Planes, trains and boats get superfast broadband boost

Planes, trains and boats get superfast broadband boost

Summary: Satellite broadband plans will accelerate broadband on the move


Passengers on planes, boats, trains and other vehicles will be able to access the internet at superfast speeds when travelling anywhere in the UK thanks to the latest decision by regulator Ofcom. 

The decision means that airlines and other transport operators will in future be able to use satellite technology to offer their customers broadband speeds "up to 10-times faster than they currently experience", said Ofcom in a statement.

This will be achieved by using earth stations that connect to geostationary satellites. Ofcom said that it is now making available "a relatively large amount of high-frequency spectrum" for the use of airlines and shipping companies.

According to Ofcom, recent advances in technology, "have improved the effectiveness of earth stations" and newer antennas can maintain "very stable pointing accuracy" so that the earth stations can track satellites closely even when mounted on a fast-moving vehicle. This, Ofcom said, "makes it easier to maintain a reliable internet connection".

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

To help with getting companies to use the technology land-based vehicles, such as trains, will be made exempt from the need for a spectrum licence altogether, although stations mounted on aircraft or ships will need an Ofcom license.

Ofcom said it expects to be able to accept applications to license ship-mounted earth stations by February 2014, and said it is now working with the Civil Aviation Authority to make licensing for aircraft-mounted devices available "in a similar timeframe".

Details of the Ofcom agreement can be found here.


Topics: Broadband, EU, United Kingdom


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Speed is only one consideration in satellite internet...

    What is the latency?
    • latency would be anywhere from 575ms to 1500ms

      The Physics of Satellite communications for satellites in 23000 mile high orbit is about 550ms minimum. To that you add network latency. Train Tunnels don't count :-)