Airlines will be able to offer customers broadband speeds up to 10 times faster than they currently experience

Broadband on planes trains and automobiles

Beaming superfast broadband to boats, planes and other vehicles via satellite has been given the go-ahead by Ofcom.

The regulator has authorised the use of so-called earth stations – devices which provide Internet to passengers by connecting to a geostationary satellite – on vehicles

Passengers currently access the Internet in vehicles using smartphones and Internet-connected dongles, or by using entertainment consoles on aircraft or Wi-Fi on trains, but in remote locations – particularly on planes and ships – speeds have been limited by the technology available.

The move by Ofcom will mean airlines and other transport operators will be able to offer customers broadband speeds up to 10 times faster than they currently experience and the technology also provides an alternative means of connection on trains and coaches.

Ofcom's group director of spectrum Philip Marnick 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."

Ofcom said earth stations will allow much faster data speeds, as it is making a relatively large amount of high-frequency spectrum available for their use.

Recent advances in technology have improved the effectiveness of earth stations, with newer antennas capable of maintaining stable "pointing" accuracy, which allows the earth station to track the satellite closely even when mounted on a fast-moving vehicle.

Devices that are mounted on land-based vehicles, such as trains, will be exempt from the need for a spectrum licence, but earth stations mounted on aircraft or ships will need to be licensed by Ofcom, as they are capable of crossing into other countries' jurisdictions.

Ofcom said the first commercial deployments of the technology on vehicles in the UK are likely to begin later this year.

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