Broadband boost for travellers on land, sea and sky

Passengers on planes, boats, trains and coaches to have access to internet speeds comparable to home broadband

Passengers on planes, boats, trains and coaches will soon have access to internet speeds comparable to the average home broadband service after regulators agreed to release new spectrum.

Moving vehicles in the skies, on the sea and on the ground will be licensed to use special antennae that communicate with satellites at up to 12 Megabits per second per passenger when travelling in the UK, the telecoms watchdog Ofcom said.

Known as earth stations, the antennae will use high frequency spectrum to transmit information at ten times the speed available on moving vehicles. Land based vehicles will no longer require an internet spectrum licence, while Ofcom hopes to accept licence applications for ship mounted antennae by February, and is working with the Civil Aviation Authority to license the technology for aeroplanes in a similar timeframe.

It will be up to airlines to decide whether passengers can use their digital equipment in the sky, but some including Virgin America and American Airlines offer internet during commercial flights.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic, which flies to and from the UK, said: "We are conducting broadband trials across some of our long haul flights which we hope to roll out more widely this year so we will follow this new technology with interest and look forward to seeing further development on a global scale."

Recent advances in technology have improved the effectiveness of earth stations, which can maintain very stable pointing accuracy, allowing the earth station to track the satellite closely – even when mounted on a fast-moving vehicle.

Ofcom is releasing very high frequency spectrum – which can carry larger amounts of data than low frequency spectrum – for use by earth stations. The frequency is in bands ranging from 17 Gigahertz to 30 Gigahertz – the highest frequency currently in use by mobile phone companies in the UK is in the 2.3 Gigahertz range.

Powered by article was written by Juliette Garside, for The Guardian on Tuesday 21st January 2014 19.10 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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