercial air-to-ground communications network makes sense. Nokia’s expansion into the public service sector here opens up new opportunities for its technologies.
And, while the existing infrastructure could probably have handled most of the service needs without trouble, a dedicated network for public safety is not the most ridiculous investment for the UK.