UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced that it will authorise the use of earth stations – devices which can provide internet to passengers by connecting to a ‘geostationary’ satellite – on vehicles. Claiming that the decision will mean that airlines and other transport operators could, in the future, use satellite-based technology to offer customers broadband speeds up to ten-times faster than they currently experience, Ofcom said it would make available ‘a relatively large amount of high-frequency spectrum for their use’, which in turn it said would provide a considerable amount of data capacity.
Devices that are mounted on land-based vehicles, such as trains, will reportedly be made exempt from the need for a spectrum licence, though earth stations mounted on aircraft or ships will require a concession. Ofcom has said it expects to be able to accept applications to license ship-mounted earth stations by February 2014, and has said it is working with the Civil Aviation Authority to make licensing for aircraft-mounted devices available in a similar timeframe. Meanwhile, regulations covering the exemption from licensing for land-based earth stations are expected to be in force by the summer of 2014. In line with these timeframes, the first commercial deployments of the technology on vehicles will likely begin later this year, the regulator noted.
Commenting on the development, Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Group Director of Spectrum, noted: ‘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.’