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No BS*: BT is hooking up with OneWeb to tackle UK notspots

It's like an animal farm / That's the rural charm in the country

BT is looking to the heavens to help connect homes and businesses in the UK's rural areas to the internet – inking a deal with none other than partly state-owned OneWeb, the telco has confirmed.

It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UK satellite outfit to explore ways that hard-to-reach premises in the UK – still in the digital slow lane – might be able to get a decent service.

The tie-up is very much in the early stages, although something could be ready for scrutiny by the end of the year.

Both sides are looking at how satellite technology "might support improved capacity, mobile resilience, backhaul and coverage, including Fixed Wireless Access."

OneWeb was bought out of bankruptcy last year by along with Indian multinational Bharti Global, getting a cash injection in April from Eutelsat.

At the time, rumours had began to circulate that the government might have taken a stake in stricken OneWeb so that it could become the backend of its BS (Brexit Satellite). However, as The Reg pointed out, there would have been little point in repurposing the constellation for satellite navigation. OneWeb's satellites are designed for internet connectivity – more Starlink than sat-nav. The 150kg satellites operate in the Ku-band and the constellation may deliver speeds of "more than 400Mbps".

Starlink was granted a licence from comms regulator Ofcom in November and began a trial of its services in January.

While the commercial discussions and technical meetings between OneWeb and BT will focus on delivery to customers in the UK, there is also scope for the incumbent broadband and telephony slinger to punt OneWeb's connectivity services from low Earth orbit to its corporate customers around the world.

While any move to improve sluggish speeds and patchy coverage is to be welcomed, the announcement appears to be an admission that BT needs to look beyond its own network to deliver full coverage.

In a statement, BT chief exec Philip Jansen said: "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." ®

*Brexit Satellite

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