Pivotel and SkyFive to bring high-speed Internet to the skies of Australia

The aircraft antenna for the new network. (PHOTO: Pivotel)

New New SingaporeRural and remote communication solutions provider Pivotel has announced plans to make Australia one of the first countries after the European Aviation Network (EAN) to truly experience broadband connectivity in the sky. Pivotel has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SkyFive, a specialist inflight connectivity company located in Germany, to undertake a detailed technical evaluation and proof-of-concept trial of SkyFive’s Direct-Air-To-Ground (DA2G) solution.

The joint venture will see Pivotel deploy a DA2G network powered by Nokia’s eNodeB and NEC’s iPasolink Microwave technology, providing coverage to an area of around 50,000 square kilometres between Dubbo and Sydney. The trial will also include Flightcell’s onboard terminal, showcasing how the combined technologies can revolutionise the air traveller experience, inflight operations and enable a wide range of practical data-intensive applications for public safety aviation.

Until now, providing consistent, fast, and affordable low-latency broadband connectivity for commercial airliners, private aircraft and helicopters has been a huge challenge. Traditional cellular networks are ground-facing and not optimised for airborne operation, while satellite-based solutions provide limited bandwidth at slower speeds with expensive data.

Skyfive’s DA2G land-based mobile networks are optimised for aerial coverage, addressing the specific technical challenges associated with altitude and speed. The networks provide data speeds of up to 100 Mbps, with less than 50 milliseconds of true end-to-end latency, providing an entirely private and secure service dedicated to airborne aircraft, while also offering the ability to connect services on the ground at airports or heliports.

Stakeholder engagement has already begun with a number of commercial airlines and agencies expressing interest in participating in the trial, including the Royal Flying Doctors Service (South Eastern Section). The service will provide users with access to high-speed and secure connectivity to their private networks, while also allowing Internet-based real-time applications to be utilised, such as streaming high-definition video, transmitting critical patients biometric data to hospitals, plus a wide range of other data driven services.

Peter Bolger, CEO of Pivotel, said: “We are delighted to announce Pivotel’s partnership with SkyFive for this pilot-study, and to explore the opportunity to build a DA2G network in Australia. Our technical teams are working together to develop the ecosystem in the Oceania region to bring this outstanding technical solution to the aviation industry.”

Zoltan Losteiner, Director of APAC Business Development at SkyFive, said: “We are thrilled to be participating in the development of the local ecosystem to enable SkyFive’s DA2G to be trialled, and eventually commercially developed in Australia. With the fastest growing aircraft broadband connectivity solution globally, we are committed to keeping the population of Oceania at the cutting edge of technology and are confident that they will benefit from SkyFive’s global reach, expertise and agility to create new value for the local aviation industry and its customers.”

In Europe, the European Aviation Network (EAN) currently covers 35 countries and utilises Nokia’s solutions and SkyFive technology to provide data services to passengers and crew travelling in high-altitude jet aircraft. Recently, Skyfive launched a POC network in New Zealand, where in addition to commercial aviation, public safety use-cases are being demonstrated. To make the trial possible, Pivotel and Skyfive have secured a scientific spectrum license in the proposed A2G frequency band. The use of this dedicated radio frequency spectrum is the key enabler for both the performance and data security of DA2G communications. Once the trial is successful, Pivotel plans to roll out a national DA2G network across Australia.

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