BT and OneWeb join forces to tackle rural not-spots

The news comes a year after the London-based satellite operator was involved in a post-Brexit navigation system blunder

BT and OneWeb have announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the two companies explore solutions to improve digital communication services in rural parts of the UK.

The new partnership will focus on the hardest to reach communities that might not be covered by the UK government’s £5 billion ‘Project Gigabit’ infrastructure programme, work on which is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2022.

The two companies will focus on “improving capacity, mobile resilience, backhaul and coverage, including Fixed Wireless Access, in challenging geographic locations”, with the help of OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit satellites.

News of the partnership comes almost exactly a year after the London-based satellite operator made headlines for being involved in a post-Brexit navigation system blunder. In late June 2020, prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak invested £500m in OneWeb in an effort to find a satellite navigation system that would replace the EU’s Galileo. However, it had then transpired that OneWeb didn’t provide that kind of technology, with experts confirming that the UK government had “bought the wrong satellites”.

Commenting on the firm's partnership with BT, digital Infrastructure minister Matt Warman said that “it is great that BT and OneWeb are working together to explore new ways to bring faster and more reliable connectivity to the hardest to reach homes”. 

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“No one should miss out on the benefits of better broadband and mobile coverage,” he added.

Warman’s sentiments were echoed in a recent Cisco report, which found that 66% of UK respondents view secure, fast, reliable connection as a necessity, with 48% saying that the government investment in fast, reliable internet is just as important as maintaining the national water and energy infrastructure.

BT chief executive Philip Jansen said that the company’s “ambitious full-fibre and mobile commitments have put BT at the forefront of efforts to expand digital connectivity across the UK”.  

“It is clear that greater partnership is needed, both with Government and within industry, to ensure connectivity can reach every last corner of the country. Our agreement with OneWeb is an important step to understanding how that goal could be achieved in the future,” he added.

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