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BT inks global partnership with OneWeb amid £1bn cost-cutting milestone

OneWeb service rollout satellite UK - 16.9.jpg

BT and OneWeb have agreed the terms for a new distribution partner agreement, with OneWeb to provide Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communication services across BT Group.

The news builds on the Memorandum of Understanding formed between the two in July of this year and means BT is testing how LEO satellite technology integrates with its existing terrestrial network to meet the growing communications needs of customers.

“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.”

Once completed, BT will start the first live trials with customers from early 2022. The partnership will span a growing range of global connectivity solutions as well as specific opportunities for the UK market.

“I am thrilled to see the UK at the forefront of this emerging technology thanks to the Government’s investment in OneWeb – a crucial part of our plans to cement our status as a global science and technology superpower,” said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Through a constellation of 648 LEO satellites, OneWeb is expected to deliver global coverage by June 2022. Once live, OneWeb will be able to deliver services from the North Pole to the 50th parallel, covering the entire UK, later this year.

“The agreement between OneWeb and BT will help bring fast and reliable global connectivity, from the Highlands to the Himalayas," said Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries.

"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."

This is turn will support BT’s wider network ambition, set out in July this year, to deliver digital solutions across the entire UK by 2028, through a combination of an expanded network and ‘on demand,’ requestable solutions. In building a converged, software-defined network, BT will use and integrate both terrestrial and non-terrestrial technologies to deliver on the goal of seamless, ubiquitous connectivity.

“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," said Neil Masterson, chief executive officer at OneWeb.

"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.”

In addition, BT will test capabilities in its Bristol lab to demonstrate how they integrate with existing services. Also due to the capacity levels on OneWeb satellites, 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, as well as to deliver added resiliency for business customers.

Following this, BT will begin early adopter trials for UK and international customers, expected in early 2022. As OneWeb grows their capacity, the list of future use cases is likely to broaden, to include the use of satellite for such things as IoT backhaul and Fixed Wireless Access in rural areas.

In related news, BT has also confirmed that it has delivered on its £1 billion of gross annualised cost savings 18 months ahead of the March 2023 target.

For the year ended 31 March 2021, BT reported revenues of 21 billion with profit before tax of £1.8 billion. There have also been reports that the company is preparing for a possible takeover by Patrick Drahi, following on from his company Next Alt S.à r.l, through its subsidiary Altice UK's acquisition of a 12% stake in BT, valued at approximately £2.2 billion ($3.1 billion).

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