BT and OneWeb sign first satellite test deal

BT OneWeb satellite launch
(Image credit: BT/OneWeb)

BT has announced a first partnership with satellite provider OneWeb, potentially signalling the start of a new era for connectivity for the company.

The deal will see BT examine how Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communication services provided by OneWeb could boost BT networks and connectivity to users around the world.

BT and OneWeb signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in July, with this new official agreement signalling the next step forward in the partnership, which aims to use LEOs to deliver digital services anywhere across the UK by 2028.

BT OneWeb satellites

The partnership means that, following initial trials concerning how OneWeb satellites integrate with its networks, BT will start the first live trials with customers from early 2022. 

The company's EE mobile arm had hinted at possible satellite coverage earlier this year, but BT did not mention mobile in its press release, instead noting the initial launch could focus on IoT backhaul and Fixed Wireless Access in rural areas.

“Space is an emerging and enormous digital opportunity, and this is an important step towards harnessing its potential for BT’s customers across the globe," said Philip Jansen, Chief Executive of BT Group.

"We will put OneWeb’s technology through its paces in our UK  labs with the goal of delivering live trials in early 2022. Delivered securely and at scale, satellite solutions will be an important part of our plans to expand connectivity throughout the UK and globally, and to further diversify the range of services we can offer our customers.”

OneWeb says it hopes to deliver global coverage by June 2022 through its network of 648 LEOs, including complete coverage of the UK later this year. 

The company notes that current capacity levels within its satellites will mean initial trials focus on its role as a supplementary, low latency backhaul solution to sites where additional capacity or a back-up solution is required, and to deliver improved resilience for business customers.

“BT has taken the lead in the  recognition of LEO satellite’s advantage," said OneWeb’s Chief Executive Officer Neil Masterson. 

"We are delighted as this agreement with BT Group represents an important strategic partnership for OneWeb as we continue to make progress  towards our operational launch. We are excited to be playing such a key role in improving  the resilience of the overall telecom infrastructure in the UK. OneWeb’s connectivity  platform will help bridge the last digital divides across the country and enhance the nation’s  digital infrastructure.”  

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Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.