Telstra plans 4G Skinet network for planes

Telstra has unveiled a nationwide plan to provide 4G mobile broadband on domestic flights.

Dedicated transmitters on the ground will use upward-facing antennas to send signals to shark-fin shaped antennae on the underside of aircraft, even as aircraft travel at close to 1000km/h.

On a number of test flights between Sydney and Melbourne, involving four ground stations, the telco was able to maintain 4G throughput of up to 15 megabits-per-second (Mbps), with an average throughput of 10 Mbps.

“These test flights are encouraging,” said Mike Wright, Telstra’s executive director of networks, in a blog post on Monday.

He said the network, called Skinet, might one day deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to consumers.

It could also be used for remote monitoring and control applications, he added.

Wi-Fi is available on some commercial flights via satellite technology, but coverage can be patchy.

Further tests will be conducted this year as the company explores whether a nationwide 4G network for planes is economically viable.

Wright said Telstra is working with authorities to investigate getting access to extra space on the radiofrequency spectrum.


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