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Virgin Media O2, Starlink and Wavemobile Trial Brings 4G to Remote Wales

Friday, May 5th, 2023 (7:50 am) - Score 2,320
VMO2-Starlink-Wavemobile-Trial-in-Rural-Wales

O2 UK (VMO2) has completed a unique trial in an extremely remote part of Wales, which successfully worked with Starlink’s network of ultrafast broadband satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Wavemobile to deploy a mobile broadband capable 4G signal to the area around the South Stack Lighthouse in Holyhead, Anglesey.

The trial, which was conducted in March 2023, saw Wavemobile deploy one of their portable outdoor small cells (made by Cellxica and capable of connecting up to 32 concurrent users) in the area above the South Stack Lighthouse, which is not currently covered by a viable mobile or fixed broadband service.

NOTE: Wavemobile also have an indoor small cell that can be connected to fixed broadband lines, which is ideal for pubs, cafes etc. that may want to offer a WiFi hotspot too.

The small cell, which has an optimum range of up to 3km when using its favoured “low power spectrum” bands (we assume 800-900MHz for 4G), was then connected directly to one of Starlink’s terminals for backhaul (data capacity). After that, O2 provided the necessary mobile service.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of connectivity in bringing friends and family together, especially when visiting remarkable places like South Stack, and we’re committed to making sure that as many people in the UK are able to stay connected as possible,” said a spokesperson for Virgin Media and O2. You can see a video of all this below.

Interestingly, this is the first time that we’ve heard about the trial, since it hasn’t previously been mentioned as part of VMO2’s prior work with Wavemobile. The two have conducted a number of other OpenRAN (O-RAN) style trials, such as on driverless cars, private mobile networks and for drones that can supply limited coverage to specific areas, but not previously anything quite like this one.

We have to give credit to TelcoTitans for spotting the obscure video on VMO2’s website, which was hidden away under their Innovation Hub and only published last month. However, it remains unclear whether O2 and Wavemobile now intend to jointly roll out this new service as part of a singular product for remote communities (note: Wavemobile aren’t limited to working with only O2), which would carry a fair cost given the use of Starlink’s premium business solution.

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Mark-Jackson
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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Comments
15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    Wavemobile is a suprise, during the Virgin Media outage a few weeks ago they sent a very public complaint about VM’s lack of communication.

    https://twitter.com/wavemobileuk/status/1643153190672637955

    Then again their whole twitter account isn’t very professional, reads more like someone’s personal than a business.

    1. Avatar photo Melvyn says:

      Alex A – do you work for BT? This is seriously disruptive stuff, one wonders if the Home Office and others will be looking at this with huge interest as a portable rapid deployment ESN solution, look how portable this solution is – incredible!!

    2. Avatar photo aqx says:

      @Alex A: when the outage for Vm occurred I actually seen them in the replies and thought it was a joke account/someone pretending to be important for special treatment. Had zero idea this was a legitimate “business” account as I also thought it was a personal, rather unprofessional from them…

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @Melvyn I don’t, using Starlink for mobile backhaul could make a massive difference for rural locations. Wavemobile’s hardware looks really interesting from their website, my first impression of them though was seeing their tweet.

      @aqx from that tweet I initially thought they were another 1 guy run WISP, it really reads like a personal account.

    4. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      Sleepless night because of internet outage.. FFS!

  2. Avatar photo Big Woop says:

    Alex, Wavemobile do appear to be basically a one man band. That “Chief engineer” Ant Timson is also the sole director of the company. He also appears to be a director of Cellxica too. Wavemobile’s latest accounts on companies house states “The average monthly number of employees, including directors, during the year was 1”. Amusing the sole director calls himself “Chief engineer” hah.

    Now here’s the thing, what has this man done that any of us could not do too? He’s connected an OpenBTS (I presume) box to a startlink terminal. Wow. People have been doing that at places like Burning Man for years now. I very much doubt this Cellxica made some magic box, I’m quite sure that this is a very ordinary miniature cell station you can buy on aliexpress.

    But then I suppose “Man connects cell station to starlink terminal” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  3. Avatar photo Jimbo says:

    Old hat,seen this technology used in the US and Italy 5 years ago.

    1. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

      Pretty much every ferry/cruiser had this miracle technology 15 years ago.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Not via Starlink you haven’t. LEO networks are a different ball game of capability for this sort of task.

    3. Avatar photo Yatta! says:

      @Mark.

      Iridium communications have operated in LEO for over 20 years, though Starlink’s orbits are significantly lower, in what’s now apparently called VLEO.

      The orbit is of less significance to the backhaul capacity of the host network.

  4. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Every person i speak to who has starlink says how terrible the latency is and how weather dependant it is . Wouldnt bother and just stick to a fixed connection . Will be loads more reliable in my opinion

    1. Avatar photo Tom says:

      What if you can’t get a fixed connection? or even power? This is quite exciting, from a boot of a car they can deploy a mobile service, that’s pretty cool, and in an ultra remote not spot corner of Wales – that’s one hell of statement if you think about it.

      I use star-link and the latency is less than on a mobile network, doesn’t seem to flutter when it rains heavily either, try it yourself and see, rent it for a month.

  5. Avatar photo Jimmy says:

    Yeah I mean there’s only literally two large telecommunications towers at South Stack to choose from. One of which at least has a microwave link into for a DAB radio transmission. So yeah very remote, right.

    1. Avatar photo Sawyer says:

      Jimmy, those are comms are for RAF Valley. South Stack is a serious not spot, a small one but if sorted long term could save lives.

  6. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

    I can’t say I get why this merited a video but it’s their money they’re spending.

    A permanent installation with Starlink backhaul would’ve been noteworthy. This seems to be bolting battery powered off the shelf hardware to a Starlink terminal.

Comments are closed

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