Superfast broadband coming to planes, trains and naval vessels under Ofcom plans

Passengers on UK planes, ships and trains could soon be given access to superfast broadband as communications regulator Ofcom seeks to change the rules on the usage of satellite internet technologies.
Ofcom said three parts of the radio spectrum should become authorised for use by mass transit vehicles in order to encourage the development of satellite-based internet services, which, according to Ofcom, have become significantly more advanced in recent years. There has been progress in earth-based transmitters, allowing antennae attached to fast-moving vehicles to track the movement of orbiting satellites and thus send and receive data more efficiently.

The Ofcom proposal said: "ESOMPs [Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms] represent a potentially valuable innovation and the development of a new market for mobile communications. UK citizens and consumers will benefit from having broadband access whilst travelling in places where alternative means of connectivity is limited."

Licensing the spectrum for this new use will require confirmation that the services will not affect wireless services both in the UK and elsewhere in the world, which Ofcom said it has taken into account. The new technology would be added to existing shipping and aerospace regulations without the need for additional licensing to be granted.

WiFi has been available on aircraft for some time, with a reported 40 percent of US flights now providing internet access through the use of 3G transmitters and receivers. The speeds have been generally low, however, with customers seemingly left unsatisfied by the performance of their in-flight connections.

Ofcom has now opened up the proposals for feedback from the public and commercial enterprises, with a decision to be made in December 2013. If successful, the new technologies will be licensed in early 2014.

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