Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

AT&T to launch connected-planes service

Iain Morris
April 30, 2014
 
AT&T has unveiled plans to launch a high-speed connectivity service for use on commercial airlines by late 2015.

The service will be based on the operator’s 4G LTE technology and could support a range of infotainment services for passengers as well as improved connectivity for cockpit communications, maintenance operations and crew services.

AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) said it would build a new air-to-ground LTE network in the US to support the service, using spectrum it already owns.
“Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet,” said John Stankey, AT&T’s chief strategy officer. “We are building on AT&T’s significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards.”

AT&T says the in-flight LTE service will partly be aimed at addressing passengers’ frustration with poor Wi-Fi services currently in use.

According to a recent survey published by engineering company Honeywell (Morristown, NJ, USA), 90% of passengers have expressed dissatisfaction with in-flight Wi-Fi based on slow connections.

AT&T intends to collaborate with Honeywell on developing its in-flight LTE service.

Besides supporting infotainment for passengers, the technology will also help to improve communications between planes and ground staff through transmission of real-time aircraft data that monitors operational performance.

In a statement, AT&T described in-flight connectivity as a “natural fit” for the company, given its experience in the LTE area.

Over the past six years, the operator claims to have spent more than $140 billion on the rollout of fixed and mobile networks, including spending on frequency licences, and now boasts more than 116 million mobile subscribers and 16.5 million broadband customers.

It will also build on its growing experience in the parallel connected-cars market in developing the in-flight offerings.

The operator recently launched its own Connected Car platform and opened a Drive Studio dedicated to research in the connected-cars area, and it has also formed partnerships with a number of leading carmakers.

AT&T said it did not expect the capital expenditure required for the in-flight initiative to be “material”, and promised to release details about pricing and availability in advance of the launch of services.
 
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