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Air-to-Ground (A2G) Network for Emergency Communications

Air-to-Ground communications have been talked for a while. I first covered it back in 2015 while writing about a trial between Deutsche Telekom (DT), Airbus and Alcatel-Lucent (now part of Nokia). In fact Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) was a pioneer in this area which can be seen from this old whitepaper here. In fact this paper is translated as it is in the new Nokia library here.

It wasn't at all surprising that yesterday, EE, part of BT Group, announced that it has signed an agreement with Nokia to build an industry-first nationwide 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network for the emergency services across Great Britain.


According to the press release:

The pioneering new 4G network will enable uninterrupted high speed broadband coverage for emergency service personnel working above ground from 500 feet up to 10,000 feet.

As part of the agreement, EE and Nokia will enable mission-critical network coverage for emergency services that will be the world’s first use case utilising commercial 4G LTE broadband services in its field.

The 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network will provide seamless connectivity between ground operations and air, connecting people, sensors, aircraft and helicopters with the highest security and reliability. Over 300,000 emergency service personnel will benefit from the Emergency Services Network designed to facilitate uninterrupted coverage allowing emergency services the capability to communicate with their airborne colleagues.

As part of the agreement, EE will provide the active network equipment for a full reference facility, and an initial seven site trial network. Following the trial, EE will deploy the network equipment in over 80 Home Office acquired cell sites across the UK. Nokia will provide design support, network equipment, installation and commissioning services to ensure timely delivery of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network.

The first trial of the 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network will take place over the coming months in North Wales and London, enabling EE, Nokia and the Home Office to test the hardware capability over different terrain along with the hardware deployment process, the software capability, and the operational support of the complete Air-to-Ground service, prior to the roll out of the final Air-to-Ground network.

Nokia has been working with BT/EE for ESN for a while as I detailed in Telecom Infra Blog here.

Another thing worth reminding from my earlier post is that there are various acronyms being used for these type of communications but the one most commonly used is Direct-Air-to-Ground Communications (DA2GC), Air-to-Ground (A2G) and Ground-to-Air (G2A).


While explaining European Aviation Network (EAN) in this post, I looked at how satellite connectivity in the planes will be complemented by A2G communications in the future. It is already happening for commercial airlines in Europe today and the A2G network for public safety uses similar approach. For anyone interested in learning more about EAN masts and antennas, can check out this video.
Another whitepaper from Nokia details how LTE Air-to-Ground connectivity can provide broadband connectivity to continental aircraft flights. It's available here.

Finally, here is a video from Nokia on this topic.


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