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Ofcom approves satellite broadband for trains and boats and planes

Matthew Finnegan | Jan. 23, 2014
Passengers on trains, boats, planes, and coaches could see a ten-fold increase in broadband speeds after Ofcom authorised the use of satellite broadband receivers.

Passengers on trains, boats, planes, and coaches could see a ten-fold increase in broadband speeds after Ofcom authorised the use of satellite broadband receivers.

The communications regulator has given the go-ahead for vehicles to mount 'earth station' antennas which can provide passengers with internet speeds of up to 10Mbps, after plans were initially revealed last year.

Passengers currently access the internet on vehicles using either mobile broadband from smartphones and internet 'dongles', or, where available, WiFi systems provided.

However, in remote locations, such as when passengers are onboard planes or boats, data transfer times can be reduced.

According to Ofcom, advances in earth station antenna technology have made it easier to provide fast data speeds, even when mounted on fast moving vehicles.

By connecting to satellites orbiting at fixed position relative to the earth's surface at an altitude of 22,000 miles the satellites are able to provide consistent connectivity.

The regulator has now made 4,128 MHz of high-frequency spectrum available for use.

Ofcome plans to accept applications to license ship-mounted earth stations by February, and is currently working with the Civil Aviation Authority to make aircraft-mounted devices available in a similar timeframe.

The first commercial deployments are expected next year.

"We want travellers to benefit from superfast broadband on the move at the kind of speeds they expect from their connection at home," said Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom.

"Today's decision means that operators of trains, boats and planes will soon be able to begin the process of making these valuable services available to their passengers."

"Devices that are mounted on land-based vehicles, such as trains, will be made exempt from the need for a spectrum licence altogether. Earth stations mounted on aircraft or ships will need to be licensed by Ofcom, as these vehicles are capable of crossing into other countries' jurisdictions."

 

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