Internet speed for commuters to skyrocket after Ofcom decision

Passengers on boats, planes and trains are set to enjoy broadband speeds 10-times faster than they currently experience following Ofcom's approval of a new satellite-based technology.

The new devices called earth stations will be mounted on vehicles and provide internet to passengers by connecting to a geostationary satellite. The telecoms regulator is also making available a large amount of high-frequency spectrum to facilitate faster speeds.

Land-based vehicles, such as trains, will be exempt entirely from the spectrum licence. The regulator expects speeds to reach as much as 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for a single earth station, or more than 10Mbps for each passenger.

Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom, said:

We want travellers to benefit from superfast broadband on the move at the kind of speeds they expect from their connection at home.

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.

Internet speeds on planes and ships have so far been severely limited by current technology. Passengers currently access the internet on vehicles largely through the use of smartphones or by using Wi-Fi on trains.

Ofcom said recent advances in technology have improved the effectiveness of earth stations. New antennas are able to maintain highly stable pointing accuracy, allowing the earth station to track the satellite closely. This makes it easier to maintain a reliable internet connection on fast moving vehicles.

Ofcom expects to be able to accept applications to license ship-mounted earth stations by as soon as February 2014.

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