Seamless Air Alliance works to integrate 3GPP 5G satellite networks into aviation sector

Feb. 28, 2024
In the realm of mobile satellite services, historical reliance on proprietary technologies has impeded seamless integration with terrestrial networks.

FREMONT, Calif. - The Seamless Air Alliance (SAA) in Fremont, Calif. announced it will foster the development and integration of 3GPP specified 5G NTN into the aviation sector to enable future connectivity between terrestrial and non-terrestrial satellite networks.

In mobile satellite services, historical reliance on proprietary technologies has impeded seamless integration with terrestrial networks. Airlines have faced substantial challenges due to the lack of interoperability among various satellite providers' In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) offerings, attributed to differences in modems, antennas, and frequencies.

The Seamless Air Alliance (SAA) established a dedicated Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) Working Group to tackle these issues. This group is focused on ensuring that 5G NTN addresses the distinct challenges of the aviation industry and has unveiled its inaugural white paper. The document delineates crucial factors and considerations for implementing 5G NTN in IFC, emphasizing the potential for a substantial evolution towards a fully interoperable aviation connectivity solution.

Related: VIAVI introduces NTN and HAPs network testing For 5G and 6G SATCOM

Olivier Hauw, Fast Track Leader Connectivity at Airbus and co-chair of the SAA NTN Working Group, highlighted, "5G NTN provides an opportunity to standardize IFC and overcome the limitations of proprietary satellite technologies hindering technology upgrades and equipment interchangeability for airlines."

Rubén Díaz Calvo, Principal Technology Platform Manager at Vodafone and co-chair of the NTN Working Group, invited aviation, telecom, satellite, and connectivity providers, urging them to join the Alliance and contribute to standards development. Díaz Calvo emphasized that the SAA NTN Working Group plans to advance its studies on 5G NTN connectivity for the aviation sector, to present its findings to 3GPP.

Jack Mandala, CEO of the Seamless Air Alliance, noted, "With global aviation passenger traffic projected to reach 9.4 billion this year, our member organizations tirelessly work to simplify access for passengers and exceed their expectations."

The SAA was founded by Airbus, Delta, OneWeb, Sprint, and Airtel to work to provide seamless in-flight technology connectivity and now has dozens of airline and technology partners. It comprises seven specialized working groups chaired by experts in telecommunications, aeronautics, and connectivity technologies. With over 200 member-company resources actively participating, the SAA is finalizing work on Seamless Release 7, and efforts are already underway for Seamless Release 8, including the exploration of aviation use cases for 5G NTN. 

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