Virgin Media O2 Ventures into Space for rural connectivity 


Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has announced a partnership with satellite provider Starlink to boost mobile services in the UK’s most remote areas 

The operator will use Starlink’s constellation of over 5,000 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to support backhaul services across the country.  

Traditionally, mobile infrastructure relies on fibre optic cables or wireless point-to-point connections for backhaul, i.e., transmit data between the cell towers to the core of the network. However, in regions like the Scottish Highlands, these conventional methods are impractical, being both expensive and difficult to deploy give the areas remoteness and challenging geography.  

Through Starlink’s network of LEO satellites, VMO2 can establish reliable backhaul connections to remote masts without needing to deploy this expensive terrestrial network infrastructure.  

VMO2 notes that it has already conducted successful tests of the technology in the Scottish Highlands. 

This project has been delivered in collaboration with Telefónica Global Solutions, which is an official Starlink reseller. “By constantly finding new ways to deliver for our customers, we are bringing reliable mobile coverage to rural communities faster and helping to close the UK’s digital divide,” said Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at VMO2 in a press release. 

VMO2 also noted that this new partnership with Starlink will help to accelerate its Shared Rural Network (SRN) rollout by enabling new cell sites to be deployed in remote areas. 

The SRN aims to deploy 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. The £1 billion scheme is a partnership between the UK’s four mobile operators (EE, Three, Vodafone, and Virgin Media O2), and is funded by £532 million from the operators themselves and £500 million from the UK government.  

Back in January, EE announced that they had become the UK’s first MNO to compete the SRN’s first phase. To do this, operators had to commit to getting rid of ‘partial not-spots’ by extending the reach of their 4G networks. ‘Partial not-spots’ are defined as areas that receive coverage from at least one operator, but not all of them. 

Looking ahead, VMO2 noted that it is also exploring other ways satellite connectivity can benefit customers including providing coverage for emergency services and improved connectivity at events.  

Catch Virgin Media O2 at this year’s Connected North event, 22-23 April in Manchester. Get your tickets now 

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