BT and OneWeb have agreed terms for a new distribution partner agreement whereby OneWeb will provide low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication services across BT Group. This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding back in July, with BT to now test the integration of LEO satellite technology with terrestrial infrastructure.
The partnership will span a growing range of connectivity solutions around the world as well as specific opportunities for the UK market. BT plans to commence the first live trials with customers from early next year.
Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT Group, explained, “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. 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.”
Neil Masterson, OneWeb’s chief executive officer, said, “BT has taken the lead in the recognition of LEO satellite’s advantage. 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.”
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries added, “The agreement between OneWeb and BT will help bring fast and reliable global connectivity, from the Highlands to the Himalayas. I’m delighted these two British companies have joined forces to research the technological benefits of working together, and I look forward to exploring how this could play a role in our mission to put hard-to-reach areas in the digital fast lane.”
BT added that this agreement marks a clear path towards the first LEO solutions being available for customers within a year. Current capacity levels within OneWeb satellites mean initial trials will 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. Future use cases could include the use of satellite for IoT backhaul and Fixed Wireless Access in rural areas.
The new partnership supports BT’s wider network ambition, set out in July this year, to deliver digital solutions across the entire UK by 2028. OneWeb is expected to deliver global coverage by June 2022 through a constellation of 648 LEO satellites and is poised to deliver services from the North Pole to the 50th parallel, covering the entire United Kingdom, later this year.