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BT Finish First Live UK Field Trial of OneWeb Linked 4G Mobile

Sunday, May 7th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 3,576

BT’s Chief Security and Networks Officer, Howard Watson, has revealed that the operator has just completed a live field trial that, for the “first time ever“, made it possible for them to deploy a 4G (LTE) mobile cell site that was backhauled (data capacity) over OneWeb’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellites.

OneWeb has so far launched a total of 618 of their small c.150kg LEO based broadband satellites into space – orbiting at an altitude of 1,200km above the Earth (588 of them are for coverage and the rest redundancy). The ultrafast (100Mbps+) and low-latency (sub-100ms) network has often touted itself as a potential problem solver for poor broadband connectivity in rural homes and businesses.

Separately, BT and OneWeb have also been working together to develop joint solutions for spreading mobile and broadband connectivity into remote areas since the end of 2021 (here). The Government recently built upon that work by committing £8m for BT, Clarus and OneWeb to help deliver “high-speed broadband” via Satellite solutions for up to 35,000 of the UK’s “most remote properties” (here).


The government didn’t specify exactly what approach their trials would take, but they did later confirm that it would take place in the Shetland Islands (Scotland) and on Lundy Island, near the north Devon coast. Sadly, Howard Watson didn’t clarify whether BT’s latest field trial formed a part of that specific project, but it is still an important achievement.

Howard Watson said:

“Our partnership with Oneweb continues to go from strength to strength. Building on our recent success of achieving the first transmission of 4G data using a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite link, we’ve now completed a live field trial – the first time ever that a 4G LTE cell site has been backhauled over OneWeb’s LEO constellation and handed off via a dedicated high-performance interconnect to an operator’s mobile core network.

The trial allowed us to evaluate the availability, throughput and latency characteristics of the LEO satellites and OneWeb’s core IP wide area network. The results were highly encouraging, and prove the ease of integrating LEO satellite communications with existing backhaul designs. This promising development allows us to progress to the next stage of our strategy, in which we will implement a multi-orbital and multi-constellation space strategy.”

The mention of a “multi-constellation” strategy suggests that BT may be looking to backhaul via more networks than just OneWeb’s, which could potentially involve them harnessing Starlink, Eutelsat and other satellite networks in order to deliver local mobile and broadband connectivity to remote rural areas. But doing that might increase the costs and technical challenges of their deployments.

At this stage we don’t have any details on the technical results and returned performance from BT’s most recent field trial, but hopefully we’ll learn more in the near future.

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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 James Bensley says:

    Some of the tech background was presented by BT at UKNOF recently, well worth a watch: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s2f6fC1ETPk

  2. Avatar photo charles says:

    I am surprised they are not using Starlink. I know other places have. I am on it right now and I am getting 217 down and 35 ip with ping of 25ms and jitter of 7 over Ethernet – and I am on the Roam best effort service. Which is basically the bottom of the barrel!

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      No everyone is desperate enough to need Starlink

    2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      They’ve had trials of Starlink too. Not sure if still running.

    3. Avatar photo charles says:

      I was thinking more about cheaper and quicker to deploy vs desperation. Still whatever floats the taxpayers boat.

    4. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      The more money the government can get into Oneweb either directly or via subsidising private sector the better they can make their bailing of it out look.

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