Business & GA, Commercial, Connectivity

SmartSky Unveils Unlicensed Spectrum Plan for High-Speed IFC

By Juliet Van Wagenen | September 30, 2016
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SmartSky 4G LTE Network rendering
SmartSky 4G LTE Network rendering. Photo: Smartsky

[Avionics Today 09-30-2016] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has certified SmartSky Networks’ SmartSky 4G radio system, clearing the way for deployment of the SmartSky 4G Air-to-Ground (ATG) In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) network later this year, with nationwide service launching in mid-2017. SmartSky has previously declined to comment on how it planned to successfully deliver 60 MHz of spectrum to the aviation industry.

“After investing tens of millions of dollars and over five years of research and development effort, SmartSky’s now certified technology has unlocked enough spectrum to be able to offer, for the first time, the reliable use of a sophisticated, custom-designed 4G system that can deliver an office-like internet experience in the air for both business aviation and commercial aviation customers,” said Haynes Griffin, SmartSky Chairman and CEO.

FCC certification is the culmination of work to develop and patent protect the multiple bodies of technology that enable SmartSky to make use of the unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum band, all without causing interference to or receiving interference from the operation of the same band on the ground. The company currently holds more than 20 patents to enable spectrum use and additional patents are pending.

Roberson and Associates, an independent wireless industry consulting firm, investigated the ability of SmartSky’s radio technology to seamlessly coexist with terrestrial Wi-Fi. “SmartSky’s technology solution is transparent to Wi-Fi users on the ground, enabling the air-to-ground sharing of the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band,” said Roberson and Associates CEO Dennis Roberson, who is also Chairman of the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council.

SmartSky’s technology and patent portfolio is not limited to the unlicensed band. Most of the patents apply to any frequency and any waveform in any high-speed ATG network. Because these are broad patents, SmartSky enables underlying technical advances to be incorporated into its conceptual solution. “Over time, this will allow SmartSky to keep pace with the latest advances in computing, antennas, radios and networking while still being protected by our foundational patents,” said Griffin.

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