UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has agreed to make radio spectrum available for transport operators to offer faster broadband connections to passengers on aircraft, boats, railway trains and coaches.
Each vehicle could receive a data connection of around 50Mbit/sec, providing more than 10Mbps via WiFi to an individual passenger.
The service would be offered via geostationary satellites that would connect to an ‘earth station’ on moving vehicles, rather than a conventional mobile phone signal. It’s a system referred to as Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMPs). Frequencies in the 27.5 to 27.8185GHz band, the 28.4545 to 28.8265GHz band, the 29.4625 to 30GHz band and the 17.3 to 20.2GHz band are being allocated by Ofcom; a total 4,128MHz of spectrum.
Ofcom’s decision follows a consultation that took place last year. It’s designed to take advantage of new antenna technology that can track a satellite even when the ‘earth station’ is moving quickly.
Philip Marnick, Group Director of Spectrum at Ofcom, said “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.”
Earth stations on land-based vehicles won’t need a spectrum licence, although those on aircraft or ships will need to be licensed by Ofcom via the Civil Aviation Authority or Ship Radio licence as appropriate.
The new licensing regulations are expected to come into force from the summer, with ESOMPs operating on vehicles by the end of the year. It’s expected that transport providers will partner with satellite service operators to provide connectivity.