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Government Start UK LEO Satellite Trials to Fix Rural Broadband Woes

Wednesday, Nov 30th, 2022 (10:30 pm) - Score 1,536

The UK Government has today launched a series of new trials that aims to leverage the new generation of compact satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in order to deliver faster and more capable broadband connectivity to some of the remotest locations, which full fibre (FTTP) would otherwise struggle to reach.

At present the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband scheme aims to extend 1Gbps capable (download speed) networks to reach nationwide coverage (c. 99%) by around 2030 (here). But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has previously recognised that 0.3% of UK premises (i.e. under 100,000) will be “Very Hard to Reach” (i.e. too expensive for even Project Gigabit to tackle).

The Government has been consulting on alternative options for tackling such areas for what seems like an eternity (here), although they were known to be considering technologies like satellite, fixed wireless access and mobile connectivity. But the good news is that they appear to be making some progress on this, even if it is a little bit predictable.


In short, they’ve initially launched a series of three trial deployments, which will be supported by satellite equipment supplied by Starlink (SpaceX), given the pre-existing readiness and availability of their technology. Future trials may also involve OneWeb at more complex sites, which has a similar but much smaller constellation of LEOs.

The Initial Trial Sites

Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132, in North Yorkshire Moors National Park, is one of the most complete of England’s abbey ruins. The project will improve connectivity at the site and is expected to help visitors and researchers engage with educational content relating to the ancient monument.

Wasdale Head in the Lake District will be connected to explore how better broadband can improve operations in communication ‘blackspot’ zones for mountain rescue team radio and global positioning services. 

➤ Snowdonia National Park will see two sites connected: the base of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation (Sefydliad Achub Mynydd Dyffryn Ogwen) to support their life-saving operations and Ty Cornel, an outdoor activity centre in Crafnant Valley managed by Scouts Cymru to help improve safety for wardens and the public traversing the isolated 25 acre site as well as enabling new educational resources for visiting school, university or scout groups.

However, all of these initial trials seem to be more focused on site-specific connectivity, rather than the bigger challenge of extending out to provide capacity for serving local homes and businesses. As such, they’re not quite as interesting because such connections could easily have been delivered commercially (e.g. buying satellite broadband independently), without government support.

Eventually, the trials should extend to a dozen “very hard to reach” locations, most of which have yet to be announced. “Other locations have been identified around the UK, and discussions for further trial sites are ongoing, including small island locations in England, Scotland and Wales,” said the Government (DCMS).

Andrea Selley, Territory Director for the North at English Heritage, said:

“We are so pleased to be part of this trial and want to thank DCMS for their support. Rievaulx Abbey nestles within a beautiful but remote setting so this new satellite service will ensure better connectivity for our staff and visitors.”

According to DCMS, recent tests have shown that in many locations these LEO satellites can deliver “speeds of up to 200 megabits per second“, which is well above the speeds capable via copper cables commonly used in hard-to-reach areas today. But this does depend upon which Starlink package they’ve taken, since Ookla recently found that UK speeds over the network tended to average around 85Mbps (10.7Mbps upload). But that’s still a lot better than what these sites had before.


Following the trials, the government said they will “consider the viability of using satellite technology to connect very hard to reach homes and businesses” across the UK.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Starlink Fan says:

    Welsh Government ABC Scheme supported my Starlink broadband application back in April/May 2021!

    Why has it taken so long for UK Gov to do anything in this (excuse the pun) space.

  2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    I don’t think I would use Starlink, even if it was the only option,

  3. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    All I literally thought when reading this was “I am pleased the UK goverment are working with Elon”.

  4. Avatar photo Joe B says:

    Oneweb is a joke company. Just leave Starlink to carry on. The world doesn’t need thousands of useless satellites in space.
    The other and cheaper option is to use microwave dishes direct to the farm / house / property or village and then use fibre in the local area.

  5. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

    “which is well above the speeds capable via copper cables commonly used in hard-to-reach areas today.”

    Which implies some of the 0.3% of locations that are too difficult to get to were not too difficult in the past. Are they going to just leave the copper lines to rot when finally turned off because the miles and miles to the remote location is to difficult to retrieve?

    Using primitive tools and techniques the monks and their workforce were able to construct a magnificent Abbey far from the main civilisation centre. Huge blocks of stone hewn shaped and raised.
    “Ooooh sorry mate, that visitor attraction is a bit too difficult to use modern techniques of poles, trench tools and moles to get a lightweight fibre to”

  6. Avatar photo Tom says:

    Oneweb was purchased by UK Gov due to not having access to EU Galileo GPS (and required a “sovereign” solution but allows sale to foreign co’s!), then doesn’t use it for their own trials…

    What a waste! What a mess!

Comments are closed

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