Skip to main content

Ofcom gives satellite broadband go-ahead for boat, plane and train passengers

WiFi on the Thames
WiFi on the Thames

Telecommunications regulator Ofcom has approved the use of satellites for high-speed broadband on boats, planes and trains.

The move will allow transport operators to provide broadband speeds up to 10 times faster than existing internet speeds available to passengers. These speeds should reach over 10Mb/s for individual passengers

The technology will employ so-called "earth stations" - essentially larger-scale equivalents of mobile hotspots for satellites. These will be installed on various vehicles and will connect to geostationary satellites.

In order to cater for the satellite-based internet network, Ofcom is providing 4,127MHz worth of spectrum over four bands. It said that recent improvements to antenna technology should help provide stable pointing accuracy so that the satellites can be tracked more easily from fast-moving vehicles.

Spreading satellite internet

In order to encourage adoption of the new technology, Ofcom will not require spectrum licenses for use of earth stations on land-based vehicles. However, aircraft and ships will still needs licenses, which can be applied for from February onwards.

Ofcom is also working with other national telecommunications regulators to encourage the use of similar technology around the world.