With a growing demand for 5G services and constant connectivity, airlines look to terrestrial 5G for domestic inflight broadband connectivity. 5G air-to-ground (ATG) networks complement SATCOM services and offer improved latency rates. An increasing number of carriers are installing onboard ATG antennas under the belly of the aircraft to allow the dynamic handover from one mobile tower to another as the plane moves across the airspace.
North American 5G operator GoGo uses unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4GHz band to provide ATG connectivity. Sanjeev Nagpal, director of product management for Gogo said, “Connecting and maintaining a consistent connection with an aircraft travelling at 500+ miles per hour at altitudes of 35,000+ feet is incredibly challenging. Managing handovers from tower to tower with no drops and managing the Doppler effect is difficult on an aircraft moving at such high speeds and distances.”
HTZ analyses the best sites for coverage along a vector line or flight path by identifying the best locations for repeaters to achieve optimal coverage and reduce the likelihood of radio black spots. HTZ supports the design, analysis and verification of ground-to-air 5G networks and supports beam-forming modelling, interference and throughput analysis.
The handover analysis considers the aircraft speed and handover delays.
ATDI works with the modem suppliers by ensuring the ATG network provides a robust and reliable service.
Air-to-ground connectivity works in a similar way to mobile phones. An antenna located under the body of the aircraft links with mobile towers. As the aircraft travels, the connection hands over to the nearest transmitter. The modem allows the aircraft to become a hot spot enabling passengers to connect to the Internet. The downside to ATG terrestrial services is they can’t work when the plane is flying over large expanses of water such as transatlantic routes, which is where SATCOM services step in.