Monday 28 June 2021 9:16 am

Oneweb and BT ink deal for rural broadband rollout

Oneweb and BT have inked an agreement to use satellites to help roll out broadband in the most remote rural areas across the UK.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore how satellite technology could be used to beam internet services to rural areas that are too difficult or expensive to reach through cable networks.

Oneweb, which was rescued from bankruptcy last year by the government and Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal, is aiming to launch its first constellation of 648 low-orbit satellites by the end of next year.

It currently has 218 satellites in orbit and is set to launch a further 36 later this week.

But it is facing competition from Elon Musk’s Starlink, which was recently granted a licence to operate in the UK.

Earlier this year it emerged the government was also in talks with Starlink over a potential satellite broadband deal.

The tie-up with Oneweb will come as a major boost to BT as it ramps up its efforts to roll out full-fibre broadband across the country. The telecoms giant recently hiked its target to 25m premises by the end of 2026.

However, BT has previously warned that regulatory hurdles and geographic challenges could slow down the project.

The companies said they would explore how a partnership could boost capacity, mobile resilience, backhaul and coverage in remote locations.

“It’s clear that greater partnership is needed, both with government and within industry, to ensure connectivity can reach every last corner of the country,” said BT boss Philip Janse.

“Our agreement with Oneweb is an important step to understanding how that goal could be achieved in the future.”

Oneweb chief executive Neil Masterson added: “This partnership is a huge sign of progress in the resilience and advancement of the overall telecom infrastructure in the UK. 

“Oneweb’s network will be a vital means for bridging the last digital divides across the network and we are excited to be part of the solution with BT to expand the nation’s digital infrastructure.”