Telstra taking 4G to the skies with Skinet

In-flight 4G network is the new frontier

Telstra may have Australia's most extensive 4G network, but now the telco is looking to conquer the heavens with 4G trials for in-flight use in aircrafts.

While in-flight internet access is currently available using 3G or satellite technology on airlines across the world on both domestic and international routes, Telstra is working to bring in-flight internet up to speed with what it is calling its Skinet network.

According to Telstra Executive Director Mike Wright, the telco has already had successes during test flights between Sydney and Melbourne.

"We used a number of different aircraft fitted out with special terminals to pick up the signal and we were able to successfully establish and maintain data connections, achieving a maximum data throughput of 15Mbps, with an average throughput around 10Mbps," he said.

Ski high

According to Telstra, the trials were run after it borrowed some spectrum to test the Skinet 4G network on, though the company didn't reveal what spectrum it used.

The telco built four dedicated mobile sites which cover most of the commercial route between Melbourne and Sydney

The mobile sites were equipped with upward facing antennas that link up with antennas that are attached to the underside of an aircraft.

The 4G future

While Telstra's trials were successful, the technology isn't going to be available to commuters any time soon.

"These test flights are encouraging and are a significant step in the development of a potential Skinet network that might one day deliver high speed broadband connectivity to a range of aircraft-based applications that could extend from commuter use to a range of remote monitoring and control applications," Wright said.

It is set to continue testing this year, but beyond that, Telstra was also quick to point out that it will need the spectrum to run Skinet on.

The technology would also need to go through the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority before airlines jump on to have their aircrafts outfitted with Telstra's antennas.