By Julián Seseña, Consultant, European Aviation Network (EAN) Regulatory, Inmarsat; and Matt Evans Manager, EAN Regulatory, Inmarsat
Inmarsat has been leading innovation in the mobile satellite communications sector ever since its inception by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in 1979, with the objective of delivering the world’s first satellite communications network dedicated to maritime safety.
Inmarsat was the first satellite operator to meet the stringent requirements of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), and subsequently the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for global aeronautical safety communications.
Today, Inmarsat satellite communication networks and services are not only saving lives but empowering people and communities, enabling business and trade, serving governments and supporting remote humanitarian work throughout the world. Our wide range of solutions help deliver mission-critical connectivity to our customers, ranging from governments and aid agencies to ship owners and airlines, to name but a few, beyond the reach of terrestrial networks.
The Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) constellation of satellites (in L-band) offer seamless global mobile coverage, connecting people and machines in remote locations on land, at sea and in the air — enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), voice calls and Internet access.
“More than 90% of the world’s aircraft crossing oceans use our safety and operational services for communication and surveillance today.”
The Global Xpress (GX) network was the first and remains the only globally available mobile high-speed broadband network delivered by a single operator, offering exceptional throughput capabilities and enhanced solutions to our customers in the Ka-band.
Inmarsat aviation — safety and connectivity in the skies
Inmarsat has steadily set the bar for flight-deck communications, with over nearly three decades of commitment to aviation safety services.
More than 90% of the world’s aircraft crossing oceans use our safety and operational services for communication and surveillance today — over 12 000 aircraft in total. Most of the world’s leading airlines have used Inmarsat Classic Aero services for over 25 years — as well as small-, medium- and large-business jet owners, general aviation and government agencies.
“With European air traffic forecast to double over the next decade, the European Aviation Network (EAN) is designed to grow capacity to match accelerating demand.”
Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband Safety (SB-S) service is the next generation of operations and safety connectivity, delivering game-changing visibility into airline operations. These services are provided by a fleet of Inmarsat satellites, which covers the world using spectrum in the L-band.
GX Aviation offers uninterrupted high-speed Wi-Fi. GX offers an alternative to the makeshift patchwork of Ku-band services, the vast majority of which have not been designed for mobility and do not meet the high standard of reliability for passengers and the aviation industry needs.
With European air traffic forecast to double over the next decade, the European Aviation Network (EAN) is designed to grow capacity to match accelerating demand. Initially combining Inmarsat’s multi-beam S-band satellite with nearly 300 ground towers implemented by Deutsche Telekom, it is easily and cost-effectively scalable.
Flexibility to meet the pace of change
Bandwidth is managed dynamically and so gives EAN the opportunity for flexibility to meet the pace of change in the future. EAN, the pioneer implementation of dynamic spectrum assignments to satellite and terrestrial.
The EAN represents a further major innovation by Inmarsat. It is the world’s first fully integrated mobile satellite/terrestrial communications network, developed for providing high-quality broadband passenger connectivity to short-haul aircraft throughout Europe.
The EAN successfully combines an S-band satellite providing full pan-European coverage with a network of ground-based long-term evolution (LTE) stations across Europe. EAN uses the spectrum ranges 1980–2010 MHz and 2170–2200 MHz. The combined satellite/terrestrial system efficiently utilizes and assigns the same S-band spectrum between both network components through a centralized and dynamic resource management mechanism controlled by Inmarsat as satellite operator.
Developed in collaboration with Deutsche Telekom and other leading innovators in the European technology space, the EAN gives European aviation passengers a next-generation inflight connectivity experience, enabling a full range of applications from social media to video streaming, thus bringing the citizens on board aircraft to the connected world.
As well as technological, the EAN also represents innovation from the regulatory and licensing perspective. The system uses radio spectrum harmonized and awarded for the first time on a pan-European level by European Union (EU) Decisions. Under these EU Decisions, Inmarsat (as one of two operators selected) was entitled to deploy a mobile satellite system, which is composed of two components: a mobile satellite service link and a complementary ground component (a terrestrial mobile service).
The EU awarded rights for the implementation of the mobile satellite system in each of the 28 EU Member States, including for the associated ground component licences, providing the basis for the spectrum and service licenses to be granted by each Member State.
The ground component licensing was a more complex process, however, owing to the wider discretion afforded to Member States under the EU Decisions as to the specific licensing approaches taken and applicable fees.
As a highly unique in-flight connectivity network, several Member States even had to adapt new regulatory frameworks to accommodate the specific service being offered. Whereas the spectrum rights for the space component flowed directly from the EU Decisions, and in most cases were transposed into the national frequency plans without the need for individual licences.
In addition to the EU, other countries (Norway, Switzerland) have also issued authorizations for the integrated satellite and terrestrial system.
Protecting MSS from co-frequency IMT terrestrial emissions
The task of international spectrum coordination has been another key element in the successful implementation of the pan-European EAN service, particularly as regards neighbouring non-EU countries.
It has been vital to ensure that systems of neighbouring non-EU countries (satellite or terrestrial) do not risk causing harmful interference into the EAN system, which could ultimately impact the provision of service within the coverage area.
These problems are being addressed through a number of bilateral coordination studies. The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) has also helped in so far as issuing recommendations for assigning the S-band spectrum to mobile satellite service (MSS) with complementary ground component (CGC) use, through ECC Decisions 06(09) and 06(10). These Decisions have now been implemented in a large number of countries.
While successful compatibility conditions have been derived for operation of EAN and other international mobile telecommunication (IMT) adjacent band users, and considering the experience of sharing EAN with other terrestrial services operation co-frequency, there is a crucial need to ensure adequate safeguards to avoid interference from IMT systems operating in the same band as EAN (1980–2010 MHz and 2170–2200 MHz). In this regard, WRC-19 Agenda item 9.1, issue 9.1.1, relates to this specific point.
The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) studies for this agenda item have examined all the different interference scenarios considering the situation where terrestrial IMT is deployed in one country and satellite IMT is deployed in another country.
It merits highlighting that for the scenario of potential interference from terrestrial IMT base stations to satellite space stations, the studies and Inmarsat’s own operating experience, have shown that deployment of terrestrial IMT systems with certain configurations could cause extremely high levels of interference to MSS satellites.
The ITU–R studies have identified that the most effective means to avoid interference to MSS satellite receivers is to ensure that the band 1980–2010 MHz, if used for terrestrial IMT systems, is used for uplinks only (i.e. from transmitting mobile user terminal to base station receiver).
Potential revisions to the Radio Regulations (RR) should be developed to protect interference free operation of MSS, avoiding simultaneous and independent use by other IMT base station transmitters, or limiting the emissions from IMT base stations in the uplink band (1980–2010 MHz).