Superfast internet coming to rail, sea and air

Superfast on-the-go

Ofcom has approved technology which could bring superfast broadband to trains, planes and boats in the UK.

The telecoms regulator announced yesterday its decision to approve the use of 'earth stations' on moving vehicles, devices which can connect to geostationary satellites. Ofcom has set aside a large amount of high-frequency spectrum capacity for earth stations to use, with the result that passengers could soon enjoy broadband speeds of up to 10Mbps.

The decision follows a consultation on the subject in August 2013, which according to Ofcom received "broad support". Group Director of Spectrum Philip Marnick commented:

"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."

Connected travel a reality

Ofcom believes the technology will become a reality later this year. Earth stations on land-based vehicles including trains are exempt from needing a license, although regulations covering this are scheduled for summer 2014. Vehicles which cross country borders such as ships and aircraft will need a license, with Ofcom hoping to accept applications from February 2014.

Increasing connectivity for travellers is high on the agenda for many companies. British Airways recently permitted electronic gadgets to be used during takeoff and landing. Network Rail also announced last year it is upgrading its infrastructure and working to improving mobile signal on board trains, with improvements expected from 2015. Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic is currently trialling broadband on its long haul flights, and said it will "follow this new technology with interest".

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, commented: "From increasing productivity for workers during business trips and commutes, to helping people stay connected with friends or indulge in a bit of online shopping during a long journey, high speed broadband on transport will be really useful for passengers."

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