RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – SmartSky Networks, which is in the process of implementing an air-to-ground network that uses a patented technology known as spectrum reuse, has opened its first fully operational coverage zone across a contiguous portion of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The company said in a statement that it reached and completed the technical milestones to enable operation for the network in this region.  The network provides what the company calls “office-grade, bi-directional, multi-Mbps inflight connectivity,” noting that the connection also has low latency.

SmartSky plans to launch the service commercially later in 2021.

“We are showcasing the unparalleled inflight networking capabilities and advanced services that SmartSky is bringing to market for the connected aircraft ecosystem of operators, manufacturers, service providers and passengers,” said SmartSky CEO David Helfgott in a statement.

The launch of the southeastern corridor comes after months of field testing.

The company has raised funding in three rounds under the company name SmartSky Investco, LLC, including $26.9 million in February 2021, nearly $41.4 million in June 2020, and $43 million in July 2019.  Under the company name SmartSky Networks LLC, it raised nine prior rounds between August 2012 and July 2019 totaling about $326.5 million, according to SEC filings.

The company postponed its plans due to the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic.

RTP-based SmartSky lands $41M, wants $74M more ahead of air-to-ground network launch

Founded in 2011, SmartSky specializes in providing high-speed wireless internet to business and commercial airlines through cell phone towers.

In 2016, SmartSky, previously known as Jetpool Ventures, entered into a strategic partnership with Avidyne Corp, a company specializing in computer network and safety systems for aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the SmartSky 4G LTE system in 2019, which SmartSky claimed could make in-flight internet faster while lowering costs.

The company holds more than 200 patents in its intellectual property portfolio, with additional patents pending.  One of its patents is for the  beamforming and spectrum re-use technology, which enables the company’s network to function, even in the presence of high signal noise from ground-based WiFi systems, the company said.

“It’s a testament to the strength of our technical team and supplier-partners, as together we’ve successfully developed and fielded a feature-complete, game-changing service based on an optimal mix of proven 4G LTE and emerging 5G technologies that have been adapted to and optimized for the aviation use-case,” said Dave Claassen, the company’s CTO.