Yesterday AT&T announced plans to launch a high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight connectivity service for airlines and passengers in commercial, business and general aviation. The service, planned to be available as soon as late 2015, will be capable of providing in-flight broadband for customers including fast, reliable Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment. Following launch, aviation customers can also expect improved connectivity solutions such as cockpit communications, maintenance operations and crew services.
To deliver this new service, AT&T plans to build an air-to-ground network in the continental United States, based on global 4G LTE standards, to provide fast speeds and efficient utilization of spectrum already owned by AT&T. The company says it is the architect and operator of the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network and has the expertise, spectrum and financial strength to transform airborne connectivity.
“Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet,” said John Stankey, Chief Strategy Officer at AT&T. “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. We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience. We expect this service to transform connectivity in the aviation industry – we are truly mobilizing the sky.”
Honeywell recently issued its Wireless Connectivity Survey indicating that in-flight Wi-Fi currently causes frustrations for nearly nine in ten users worldwide, most often due to inconsistent or slow connections. AT&T plans to work with Honeywell to provide hardware and service capabilities to deliver the in-flight connectivity solution. Along with Honeywell’s expertise, AT&T’s technical strength and scale in building networks and managing their evolutions provide a unique opportunity to change the way passengers and airlines connect to the mobile Internet. With AT&T’s planned new network, passengers should be able to gain the reliability they have long hoped for in the sky. AT&T’s in-flight connectivity also offers the potential for improved communications between the plane and the ground through transmission of real-time aircraft data for optimizing, monitoring and evolving airlines’ operations.
In-flight connectivity is said to be a natural fit for AT&T, which over the past six years (2008 to 2013) has invested more than $140 billion into its wireless and wireline networks, when you combine capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations, and already operates what is claimed to be the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. AT&T has more than 116 million wireless subscribers, more than 16.5 million total broadband subscribers and serves many of the world’s largest corporations, including all of the Fortune 1000. AT&T is continuing to innovate with its recent launches of its Connected Car platform and Drive Studio, and introduction of AT&T U-verse® with GigaPowerSM in select U.S. cities.
AT&T sees an opportunity to deliver an innovative and high-performing in-flight connectivity and entertainment service, and says it will build on existing relationships within the aviation industry to deliver a better customer experience than what is available from others today. AT&T plans for its in-flight connectivity service to support both business aviation and commercial airline customers from day-one of the service launch. AT&T will provide information on pricing and availability prior to launch.