updated 11:04 am EST, Tue January 21, 2014
Passengers could see faster Internet connections in transit before end of year
Transport companies in the United Kingdom could offer passengers faster Internet connections in the future, thanks to a recent decision by Ofcom. The UK regulator is permitting the use of satellite-based connections in travel, with Ofcom claiming passengers could end up seeing broadband speeds up to ten times faster than what is currently offered by airlines, ferries, and coach firms.
The change allows for devices called "earth stations" to be mounted onto the vehicles, which can connect to a geostationary satellite for a data connection. Ofcom estimates that speeds to a single station could reach around 50Mbps, or more than 10Mbps per passenger, with the regulator allocating 4,128MHz of spectrum for the endeavor. Ground-based vehicles will also benefit from being exempt from requiring a spectrum license, though aircraft and ships will still require licensing due to their ability to cross into other countries' jurisdictions.
Passengers may not have a long wait before the faster connections become available to use, with Ofcom suggesting the first commercial deployments could occur later this year. Ofcom expects regulations for the land-based earth station licensing exemption to come into force by the summer of 2014, with ship-mounted station applications set to start from February, and it is working with the Civil Aviation Authority to start aircraft licensing in a similar timeframe. It is also working with other international telecommunications authorities to promote the use of such technology globally.
This is the second major change for airline passengers in the UK in the last few months. In November, the European Aviation Safety Agency changed its rules and permitted the use of electronic devices at take-off and landing, shortly after a similar decision by the Federal Aviation Authority.