Frequent fliers could see high speed Wi-Fi connections on aircrafts by 2014, if Ofcom can launch its new satellite system.
If Ofcom’s plan comes off, travellers could be able to use Netflix, watch BBC iPlayer or download digital content using super-fast in-flight Wi-Fi connections within the next year.
The UK communications regulator has outlined a plan for a new satellite system that would allow planes, ships and trains to have speedy Wi-Fi connections.
Known as Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMPs), the new system could be able to deliver Wi-Fi connections 10 times faster than any currently offered on transportation systems using high-frequency bands.
Ofcom initiated the ESOMP consultation period last week, aiming to authorise the new system. Several satellite operators have already openly said they are planning to launch networks to support the ESOMPs within the next few months.
The ESOMPs work by connecting directly to the aircrafts when flying over the ground, but then when the plane is travelling over waters, the ESOMPs connect to the planes via satellite using a L, Ku and KA frequency band.
Ofcom has already been working with European communication watchdogs in order to synchronise the ESOMP plans across the continent.
The American counterpart, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is already on board with the ESOMP authorisation in place.
According to Richard D’Cruze, British Airways’ in-flight entertainment and technology manager, the airline is “closely monitoring developments in the connectivity market in both the satellite and direct air-to-ground technology areas.”
However, it’s useful to remember that the ESOMP technology wouldn’t just benefit air travellers. The system would also bring speedy Wi-Fi connections to trains and boats around the UK.
“The parts of the UK that might benefit the most are those train services in rural areas where 3G connectivity is currently very poor or non-existent,” said Andrew Ferguson, editor of thinkbroadband.com.
“If the consultation does result in the roll-out of this satellite based mobile connectivity, with its stabilised satellite dish system, totally connected world vision will be one step closer, and passengers on aeroplanes may have to endure the loud telephone calls of other who have VoIP, Skype or similar on their phones.”
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