New Zealand could be the next country to bring a dedicated air-to-ground (ATG) in-flight connectivity network online. Infrastructure provider SkyFive signed a MoU with local technology firm Broadtech to perform a detailed technical evaluation and a proof-of-concept trial of SkyFive’s Direct-Air-To-Ground (DA2G) solution, with intentions to progress towards a nationwide network rollout.
We are delighted to announce our partnership with SkyFive for this pilot-study, and to explore the opportunity to build a DA2G network across New Zealand. Our technical experts are working together to develop the ecosystem in New Zealand to bring this outstanding technical solution to the NZ aviation industry.– Merv Taylor, Managing Director of The Broadtech Group
The network will initially target NZ Police, St Johns Air Ambulance, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, and the Royal NZ Air Force. The companies are also in contact with commercial airlines, though Air New Zealand already has its fleet fitted with the GX Aviation satellite-based solution from Inmarsat.
These air agencies are keen to experience high-speed access to their private networks or Internet-based data for secure streaming of high-definition video for marine and terrain surveillance, transmitting critical patients’ biometric data ahead to hospitals or a wide range of other use cases, all in real-time. The network could also support future Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), enhancing data services for both operations and passengers.
We are committed to keeping New Zealanders at the cutting edge of technology and are confident that they will benefit from SkyFive’s global reach, expertise and agility to create new value for the aviation industry and its customers.– Zoltan Losteiner, Director of APAC Business Development at SkyFive
While Gogo and SmartSky continue to develop next generation ATG systems taking advantage of increased spectrum available in the shared frequency ranges, SkyFive remains focused on delivering its services over dedicated spectrum, similar to the European Aviation Network built on its technology platform. To that end Broadtech secured a trial spectrum license for dedicated radio frequencies in the proposed ATG bands.
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The ATG hardware is also much smaller and lighter than a typical satcom deployment, making it feasible for the smaller aircraft targeted by this program.
The partners are progressing through the technical design phase of the trial and expect the physical build will commence soon. The initial trial network will focus on Auckland and Waikato, built and integrated by Broadtech.
Developing a major ATG network deployment in a market where the primary commercial airline is unlikely to participate significantly comes with plenty of risk. But the geography of New Zealand should allow for a relatively low-cost deployment. Even with the mountainous terrain full coverage can likely be accomplished with a dozen or so towers. And if the public safety groups commit to participation that could subsidize the costs sufficiently to get the project off the ground.
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