High-speed wifi could be on aircraft 'by 2014'

21 Aug 2013 by GrahamSmith

High-speed wifi could be available in-flight as early as next year if a new satellite system proposed by Ofcom is approved.

The UK communications regulator last week began a consultation on a satellite system for aircraft, ships and trains that can provide wifi connections up to ten times faster than what is currently available on public transport.

The technology — Earth Stations On Mobile Platforms (ESOMPs) — uses high-frequency bands. It has already been approved for use by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

It is unclear whether British airlines would adopt the system or not.

Richard D'Cruze, BA's in-flight entertainment and technology manager, told the BBC the carrier is "closely monitoring developments in the connectivity market in both the satellite and direct air-to-ground technology areas".

Isabel Montesdeoca, GM for travel and expense company Concur in Europe said, "The prospect of installing quicker, faster wi-fi broadband access on planes and trains is - from a business traveller's perspective at least - a 'no brainer'.

"The travel industry is in the midst of a revolution driven by smartphone and tablet apps, and - if we let it - internet connectivity at all stages of a journey can ensure a business trip is smoother, faster, easier and more productive."

Ofcom said it has been in talks with many of its European counterparts to see how best to implement the technology. France and Germany are understood to be involved.

However, the move might not be good news for all as it would likely also result in passengers being able to take phone calls via Skype and similar software.

Graham Smith

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