SmartSky to Deploy 4G LTE Air-to-Ground Network in the US

SmartSky Networks has begun the deployment of USA’s first airborne 4G LTE-based air-to-ground (ATG) network. Using 60 MHz of spectrum and a patented beamforming technology, SmartSky’s network will provide more than 10 times the typical speed and capacity of the current industry standard ATG networks, and at a lower cost per bit, ushering in the new era of business-grade inflight connectivity.

The design and rollout of SmartSky's patented infrastructure is being led by its veteran telecommunications team, building on extensive network and radio technology experience at companies such as Sprint, Nextel and Vanguard Cellular. With years of intensive research and development already completed, the company's recently announced $170 million Series B funding round jump-started the long lead-time implementation processes for roll-out of the U.S. network.

Accomplishments to date include:

  • Network data centers established and operational in Ashburn, VA, and San Jose, CA
  • Commitments have secured for high bandwidth backhaul resources
  • Completed installations of new and highly advanced technologies that provide for secure, very low latency, virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) operations
  • The first Supplemental Type Certification (STC) is under development and on track to be submitted to the FAA in the near term, with software for the airborne systems now being flight tested.  FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) and STCs for over 40 popular business aircraft models will follow the FAA's approval of the first STC, based on commitments from leading MROs and OEMs
  • 86% of the selected base station sites nationwide have already passed initial on-site viability testing and are now in permitting and backhaul-connection phases. Final ground infrastructure is being installed and commissioned upon completion of local permitting
  • Production activities for radios, antennas and ancillary equipment for both ground stations and aircraft are underway
  • Multiple flight test ranges in diverse geographies have been implemented and field validation testing of the ATG radios, antennas and network infrastructure is ongoing.

The company's estimate for completing coverage to support the network's nationwide service launch has been updated to mid-2018, reflecting additional time being required for STC-related software optimization and production of base station radios. SmartSky's Early Bird customers and distribution partners have been notified, as consistent with the company's commitment to timely updates.