Accessing superfast broadband in the sky could soon become a reality for travellers after Ofcom appeared to give the green light to the initiative.
The broadcast regulator has set up a regulatory process on the matter and is considering whether or not to approve use of the new technology – called Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms. Not only could in flight connectivity be improved and speeds bolstered for plane passengers, but also for those travelling by boat and train.
Should the move get the go-ahead, broadband speeds on aircraft travelling in the UK could be increased by up to ten times – meaning the service enjoyed by those in the sky may be faster than that used by people at home.
A handful of airlines are currently offering limited internet services, but the updated speeds would be ten to 20 times faster than these, enabling users to stream films and music and enjoy other online activities.
However even if the increased speeds don’t immediately take hold there might be an opportunity for airlines to give passengers access to local content which is stored on the plane itself. As the popularity of tablets and other mobile devices increases there could be an opportunity for airlines to save money by providing Wi-Fi access to on-demand video content rather than installing expensive in-flight-entertainment systems.
There are even possibilities that airlines could partner with OTT service providers such as Netflix to offer their services – charging non-subscribers a nominal fee for access to a local repository of content whilst on a flight.
With firms set to unveil new commercial spot-beam satellite networks that provide support receivers on mobile platforms – planes, trains and boats, for high speed internet access is likely to soon be available for these forms of transport – despite some of them moving at great speed.
However as airlines and other transport services begin to offer these new services they will have to make sure that they have the billing services capable of dealing with these new customers. In flight purchases will have to be simple and quick – as telephone support is unlikely to be available whilst in the air. What’s more the solutions will have to be flexible in order to offer a wide range of different services. There is likely to be a huge divide between what business users want and what consumers will want to access and it is vital that airlines support a variety of options to keep both types of customer happy.
Commercial airlines, train companies and ferry services could soon begin fitting the technology as they look to provide the best travel experience possible for their customers. It is thought the technology may be introduced as early as next year – so big changes could be in store for air passengers sooner rather than later.
It will be imperative that transport providers are ready to provide these new services as they become available to stay competitive, and as such will have to ask themselves whether they have the correct billing processes in place to effectively manage these new services and keep customers happy.