Passengers on boats, planes and trains could soon be accessing broadband speeds of 10Mbps after Ofcom approved the use of satellite broadband antennas on vehicles, after putting forward plans last August.
The decision will mean that rather than having to rely on mobile networks for smartphones, or dongles on laptops – which often provide patchy, low-speed experiences, especially in remote regions – passengers could have speeds that are 10 times faster and far more consistent.
It works by installing an antenna on a vehicle that communicates with a geostationary satellite 22,300 miles above the earth. The satellite in turn sends down signal via a fixed antenna on Earth that's connected to the internet, so the signal should remain constant wherever the vehicle is located.
To encourage the use of such services Ofcom is making 4,128MHz of high-frequency spectrum available for this use. Ofcom hopes applications for the first ship-mounted satellite broadband services can be submitted by February and aircraft soon after, with services going live by the end of the year.
Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom, said the decision to allow satellite broadband use in this way would help more people remain online anywhere in the UK. “We want travellers to benefit from superfast broadband on the move at the kind of speeds they expect from their connection at home,” he said.
“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.”
Ofcom said it had given the go-ahead to the use of satellites for broadband after it recognised that advances in satellite antennas for vehicles have made it possible to maintain a much more accurate signal than before.
The move underlines the growing push from all areas of government to ensure fast broadband speeds are acccesible across the UK, with funding of £10m to be available for rural broadband technology trials from March.
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