Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network Just Got A Lot Faster

Inmarsat’s groundbreaking European Aviation Network (EAN) has just been made better. Inmarsat announced this month that the bespoke designed network for inflight connectivity in Europe has had its peak data rates increased by around 30-35%. Now, peak rates are sitting at a very impressive 100Mbps.

The European Aviation Network just got a boost. Photo: Inmarsat

Boosting the EAN

Inmarsat designed the EAN from the ground up to cope with the unique challenges of providing connectivity in European airspace. The density of airspace, having many network hubs close together, and ever-increasing passenger numbers means a bespoke solution was required, and EAN promised to be all that and more.

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Launched with British Airways in March last year, the EAN has now been rolled out across several airlines in the IAG family. In total, 16.5 million IAG passengers have been able to access the EAN, averaging an hour per session and data consumption of 150MB each time.

Now, users can expect an even speedier experience when connecting to the EAN, as Inmarsat has confirmed an upgrade in peak data rates. Working with Deutsche Telekom and other partners, Inmarsat has increased the peak rate from the previous 75Mbps to 100Mbps.

Sonia Berube-Ray, Inmarsat’s Director of EAN Technology, explained in an update that this increased performance is a real milestone for the EAN. The new peak rates are based on real-life data, rather than test flights or models. She said,

“This is very reassuring and represents a 30-35% increase in peak capability relative to the initial estimate.”

The EAN has been designed from the ground up for European aviation. Photo: Inmarsat

How did it improve?

The fundamental base of improving the EAN has been delivered by those early adopters and the feedback obtained from real-world use of the network. There’s no one service enhancement that’s made EAN better; rather it has been a series of actions designed to make EAN perform more efficiently.

The monitoring of the early rollout and the past 12 months of use have enabled the teams to drive forward performance improvements in incremental steps. Berube-Ray explained,

“This has been a collection of daily tasks and activities, led by the many EAN stakeholders both inside and outside Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom. The teams have worked tirelessly to monitor and improve the overall performance of the network. This also goes for improving other key aspects like latency and even focussing on getting the network as stable as possible so we can even more reliably deliver the service.”

Other elements responsible for improvements in performance are noted by Inmarsat. In particular, the unique use of 4G LTE technology that is tailored for the aviation environment and its ability to automatically identify any surplus performance margin in the network. This enables the EAN to proactively take advantage of spare room in the network to deliver a better service.

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In addition, Inmarsat has deployed updates to the Thales OBE software onboard aircraft, resulting in a notable increase in availability and performance. Deutsche Telekom has also upgraded to the latest Nokia AirScale base station technology at more than 90% of the sites. The remainder are planned for upgrade in the coming weeks.

For fliers, a 30% boost in speed will be a noticeable and welcome improvement. And for airlines looking to a speedy recovery from the worst crisis in the industry’s history, the EAN opens the door to many new revenue opportunities and the ability to snag the loyalty of a new generation of travelers.