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Virgin Media O2 Trials 5G with Satellite Broadband Backup

virgin-media-o2-trials-5g-with-satellite-broadband-backup

Newly-merged telecoms giant Virgin Media O2 is trialling a “ubiquitous communications” technology that will toggle between a 5G mobile network and satellite broadband, providing an uninterrupted connection for vehicles on the move.

The project aims to create a publicly available device that can be installed in vehicles at the point of manufacturing and support on-the-road connectivity—for example, in autonomous vehicles, mobile health clinics and public transport in rural areas.

The beta test is being conducted in Cornwall, chosen because it has lots of mobile not-spots and hilly terrain that poses obstacles for satellite coverage. The trial will demonstrate how information, such as speed, temperature and air quality data and uninterrupted video and voice calls, can be transmitted for or received by a van on the move. 

If neither the mobile network nor satellite internet is available, the vehicle will store data onboard then transmit it as soon as it can reestablish a connection.

VMO2 will provide the mobile connectivity through O2’s network, while the satellite connectivity will come from Spanish firm HISPASAT. The data will be stored by Darwin Innovation Group, using Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud.

Sergio Budkin, Director of Market Development at VMO2, said: “We are very excited to trial these technologies in a very challenging environment. We have been supporting Darwin R&D with the European Space Agency to bring this technology to market and we are very confident that it will provide UK companies with a technological advantage to reshape the way in which they create value.”

Darwin Technology Group said the trial in Cornwall has already accumulated data that will support upcoming tests of a driverless shuttle at Harwell Campus Oxford.

The project isn’t the only trial to tap the potential of satellite internet to support terrestrial networks. BT recently inked a deal with satellite operator OneWeb to use Low Earth Orbit satellites to bring fast, reliable broadband to regions too remote to serve with in-ground connections.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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