New Zealand aims to be the first country after the European Aviation Network (EAN) to truly experience broadband connectivity in the sky, revolutionising both the air traveller experience and inflight operations, as well as enabling a wide range of practical data-intensive use cases for the local aviation industry.
The Broadtech Group (Broadtech), a technology engineering firm in Auckland, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SkyFive, an inflight connectivity specialist company located in Munich and Stuttgart, Germany, 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 in New Zealand. Also participating in the planned trial are Flightcell International from New Zealand to provide the DA2G on-board terminal.
In Europe, the European Aviation Network (EAN) currently covers 35 countries and utilises SkyFive technology to provide data speeds of up to 100 Mbps per aircraft with less than 50 milliseconds of true end-to-end latency to passengers and crew travelling in high-altitude jet aircraft.
Stakeholder engagement has commenced with NZ Police, St Johns Air Ambulance, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, the Royal NZ Air Force and the commercial airlines, all expressing interest in participating in the trial. 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. A DA2G network could also support future Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) enhancing data services for both operations and passengers.
The use of dedicated radio frequency spectrum is the key enabler for both the performance and data security of DA2G communications and Broadtech has recently secured a Trial Spectrum License in the proposed A2G frequency band in New Zealand.
Until now, providing consistent, fast, low-latency broadband connectivity for commercial airliners, private aircraft and helicopters has been a challenge. Traditional cellular networks are ground-facing and not optimised for airborne operation, resulting in intermittence and interference challenges at inflight altitudes, and minimal to no data throughput. Satellite-based solutions provide limited bandwidth at slower speeds with expensive data plus substantial fuel and carbon emissions and costs due to the added drag created by fuselage-mounted satellite transceiver equipment.
A DA2G cellular network is land based but optimised for aerial coverage, dedicating its full capacity towards airborne aircraft, providing an entirely private and secure service. Built on 4G and 5G network standards and enhanced to address specific technical issues with altitude and speed, aircraft are connected from the ground rather than from satellites which are much further away in space, with capacity delivered into busy airspace and optionally on the ground to airports or heliports. Thanks to its open and flexible architecture, different vendors of aircraft communications equipment can design solutions and connect aircraft of all types to this network.
The technical design phase of the trial is almost complete, and the physical build will commence soon for an Auckland and Waikato trial network to be built and integrated by Broadtech.
Merv Taylor, Managing Director of The Broadtech Group, New Zealand, said: “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.”
Zoltan Losteiner, Director of APAC Business Development at SkyFive, said: “We are thrilled to be participating in the development of the local ecosystem to enable SkyFive’s DA2G to be trialled, and eventually commercially developed in this part of the world. 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.”
Broadtech is a privately owned NZ engineering firm that design, build and support solutions across a broad range of technology platforms. Established in 1973, Broadtech designs, builds, and supports broadcasting, cellular, microwave radio, land mobile and maritime networks and own and operate a nationwide portfolio of transmission sites and a regional digital terrestrial television network. Broadtech has a long proud history serving clients throughout Oceania providing practical, efficient, and cost-effective telecommunications, broadcasting and applied-technology solutions. www.broadtech.co.nz
SkyFive is a provider that specializes in Air-to-Ground telecommunication solutions and services for the aviation market. It was founded by Nokia Senior Executives in 2019 to create the Internet of the Skies. The company’s mission is to deliver true broadband services to airline passengers, enable the real-time transfer and analysis of vast amounts of aircraft data, and support low latency communications required for the mass proliferation of Urban Air Mobility. SkyFive delivers its unique services via giant cells in the sky, with a solution that fully leverages the benefits of the 4G and 5G ecosystem. Learn more at https://skyfive.world.
New Zealand company Flightcell Aviator Supplies is a leading provider of aircraft communication systems using satellite and cellular networks for air ambulance, search & rescue, police and other aviation services worldwide. www.flightcell.com