EE and Nokia to build "industry-first" Air-to-Ground 4G network

EE has partnered with Nokia to build a nationwide 4G LTE Air-to-Ground network for the British emergency services.

The network aims to facilitate uninterrupted high-speed broadband coverage for emergency service personnel up to 10,000 feet above ground.

EE will provide the active network equipment for a full reference facility as well as an initial seven-site trial network, while Nokia will supply the project with design support, network equipment, and installation. It also plans to deliver commissioning services in order to ensure timely delivery of the network.

The first trial of the Air-to-Ground network is to take place over the next few months in North Wales and London. It will help EE, Nokia and the Home Office assess the hardware deployment process, software capability, operational support, as well as hardware capability in different forms of landscape.

If the trial proves successful, EE will deploy the network equipment in over 80 Home Office-acquired cell sites across the UK. The network is expected to benefit 300,000 emergency service personnel working from 500 to 10,000 feet in the air, helping them communicate with colleagues working ground operations.

Richard Harrap, EE’s managing director of ESN, said that the telecoms company is “thrilled to partner with Nokia”.

“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,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nokia UK & Ireland CEO Cormac Whelan described the project, and its deployment, as “a perfect example of the type of innovative solutions Nokia, together with our customers, can provide to the public sector”.

“With the help of this first-ever Air-to-Ground network using commercial LTE, emergency services personnel will be able to rely on uninterrupted communications nationwide,” he said.

The announcement comes a month after Nokia engineers set a new record for the world’s fastest 5G speeds. At 4.7GBps, they managed to beat the previous record set by Ericsson researchers in February of this year.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.