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EE and Nokia to Build World’s First 4G LTE Air to Ground Network

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020 (2:32 pm) - Score 3,863
ee_4g_air_to_ground_helicopter

EE (BT) and Nokia have announced that, as part of their support for the much delayed UK Emergency Services Network (ESN), they will build the “world’s first4G LTE (mobile broadband) based Air-to-Ground communications network to support 300,000 emergency service personnel (range from 500 to 10,000 feet above ground).

The mobile operator already has some experience in this field after deploying Air Mast technology in 2017 (here), which enabled them to distribute 4G network coverage via special Rapid Response Vehicles, balloons and drones during emergencies. But the new approach isn’t about creating a distribution network and is more focused upon enabling communication with helicopters and planes, which tend to go a lot higher.

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.” This also appears to be the world’s first use case utilising commercial 4G LTE broadband services in its field.

As part of the agreement, EE will provide the active network equipment for a full reference facility, and an initial 7 site trial network. Following the trial, EE will deploy the network equipment in over 80 Home Office acquired cell sites across the United Kingdom. Nokia will provide design support, network equipment, installation and commissioning services to ensure timely delivery.

Richard Harrap, MD of ESN at EE, said:

“We’re thrilled to partner with Nokia to build a first-in-class and ground-breaking 4G Air-to-Ground network for emergency services across the UK. Our deployment of this reinforces our network leadership as the UK’s biggest and fastest mobile network, and harnesses Nokia’s deep expertise in network equipment and installation of an Air-to-Ground solution.”

The first trial of the new 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network will take place over the coming months in North Wales and London.

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