The UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom has announced that it has cleared the way for faster in-flight broadband on commercial aircraft. Ofcom has cleared the plan for airlines and other transportation operators to use “earth stations” that are satellite based to deliver in-flight broadband that is ten times faster than what is currently available on commercial aircraft.
The plan will work for more than air travel and will be able to deliver faster broadband to ships, trains, and buses as well. Ofcom has freed up 4,128 MHz of wireless spectrum for the plan, which is a massive amount of spectrum. By comparison, Ofcom set aside only 250 MHz of spectrum for 4G for the entire UK.
The Ofcom plan will be able to deliver faster speeds of about 10Mbps downloads to passengers with a bandwidth of 50Mbps on a single earth station. Each ship, bus, or aircraft will carry its own earth station that connects to a satellite in geostationary orbit over the equator at an altitude of 22,300 miles.
One catch to the plan right now is that only land-based vehicles are exempt from requiring a license. Ofcom expects that it will begin accepting applications for licenses for ships this February. Licensing applications for aircraft are expected to begin on a similar time frame. The FCC has been considering a similar plan for satellite internet on commercial aircraft in the US since last spring.