SkyFive is betting big on inflight connectivity in China. The upstart air-to-ground (ATG) network infrastructure provider, born from Nokia legacy, recently announced a Strategic Technology Partnership with Airbus to further inflight network development in the country.
The team hopes to deliver a demonstration of the technology in November at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show. The partnership also includes China Mobile as the local mobile telecom provider.
China has a very strong national policy, and the stakeholders are aligned on the connected agenda. Specifically looking at the air-to-ground, the government dedicated spectrum for the connectivity, the mobile operators like China Mobile who we are partnering with have a really large amount of spectrum for for the services. It made sense to focus here.– Dr. Ammar Kahn, SkyFive Chief Operating Officer
Securing the support of a local communications provider is an absolute necessity for work in China. Having a major aircraft manufacturer on board is not, but it sure is nice. Add in the Airbus China Innovation Center (ACIC), inaugurated in early 2019 around the same time as the OEM began its public push for stronger digital transformation and connected cabin services, and the opportunity seems a natural fit. The ACIC was already working on ATG networks as one of its key focus areas. With SkyFive now in the mix the companies expect rapid progress.
SkyFive Chief Operating Officer Dr. Ammar Kahn also points out that the solution in China will be a native 5G offering rather than an upgrade of older networks maintaining backwards compatibility. This speaks to the radio spectrum allocated as well as some of the technology decisions tied to beam-forming and frequency reuse.
Ensuring exclusive access to sufficient radio spectrum is a key component of a strong radio communications platform. In China’s 5G ATG development roadmap the government ensured that its local telecom providers secured the necessary frequencies. Kahn is talking about connections measured at Gigabit levels, suggesting significant spectrum will be available for the network.
The demonstration later this year is expected to take place on the ground. Additional testing in the air, and a potential network deployment, could occur in 2021. Of course, the companies are also hoping to secure an airline customer commitment to justify the roll-out. But that would likely come after the successful technology demonstrations.
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More about the development of inflight wifi services in China:
- Viasat, China Satcom partner for Ka-band connectivity over China
- A setbacKa in China
- Ka-band inflight connectivity to take flight in China
- SkyFive targets ATG network expansion on a global scale
- Lufthansa Technik dives in to the Chinese inflight connectivity market
- Panasonic, APSATCOM announce “XTS” satellite plans
- Gogo makes a China 2Ku play
- Ka-band inflight connectivity goes live in China
- Display Interactive, Eclipse Global Connectivity team up to take on China
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