China set to launch world’s first in-flight 5G
China looks set to notch up another 5G first – in-flight connectivity.
Both China Telecom and ZTE are well advanced in building out 5G-based air-to-ground (ATG) communications platforms for passenger airlines. China Telecom is running pilots on three domestic routes out of Beijing and is expected to offer commercial service in the second half of the year.
At least two major domestic airlines are close to deployment, Liu Weiwei, the head of ZTE’s ATG product line, said last week. 5G ATG is expected to replace satellite communications systems for in-flight connectivity over landmasses, promising much greater throughput and lower latency at a lower cost. It uses a dedicated terrestrial tower network to connect to a belly-mounted antenna on aircraft.
Liu says each 5G ground tower has coverage of up to 300km, with fewer than 1,000 required to provide nationwide coverage across China.
ZTE’s newly released 5G ATG solution is also a world first, capable of supporting aircraft traveling at 1,200 kilometers per hour. Liu says the solution includes the ground base station, core network and airborne CPE, with the airborne antenna to be supplied by a partner.
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