Industry Thought Leadership

Nokia: Building Critical Communications Networks for Aviation Industry

July, 2018
Richard van Wijk
Global Practice Lead – Aviation


Solution for airports to establish a smart, connected airport
Airports are like condensed cities, comprising a multitude of enterprises, concessions, retail shops, airlines, service companies, government agencies (air traffic control, customs and border control) and public safety organizations. Millions of passengers pass through them each year, and they are the workplace of thousands of employees.

Airports looking to thrive in the years to come will need to address the dynamics of the following market drivers: passenger growth, competitive pressure, attracting vendors that passengers want, providing services that increase the traveler engagement and satisfaction and of course airport safety. To be successful as businesses, airports will thus have to focus on three major imperatives: improve passenger experience, increase operational efficiency and improve financial success.

Communication systems will play a pivotal role in meeting these airport business imperatives. Until now, airport operators have typically deployed multiple separate networks at different times, along with different infrastructure projects paid for from isolated budgets. The result is a plethora of siloed networks built with different technologies and managed by disparate network managers.

How Nokia’s Smart Airport solution differs
Nokia’s mission-critical converged solution efficiently address airport’s imperatives to establish a mission-critical communication system foundation for a smart connected airport.

Nokia mission-critical airport solutions for safe, on-time and connected journey will provide the main capabilities described below:

  • Ultra Reliable: The airport’s network is no less an asset than the runways – it needs to be world class, service all traffic, be secure, operate 24 x 7 x 365, scalable and be able to generate revenue.
  • Security: With the digital transformation of the airport, security becomes of utmost importance. Nokia solutions to secure operations, networks and endpoints in an automated way delivers on this task. Moreover, Nokia solutions bring additional situational awareness through mobile cameras and CCTV
  • Awareness: In order to become more operationally efficient and allow for new business models, airports have to get better awareness of what’s going on in their networks as well as automate tasks. Nokia provides exactly that insight as well as task automation
  • Financials: Nokia carrier class technology has been used by Service Providers all over the globe for many years to generate revenue, airport operators have the same opportunity.
    Embracing multiservice technology will allow airports to collapse silo’s and effectively reduce costs.
  • Efficiency: Nokia solutions bring more efficiency in the way the airport operations communicate with each other
  • Green: Reducing power consumption and hence carbon footprint is at the heart of every solution we bring. Moreover, our IOT solutions allow airports to further optimize on reducing their carbon footprint.

Solution for ANSPs to establish ground-ground mission-critical communications
ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) and related stakeholders can address their mission-critical network services with Nokia’s ground-ground communication solution. Nokia’s solution encompasses an IP/MPLS-based mission-critical network including a managed service either for a domestic or international/regional network covering voice and data communication. The solution ensures that ANSP legacy services are supported and you are prepared for new requirements that are emerging from future Air Traffic management (ATM) concepts.

The need for communication at a domestic and international level for ATM business has become perceptible with the potential withdrawal of point-to-point connections from telecommunications providers, thereby creating a need for an IP-based network for new and emerging ATC applications.

The strategic vision of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to achieve sustainable growth of the global civil aviation system that enables airspace users (including aircraft operators) to meet their operational needs with fewer constraints but without lowering safety levels has inevitably created the need for development of ATM networks. This vision requires the application of technology that will enable the transformation of ATM by supporting collaborative decision-making (CDM), dynamic airspace management, strategic conflict management and flexible use of airspace, among other considerations. CNS/ATM systems are crucial components of the transformation drive.

In addition, the primary users of ATM services (the airline industry) demand safe operations and are looking for ways to improve their efficiency. According to IATA, achieving the ICAO vision will result in a wide range of benefits such as safe operations, efficient use of resources, reduction in emissions and overall lowering of operational costs. ANSPs recognize that better communications, navigation and surveillance systems will undoubtedly increase the level of safety. The use of improved data and voice communications services as well as enhanced aeronautical information services combined with precision navigation tools such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) solutions will significantly reduce the hazards the traditional solutions could not tackle. But this will certainly require a robust and efficient infrastructure to support the emergence of new applications and services.

Some key requirements for ANSPs includes the provision of a solution that meets ANSP safety standards, security and service continuity. It is crucial that operations are protected to the greatest possible degree using a platform with the highest possible resilience to failure and resistance to external interference. Equally important during migration for ANSPs is to ensure that there is a seamless transfer of legacy applications and services to the new operating environment.

