Air-to-ground connectivity is coming to Australia. ATG infrastructure specialist SkyFive announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Australia’s Pivotel to undertake a detailed technical evaluation and proof-of-concept trial for the solution across a large swath of the country between Dabbo and Sydney.
We are thrilled to be participating in the development of the local ecosystem to enable SkyFive’s DA2G to be trialed, and eventually commercially developed in Australia.– Zoltan Losteiner, Director of APAC Business Development at SkyFive
The proposed network will initially cover approximately 50,000 square kilometers, allowing the companies to prove the utility of the service for both commercial airlines and government agencies. Among the expected early testers is the Royal Flying Doctors Service (South Eastern Section).
With connectivity fitted on their fleet, the Royal Flying Doctors aim to access high-speed and secure connectivity to their private networks. This includes streaming high-definition video, transmitting critical patients biometric data to hospitals, and a wide range of other data-driven services.
We are delighted to announce Pivotel’s partnership with SkyFive for this pilot-study, and to explore the opportunity to build a DA2G network in Australia. Our technical teams are working together to develop the ecosystem in the Oceania region to bring this outstanding technical solution to the aviation industry.– Peter Bolger, CEO of Pivotel
The network will be powered by Nokia’s eNodeB and NEC’s iPasolink Microwave technology, similar to the ground component of the European Aviation Network (EAN) developed by SkyFive before it spun off into an independent company.
The plans for Australia appear similar to those in New Zealand, albeit on a larger geographic scale. The companies secured access to dedicated radio spectrum from regulators and are deploying towers to prove functionality.
They are also appealing to sectors outside of commercial aviation for customers. Given that most passenger jets flying in Australia have satellite hardware already installed, the opportunity to score new customer wins from that segment is limited.
Conversely, private planes and helicopters generally cannot support the hardware required for broadband satellite connections, and the geographic limitations of the air-to-ground network are not much of a problem.
That said, the relaunched Virgin Australia has not reactivated the satellite-based connectivity on board its planes yet. Given its focus on serving high-traffic domestic routes for the next several years a terrestrial network could serve its needs well.
Australia is also the base for new ULCC Bonza. The carrier plans to operate a 737 MAX fleet on point-to-point routes across the country. A domestic-only connectivity solution could prove compelling for that setup.
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