On the move? Ofcom boosts satellite broadband for planes, ships and trains

Ofcom allows use of advanced satellite technology on boats, trains and planes

Shona Ghosh
21 Jan 2014

Passengers travelling by air, rail or sea could soon have access to reliable, superfast mobile broadband now that Ofcom has freed up more satellite bandwidth.

Under Ofcom's licensing changes, travel operators will be able to make use of improved satellite tech to provide faster connections to passengers.

They will be able to attach "earth stations" to moving vehicles which connect to satellites stationed in space to provide connectivity. That could boost speeds to up to 10Mbits/sec per passenger, according to Ofcom.

While passengers can already make use of satellite broadband while travelling, that currently uses lower frequency ranges, meaning slower speeds.

"Newer antennas are capable of maintaining very stable pointing accuracy, allowing the earth station to track the satellite closely – even when mounted on a fast-moving vehicle," said Ofcom. "This makes it easier to maintain a reliable internet connection."

The change will be most noticeable to those travelling by sea and air, PC Pro understands. While train operators are free to install earth satellites under Ofcom's changes, upcoming improvements to wireless mean they're likely to stick with that technology.

Scuppering Samsung's plans?

While the changes have been largely welcomed by travel operators and satellite providers, one company protested at the plans.

Samsung suggested in its response to Ofcom's consultation that the watchdog should keep a certain chunk of spectrum free in the 28GHz band for "new mobile technologies".

"[Samsung] believes that the possibility in this range for high frequency, high capacity mobile broadband applications will increase in the coming years with the development of new mobile technologies for next-generation mobile services."

The company didn't explain what these new mobile technologies might be and hasn't responded to a request for clarification.

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