Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and British satellite company Inmarsat are working together to offer high-speed internet access to airline passengers in Europe that is faster than Gogo, the major in-flight internet provider in the US. The partnership has created a hybrid solution that combines an LTE-based ground network with an S-band satellite network. Gogo launched its own hybrid service utilizing the Ku-band a few years ago. But Inmarsat’s head of aviation Leo Mondale described the speeds offered by its partnership with Deutsche Telekom as "4G style speeds, in tens of megabits per second," and will be "far faster" than those currently provided by Gogo.
Deutsche Telekom will provide the LTE sites that will transmit data to the operating altitude of passenger planes, and are flexible enough to deal with the speed of planes crossing the EU’s 28 member states. Once the aircraft reaches 10,000 feet, the ground network will combine with satellite connectivity — the switching between satellite and ground will be automatically managed by the cabin systems, according to Inmarsat.
Lufthansa announced that it will be the first European airline to offer broadband on board its short and medium-haul flights starting in the summer of 2016. However, those flights will use Inmarsat’s Ka-band satellite technology. Lufthansa said it will take part in the S-band / LTE hybrid trial program in 2017, with the expectation that it will ultimately be a more cost effective and flexible solution.