Nokia has positioned itself strongly in the transport community with specific focus on the Aviation environment. Nokia works closely with Airport Authorities and ANSPs on long term partnerships by installing and maintaining the networking infrastructure and applications, enabling airport and ANSP operations in an efficient, secure and safe way.

Nokia’s ground-ground ANSP communications network solution provides the required protection and resilience to support ATC safety, security and service continuity requirements. The ground-ground solution is composed of an IP/MPLS network and managed services.
Uniqueness of Nokia approach

  • Tailored technology and services
  • Full turnkey end-to-end solution
  • Multiple business models to match any market
  • High Reliability and Security Hardened IP/MPLS Platform with highest integration of legacy interfaces/applications


  • Substantial cost savings in provision of network infrastructure support services
  • No need to recruit, contract or manage considerable numbers of network specialist staff
  • Better exploitation of technology for business benefit

Solution for in-flight broadband access
Nokia LTE air-to-ground (A2G) technology is well suited to provide broadband connectivity to continental aircraft flights. It has significant technology and cost advantages over existing and future satellite solutions. Nokia is the leader in A2G solutions with European wide commercial deployment to provide cost-effective in-flight broadband that offers the best possible services to airlines and their valued passengers. This use case describes how Nokia can help you to offer in-flight broadband access with our innovative LTE A2G solution.

Passenger traffic continues to rise annually, with significant competition among airlines to provide best-in-class in-flight services. Key among these is broadband connectivity. Today’s flyers are increasingly accustomed to broadband connections anywhere, 24/7. They need to stay in touch with family and maintain critical business communications, and they want to access to entertainment in their free time. When they fly, they want broadband connectivity equal to what they experience from terrestrial networks and Wi-Fi hotspots. These expectations are increasing demand for fast, seamless connectivity on an aircraft to the point where an airline’s in-flight broadband capability has become a key competitive advantage.

Currently, most in-flight connectivity uses satellite backhaul, with vendors operating a satellite/ ground internet system. For short-haul and medium-haul continental flights, these systems tend to be bulky and expensive. Additionally, current capacity is limited and exhibits high latency, especially when serving a large number of continental aircraft in a limited geographic area.

How Nokia’s approach differs

Nokia LTE A2G utilizes a ground-based cellular system to create a direct link between the aircraft and the ground for broadband IP connectivity without the delay hop via a satellite. With a highly efficient air interface and a flat IP network architecture, LTE is an ideal platform on which to deploy an A2G network. Passengers enjoy in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi connectivity.

LTE A2G has several compelling advantages over existing systems:

  • LTE A2G provides the best customer experience with outstanding performance. The LTE A2G solution outperforms existing L band and Ku band satellite solutions in bit rates per aircraft, with the additional benefit of much simpler, lighter and less-expensive aircraft equipment, especially compared to the Ku band equipment.
  • LTE A2G uses a dense ground network where each site contributes to network capacity instead of a single satellite to share its capacity over a very large region.
  • Unlike satellites, the flexible LTE A2G approach allows rolling out and expanding the network capacity exactly where it is needed by adapting the cell sizes or increasing the number of cells.
  • LTE A2G also can provide multimedia services to passengers should airlines decide to offer that option.
  • LTE A2G is based on fully standardized technology
  • Lightweight of equipment (efficient airplane fuel usage) and reduced installation time to allow airplanes go quickly into service


  • The A2G LTE solution offers cost-effective, optimized operations for airlines. A2G LTE is based on off-the-shelf technology with a wide, established ecosystem of components. It is less expensive to acquire, deploy and operate than satellite systems, with less downtime for maintenance and a relatively low weight (as compared to satellite) for more efficient fuel consumption.
  • In addition to providing advanced passenger communications and entertainment services, airlines can upload and download essential real-time flight data via a broadband connection rather than through time-consuming static hard disk data transfers at ground stops.
  • A2G LTE also can enhance maintenance by offering real-time problem identification; maintenance crews can minimize the time for diagnosis and go straight to fixing the issue.
  • The LTE A2G solution can be expanded further toward a complementary channel for controller-to-pilot data link communication as well as a data channel for cabin crew to communicate with the airline’s operational center or air traffic control.