Aircell picks LTE to deliver in-flight mobile broadband

Currently working with American Airlines to test Wi-Fi capabilities on fleet

Airline communications provider Aircell has chosen Long Term Evolution (LTE) as its standard to give passengers in-flight access to 4G wireless services.

Airline communications provider Aircell has chosen Long Term Evolution as its standard to give passengers in-flight access to 4G wireless services.

Aircell, which is currently working with both Virgin America and American Airlines to deliver air-to-ground wireless Internet connectivity on their planes, says it expects to deploy its LTE network sometime in 2011. The company also estimates that the 4G air-to-ground network will be able to deliver a throughput of up to 300Mbps to aircraft.

Aircell plans to use its LTE network to give fliers high-definition television and multiplayer gaming while in the air. Currently, the company uses the CDMA-based technology EVDO Rev. A to power its Gogo in-flight Internet services that will soon be available on select flights for American Airlines and Virgin America. The Gogo services will be available to any passengers with Wi-Fi enabled laptops, smartphones and PDAs, and will give passengers access to the Internet, VPN clients and corporate e-mail, Aircell says.

Technically speaking, LTE is a modulation technique that is the latest variation of Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology. Its developers at the 3rd Generation Partnership Project dubbed it "Long Term Evolution" because they view it as the natural progression of High-Speed Packet Access, the GSM technology that is currently used by carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile to deliver 3G mobile broadband.

Aircell is just the latest wireless company to select the GSM-based LTE technology for its future 4G mobile broadband services, as AT&T and Verizon have said that they expect to formally launch LTE networks sometime in 2010. Wireless carrier Alltel has also committed to LTE, although it has so far declined to give a timetable for when the technology will be deployed.

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