Planes, trains and boats get superfast broadband boost

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.