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Like most of rural south west of England, towns and villages in the county of Devon have struggled to get major fixed communications providers to deliver the high-speed connectivity that modern working and home life demand.
Addressing this need to even the most remote places, BT and OneWeb, in partnership with the UK government, have set out to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity to Lundy Island, providing it with reliable connectivity for the first time.
Sitting 19 kilometres off the coast of North Devon, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel, Lundy Island is a granite outcrop, three miles long and half a mile wide. It has a permanent community of just 28 residents and was the UK’s first Marine Conservation Zone, and a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) with three endemic species and more than 21,000 seabirds.
The new satellite connectivity is intended to deliver multiple benefits to the island, from supporting payment systems in the local tavern and shop to powering local conservation efforts. In addition, the deployment is said to represent the first real-world example of how BT and OneWeb’s strategic partnership can deliver what the firms call “game-changing” benefits to remote locations both in the UK and beyond. Connectivity is delivered through the installation of an Intellian dual parabolic terminal on the island itself.
The small, outdoor satellite antenna system connects to OneWeb’s constellation of more than 630 LEO satellites which orbit at a distance of 1,200km. This is connected to an indoor satellite modem to provide two-way data connectivity. The connection then travels from user terminal (UT) to satellite network portal (SNP) via the LEO satellites, where it is backhauled across OneWeb’s wide-area network to handover to one of BT’s points of presence (PoP) in London. From the PoP, traffic is routed back into the internet or delivered into BT’s 21C core network.
Commenting on the deployment and what it could mean for the island, Rosemary Ellis, warden of Lundy Island, said: “The connectivity provided by BT and OneWeb is already delivering fantastic benefits, speeding up frustrating jobs that used to take hours. For example, I was able to upload an hour-long talk on our conservation success stories in just a few minutes, when it had previously failed to send multiple times.
“This frees me up to get out of the office to focus on surveying our wildlife, and I can much more easily engage with researchers and students. As a resident of the island, coastguard rescue officer and community first responder, it also gives me peace of mind that if we need any mainland medical advice, we can easily video call from the village.”
“It’s brilliant to be bringing high-speed, low-latency connectivity to Lundy Island in partnership with OneWeb and [the UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology] DSIT,” said BT Group chief networks officer Greg McCall. “The installation will not only have a transformative impact on the island and its residents, but is also a significant milestone in demonstrating the value of satellite communications and the crucial role such solutions will play in enabling digital connectivity across the entirety of the UK and beyond.”
Beyond Lundy, OneWeb’s LEO satellites form a strategic part of BT’s ambition to provide high-speed connectivity anywhere in the UK by 2028, with use cases expanding beyond supporting ultra-remote communities to include eco-tourism, search and rescue, and temporary deployments such as festivals.
As well as providing broadband connectivity to locations such as Lundy, the two companies are trialling ways of enhancing mobile connectivity via satellite, and in May completed a live field trial transmission of 4G data using a LEO satellite link.
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